Following the breakout success of BLACULA (1972), blaxploitation filmmakers scrambled to reinterpret other classics of horror. This low-budget entry features Blacula himself, William Marshall, in a mildly entertaining rip-off of THE EXORCIST (1973).
On an archaeological dig in Africa, esteemed professor/theologian/scientist Garnet Williams (William Marshall) unearths a carved box depicting the demon Eshu. Upon opening it, he unleashes an evil spirit that possesses his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed) back in the US> She quickly changes from
a sweet young thing to a vile, vomiting sex addict who terrorizes, kills, and/or sleeps with everyone in sight. Williams returns to America at the behest of his son, Reverend Emmett Williams (Terry Carter), and together with Abby's brother, policeman Austin Stoker (Cass Potter), they track her to
a bar where she's taking turns servicing the clientele. Holding Abby down on the dance floor, they chase the spirit from her by holding hands and praying. After causing bottles to break, winds to blow, and the mirror ball to crash into the bar, the spirit is sucked back into the African box from
which it escaped.
Pulled from distribution after losing one of a host of lawsuits brought by Warner Bros. against EXORCIST imitators, ABBY actually has little in common with the Warners spectacular. Certainly its visuals are in a separate league, with Speed's demonic transformation achieved by cheap Halloween
makeup, bushy eyebrows, and contact lenses. A little wind, a slamming door or two, some smoke and fire comprise the "special" effects. And the threadbare plot, following the foreign-land intro lifted from THE EXORCIST, goes off on an entirely different tangent, with the demon Eshu described as a
god of sexuality, chaos, and trickery--kind of a horny poltergeist. Fully aware of its shortcomings, the film ultimately apologizes for the paucity of demonic shenanigans by explaining that Abby is in fact possessed by a minor spirit, not even the real Eshu. Although ABBY never generates even the
slightest degree of suspense or thrills, as a quickie cash-in it does manage some cheesy laughs. "Whatever possessed you to do a thing like that?" the Reverend Emmett asks his wife as she first starts to change. The entire Williams clan is such an excruciatingly squeaky-clean, God-fearing
caricature that it's entertaining to see them scandalized as Abby flashes her breasts at a couple in search of Bible counseling, or has a hacking fit in church, or literally insults the church organist to death (the old woman has a heart attack).
Carol Speed, who sings a gospel song with the choir before her transformation, featured in a bevy of blaxploitation films throughout the 1970s, including THE MACK (1973), BLACK SAMSON (1974), and THE DISCO GODFATHER (1979). Juanita Moore, the actress who plays Abby's mother ("My daughter doesn't
need a psychiatrist, she's not mentally ill"), had previously enjoyed a long and checkered career encompassing everything from A RAISIN IN THE SUN (1961) to THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (1956), even picking up an Academy Award nomination for IMITATION OF LIFE (1959). Similarly, William Marshall, with
his distinguished presence and sonorous voice, had been acting since the early 1940s in radio, theater, television, and film; his dignified appearance lends the film a certain amount of misplaced class.
William Girdler had directed several schlocky horror features (ASYLUM OF SATAN, THREE ON A MEATHOOK) before turning his hand to blaxploitation with this and the Pam Grier vehicle SHEBA BABY (1975). When blaxploitation dried up, he hooked up with Film Ventures International, another company sued by
Warners for plagiarizing THE EXORCIST with BEYOND THE DOOR (1975, aka THE DEVIL INSIDE HER), and together they ripped off JAWS (1975) with GRIZZLY (1976). Thereafter, Girdler specialized in nature's-revenge movies (DAY OF THE ANIMALS, THE MANITOU), before being killed in a helicopter crash while
scouting film locations. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, extreme profanity.)
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