May 1, 2012

Abby (1974)

"When a minister's wife becomes posessed by Eshu, the Nigerian god of sexuality, an exorcist is called in to drive the evil spirit away."

"Abby" was one of the first horror movies which I learned about from reading an old copy of "Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide", obviously, because of its position in the alphabet. I'd never actually seen the film and had always assumed that it had been banned due to its similarities to "The Exorcist".

Of course, "Abby" wasn't really banned, and it has been circulating on various bootleg VHS tapes and DVDs for years. The whole myth about Warner Bros. winning a court case and getting the movie pulled from cinemas has a grain of truth to it, but in fact, nobody ordered all copies of it to be destroyed. It's just that AIP, who owned the rights, never bothered to put out a decent copy of the film and figured quite correctly that the whole exorcism fad of the early '70s was well and truly over anyway.

Basically, "Abby" was a low-budget blaxploitation version of "The Exorcist" with several similar scenes to the latter. Carol Speed played a possessed adult which was a lot different to the child possession of "The Exorcist", so I have no idea how Warner Bros. got any part of their lawsuit to stick. Imagine if one studio tried to sue another over slasher or zombie clones nowadays, it would be laughed out of court.

Having finally watched "Abby" on YouTube just because I was intrigued to see more of William Marshall who played "Blacula", it was a serious case of "What the Hell did I just watch?" for me. Marshall was completely out of place and the whole film was horrible in every way possible.

Now I know that the budget was limited but $200,000 was a lot of money back in 1974 even so. There was really no excuse for the acting to be quite as bad as it was, for the poor cinematography, the crappy effects, or the horrendously bad edits.

In fact, the only part of "Abby" which wasn't terrible was the "Starsky and Hutch" style music, but even that was also incongruous in what was supposed to be a horror movie. Because there was no atmosphere, nothing apart from a brief scene in the basement even attempted to be scary in any way, shape or form.

Abby's possessed voice sounded like a rather lewd cartoon character (which makes a lot of sense considering the credentials of Bob Holt who provided it), and her transformations from "good Abby" to "possessed Abby" were largely based on the use of some badly applied grey make-up and some fake bushy eyebrows. Carol Speed wasn't all that hot anyway, so, to me, she looked as if she was trying to be scary all the time. Joan Ray who played Sue Preston, the wife in the couple who got a shocking piece of marriage counselling, was far hotter.

One thing I noticed earlier on was that there was a lot of food in "Abby". The family started off by chowing down on an obvious bucket of KFC, then, following what looked like a dinner of pork ribs and collard greens, the next scene had the women preparing even more chicken in the kitchen. Unfortunately, that scene ended with a nasty flesh wound for Abby before I could find out what they were making.

As you can tell, I wasn't overly interested in much to do with the story itself, especially as it kept on lagging. It really ran out of steam for me at the 40 minute mark when Abby escaped from hospital and went on a drinking and sexing rampage across Louisville. A smoking hearse was a real WTF moment at one point which made absolutely no sense at all.

Worse was to come when Abby's brother, a detective, fired his gun twice in a bar to clear it. I may be wrong about police procedure from the 1970s, but I'm sure that act would have had the whole place swarming with dozens more cops and the loss of a certain black detective's badge. Cops in horror movies are always stupid anyway and I mentally switch off whenever the action changes to anything to do with them.

And so, when the final exorcism happened, I couldn't make head nor tail out of what they were all talking about. It was hardly the Rituale Romanum which we all know from "The Exorcist" and was some kind of African thing which was, I'm sure, just complete and utter bullshit.

Anyway, despite its considerable flaws, I did manage to get all the way though "Abby" in one sitting (with a few toilet breaks). I'd class it as an "interesting" movie for anyone who is really into the "Blaxploitation" genre, but it isn't much good if you are looking for scares.

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