Even wonder what The Exorcist would have been like if Linda Blair had been a hip, church-going African American woman possessed by a sex spirit that spewed dialogue like, “I’m not your ho! Sh*t, you ain’t got enough to satisfy me!”?
Me neither. But...if you have...look no further than Abby, William Girdler’s 1974 "homage" that was apparently yanked from distribution under threat of legal action by Warner Bros., who had distributed The Exorcist the year before. I’ve read Warner Bros. didn’t like that Girdler had “borrowed”…umm…ALMOST EVERYTHING from their movie and turned it into a blaxploitation hit starring William Marshall of Blacula and the brilliant Carol Speed. Personally, I think Warner Bros. was just jealous that Abby is so frickin’ awesome and probably cost one day's worth of Ellen Burstyn's salary to make.
Anyway, in Abby we’re introduced to…Abby, who is essentially the perfect woman. She’s a great wife and she’s a marriage counselor and she’s in the church choir and everyone keeps remarking about how amazing and accomplished she is. Clearly she’s going to get possessed…I mean, if you were a demon, wouldn’t you choose someone with such a stellar reputation so you could completely muck it up? The possession comes courtesy of her father-in-law, a professor/priest/archaeologist played by the awesomely hammy Marshall, who is in Nigeria and literally digs up an ancient African sex deity called Eshu (which yes...when said repeatedly during the movie, just sounds like people are sneezing).
Abby’s possession begins slowly…first with an odd shower scene in which she orgasmically rubs her shoulders with soap. Personally, I’ve never found the shoulder to be particularly erogenous, but who am I to judge? Next, Abby’s chopping up chicken in the church kitchen and decides to take a slice out of her own arm. This seems to alarm everyone, but strangely her family members don’t do anything more than bandage up the arm and tell her she’s fine. Haven’t you people heard of cutting???
Things really kick into high gear on Sunday morning, as Abby belts out a solo during services. This gospel choir, by the way, has got to be one of the most tone-deaf in history…their bizarre chorus of “Oh My Lord” sounds more like a group of fifth graders learning a song for the very first time, and Abby herself sings kind of like Deniece Williams after one too many cups of coffee. Anyway, after mercifully ending the song, Abby starts choking loudly, at which point her fellow parishioners (not to mention the preacher…who’s her husband) give her dirty looks and don’t seem at all concerned for her safety. Eventually Abby makes it outdoors, where she jumps on some poor guy and starts puking up what appears to be cottage cheese.
Don’t worry, Abby…after that choir performance, I was feeling nauseous, too.
From here on out, Abby is totally awesome. This is due in no small part to Carol Speed, who throws inhibition to the wind in a jaw-dropping performance. Look, if Linda Blair can get an Oscar nomination for wearing gross makeup and laying in a bed, then Carol Speed deserved to actually win one, at least for the scene in which, during a marriage counseling session, she growls to the young wife, “I’m gonna take old, long George upstairs and f*ck the sh*t out of him!” Soon after, she literally throws her own husband on the bed and rapes him; the shots of Carol hysterically bouncing up and down on top of her confused husband would have made a damn strong Oscar clip.
Finally, Abby’s family decides it’s time to take her to the hospital, and we get Girdler’s incredibly clumsily rendition of the excruciating hospital scenes in The Exorcist. In that movie, Linda Blair’s endless medical tests looked painful and maintained a level of intensity due to the stark realism of the scenes. In Abby, Carol Speed just seems to be enjoying the entire process, and credibility is not helped by the lab technician wearing an orange polo and sporting hair that looks like a cotton candy toupee.
Meanwhile, in the lobby, Abby’s mother has a meltdown at the suggestion that Abby might be mentally ill, insisting it’s impossible because Abby’s a Christian.
Umm…Mom…may I present to you Exhibit A: “The 700 Club.”
Abby eventually breaks out of the hospital, pushing over some gurneys (with patients on them!) and roaring to the nurse that she’s “goin’ home, b*tch!” Abby then decides she needs a night on the town, and heads straight for an odd dance bar filled with very uncoordinated patrons who seem to really like the colors orange and brown. She picks up one guy, screws him in his car and kills him, and then moves on to a white guy, to whom she says, “You know what, baby? You would just be out of sight if you had a couple more inches!” When her husband finally finds her, she splashes a drink on his face and screams, “Now let’s play strip the preacher!”…at which all the other bar patrons start watching her rip off his clothes. Tell me…why would anyone want to exorcise this new Abby? She’s way more fun than the old one…and if left alone, would have likely ended up being a celebrity partier on par with the likes of Tara Reid.
Unfortunately, William Marshall shows up, dons an African robe, and starts ringing some kind of tribal bell. He then begins to basically parody The Exorcist script, barking out lines that have to do with vulgar displays of power and not listening to the demon because it will try to trick everyone in the bar. Director Girdler also re-creates the Exorcist levitation scene, and goes so far as to throw in some of those quick “subliminal” demon shots that were so creepy in The Exorcist…however, in this one, the demon appears to be someone in Incredible Hulk makeup.
The final confrontation, like the entire movie, really must be seen to be believed. Everything about Abby is weird and wonderful and just goes to show that they don’t make movies like they used to. Thankfully, after being shelved for so many years, you can find Abby on DVD these days. After seeing it, I’m convinced nobody’s Exorcist collection is complete without it; after all, it’s almost as funny as The Heretic and has a way better soundtrack.