When The Exorcist (1973) was first released, it spawned numerous foreign rip-offs and B-movie exploitative versions. From Şeytan (1974) in Turkey to the reworking of the Italian film ‘Lisa e il diavolo’ (1974/1975)into The House of Exorcism, foreign producers created their own takes on the story of young women being possessed, with more or less successful results. Other foreign appropriations and perspectives include:
- the German film Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil aka Magdalena: The Devil Inside the Female aka ‘Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen’(1974)
- the Braziilian film The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe aka O Exorcismo Negro (1974)
- the Italian film The Antichrist aka The Tempter aka “L’anticristo” (1974)
- the Italian film Beyond the Door aka ‘Chi sei?’ (1974)
- the Spanish film Exorcismo (1975)
- the Italian film The Night Child aka ‘Il medaglione insanguinato’ (1975)
- the French film Exorcisme aka Exorcism aka “Les possédées du diable“ (1974/1975)
- the British film To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Similarly, in the United States, Abby (1974) aka The Blaxsploitation Exorcist brings a different cultural perspective to this idea of possession and exorcism. The extent to which these movies deal specifically with demonic possession and subsequent exorcism, or are just marketed as being about such, varies from movie to movie, but the existence overall represents an attempt to capitalize on the popularity and financial success of the exorcist film that started it all.
A similar wave of exploitation has occurred with the return on exorcism cinema in the 2000s. After the success of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, numerous other exorcism films were released. These films include those that had a theatrical presence, which this blog has featured already, such as The Last Exorcism and The Devil Inside. At the same time, there were films that had no theatrical presence, going instead direct to video. Such movies are very low budget, delivering on the exorcism narrative through exploiting the sexual and violent nature of such narratives. The acting is worse than those that had a theatrical presence, with perhaps the only draw for the films being the presence of a star with cult cinema reputation. They are not good movies, even by B-movie standards, but since they also feature the exorcism narrative, what they say about power in our society is important to consider.
The first of such modern “B-movies” that I watched had the draw of featuring Jeffrey Combs. If you are a cult horror fan, then you recognize the name. The star of Re-Animator, Combs has made a name for himself by starring or appearing in horror/fantasy/comedy movies. His reactions to the horrors around him are legendary, putting him on par with other cult stars like Bruce Campbell or Christopher Lee.
Unfortunately, he is not in the movie Blackwater Valley Exorcism (2006) enough to even begin to save it.
So, as they say in the podcast about bad movies How Did This Get Made?, I watched this movie so that you don’t have to. And here were my reactions to what I witnessed.
And it begins with that common refrain: based on actual events. Because as part of this modern wave of exorcism cinema, everything has to be based in reality in some way.
The first appearance of the girl, Isabelle, is as apparently already possessed, having apparently eaten a rabbit raw, leaving bloodied mouth and hands. So much for showing the innocence of the doomed girl to show the difference between the before and after of possession. Because Isabelle is introduced as already possessed, not knowing if she was an innocent before the possession.
These stories rarely have the girls/women as the main character? The main character seems more to be the person who is trying to deal with it. In this case, we have a priest, Jacob, who apparently goes to the university on the Vatican’s dollar to study exorcism.
Jeffrey Combs is introduced with appropriate cheesy music. Only thing it has done right so far
And The Sherriff, i.e. Combs, is a rapist… Well, not really gonna be about innocence being tainted, are you, movie?
It’s like this movie assumes you know what happens in a demonic possession and thus doesn’t feel the need you tell you the story of the possession; the possession is just taken as fact. Could be relying on intertexuality — on the knowledge of the fans of exorcism cinema, who would be the only ones interested in this movie — so that they do not have to show too much that would be outside of their budget. We just get exposition on how the possession has been going on for a month and that doctors have ruled out schizophrenia. So, yeah, that happened.
These actors really have no ability to act. They do not seem to know what emotions are. I think someone made this for a school project. It is that low budget. I keep feeling like a porno is gonna break out any second.
Coincidence! The Hispanic ranch hand Miguel has apparently witnessed possessions before. And apparently he is an amateur exorcist yet knows when the family needs to call in the real deal. Serendipity!
Isabelle definitely is making sexual suggestions and advances to all the men she meets. If she was “innocent” before, she is not now. There is only a brief mention of her being a “normal teenage girl” before the possession — no indication of innocence.
And now there is indication that she was not innocent, as apparently the priest Jacob, who used to know the family, walked in on her when she was showering, and she did not hate it — in fact it was flirtatious between them — she even exposed her breasts at him, asking him to join her. The entire possession focuses on her sexuality, her desire for sex — and the camera lingers over her body to emphasize this. When possessed, she only ever wears a silky nightie that apparently does not get soiled, no matter how foul her skin is. The priest even caresses her thigh when he first sees her possessed and they are recalling that shower scene. The dialogue even keeps playing with the innuendo of someone being inside her. The sexual aspect of possession is really being exploited here.
Suddenly, Jacob, who before did not want to go to university to study exorcism, immediately leaps to wanting to do an exorcism on Isabelle. Hypocrisy or narrative expediency?
So far, at least this movie holds for the whole argument about the connection between exorcism and sexuality. But not so much for the argument about possession giving voice to the oppressed woman, as Isabelle apparently had no problem coming on to a priest before or after the possession.
The father is concerned over whether or not his possessed girl is a virgin, saying she is his baby. Again her innocence is called into question. This possession could be read as more of a punishment for not being innocent, similar to the possession in The Devil Inside.
A lot of men are posturing around Isabelle, claiming her for themselves. Her father, the young handsome ranch hand who loves her, the Sheriff, and the priest. We do not get a sense of who she is or what she wants except in the flashbacks, like the shower scene. It seems she just wants sex. So what is her voice? So many men talking about her and for her. Is her only voice to let us know she is sexual? Is that why she is being punished with possession? Or is the punishment directed at the men around her?
“To perform an exorcism you have to be strong. You have to be free from guilt or sin,” says Miguel as the priest is beseeching for help, because the ranch hand actually did an exorcism, but Miguel is the one who is doubting God and the Church. Jacob jokes about Miguel, “Great, just what I need, a priest who doesn’t believe in God.”
The demon appears to make people see things about sex they do not want to see or know. This is how Isabelle is torturing the men in her life. This is the threat she is posing to them. She is showing them lies that feed into their guilt and negative thoughts about themselves and others. She is psychologically manipulating people — messing with their heads — getting her mother to take too many pills. A girl with sexuality messing with people’s heads. Definitely seems to position the sexually active and in control women as a threat to those around her.
That actually brings to question the shower scene — was that a flashback or the demon messing with the priest’s mind?
Oh, the priest and the older daughter, Claire, used to be an item — they finally explain that stupid dangling thread.
Oh, and the priest was abusive to Claire, and she forgave him, which means she thinks he owes her something. WTF, movie?
The movie is more about the relationships between these people than the possession — and as boring as the possession is, it is far more interesting than the melodrama of these people’s relationships.
Okay, and then the priest starts making out with his ex, Claire. WTF, movie? Have we forgotten about the need to perform an exorcism? Instead there is time to have sex? The ultimate corruption of a priest…
And the father kills the veterinarian out of jealous rage because he thinks the man had sex with his wife just as the priest stops Claire who is upset she cannot have sex with him. So, apparently, women are the source of all corruption and evil in these men’s lives? And then the father learns the truth, that it was just a lie from the possessed Isabelle, and kills himself. So, yeah, the possessed girl is basically the cause of the deaths of the men who care for her.
Yep, Isabelle killed her boyfriend. Stabbed Miguel with a wooden cross, but he lived. A woman is the bane of all men.
Then Claire is found to be doing a Black Mass, worshiping Satan. Somehow. There was a whole black alter — she was plotting to try to trap the priest. See — you really cannot trust women! And then it turns out that it was Claire who was really the demon all along — see, melodrama!
Jacob is able to exorcise the demon by saying he loves her and kissing her. That is how he able to finally complete the exorcism. Very Disney of the movie. True love’s kiss, I suppose.
So then the demon, which apparently is this evil spirit for wronged women, goes into the girl that the Sheriff raped, and she kills him… So there was that…
The women of the family live, and the man who used to hit his girlfriend gets absolved and is allowed to live. WTF, movie? He just walks away carrying the women he used to beat and then the movie ends. At least, I think Isabelle is still alive — they kinda just leave and don’t check to make certain that she is, you know, not possessed or whatever.
So the moral of the story is love can overcome anything, include domestic violence and demonic possession? Ain’t love grand…