Abby (1974)

The title Abby might sound like a ’70s sitcom (I can hear the theme song now: “Abby, she’s crabby…kind of stabby.”), but it’s in fact a Blaxploitation horror movie that plays out unabashedly in the vein of The Exorcist. In fact, it came dangerously close to being called Blackorcist, and while that title may have been distinctly cheesier, it may have helped prevent the film from being swept under the rug for decades like it was.

Despite an opening full of corny, overly expository dialogue, the film settles down into a level of entertaining schlock that pushes the same shock buttons that The Exorcist pushed (albeit with a much lower budget): over-the-top profanity and sexuality, levitation, facial disfigurement and, of course, mouth froth. What could be outright camp, though (given the tagline, “Abby doesn’t need a man anymore…The devil is her lover!”), is treated with a straight face, despite the fact that the demon that possesses Abby (Carol Speed) looks like a Play Dough rendition of the Incredible Hulk.

The “possessor” is in fact the Nigerian sex demon Eshu, whom her father-in-law (William “Blacula” Marshall) accidentally unleashes on an archeological trek in Africa. Sex demons apparently don’t need a passport to cross the Atlantic. They do, however, need to get freaky, and once possessed, Abby proceeds to sleep with half the city — a major faux pas for a preacher’s wife.

This film undoubtedly rides the coattails of The Exorcist (the latter’s studio, Warner Brothers, reportedly pressured Abby‘s studio to bury the movie), but there is some new, intriguing ground broken by setting the possession not only in a minister’s family, but also in a black family — given the prominent role that religion plays within the African-American community.

Still, the big draw is seeing a prim and proper church lady grope and drop the MF bomb on unsuspecting parishioners, and in that respect, Abby delivers. It’s also genuinely creepy at times, thanks to the thunderous audio filled with guttural groans and demonic voices. It’s solid entertainment that deserves a wider audience, although the pompous essay in the DVD extras overstates its appeal, claiming that if it had been allowed a lengthy theatrical run, it “may well have been just as popular” as The Exorcist. Um, no.

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