The Eerie Midnight Horror Show/Second Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Young girls with filthy mouths, chapped lips, stringy hair, distorted faces and a predilection for defiling religious iconography in the most intimate of places were all the rage after William Friedkin’s Exorcist hit pay-dirt during the winter of 1973. Countries around the globe jumped to cash-in on the popularity of the young Linda Blair and her demonic interludes; Italy, the “king of copy,” churned out this tale of possession and kinky sex the following year.
L’ossessa and like-minded devil movies often failed to underscore the debauchery and horror of physical possession with a turn towards human conflict and the inner turmoil associated with personal approaches to faith and religion, as Exorcist had done, relying instead on shocks and special effects to carry their tales of spiritual chaos.
Stella Carnacina plays talented art student Danila, asked to participate in the purchase of a crucifixion statue for her college arts collection, one of three on offer from an old abandoned church deconsecrated after several members were discovered taking part in a routine of “fairly undisguised orgies.” The most vivid and life-like of the three crucified men is chosen and taken back to the campus arts building.
The eerie effigy (Ivan Rassimov) comes to life one evening; ravaging Danila as she works late into the evening on an oil painting kept inside the same art room where the statue is stored. L’Ossessa successfully plays up its creepy, you-know-he’s-coming-alive angle as viewers anticipate with who, and how, this demon’s sexual appetite will be satisfied. Unfortunately, the first attack on Danila reveals that this particular demon is not very inventive in the creepy love-making category, opting for the pedestrian missionary position with Danila while thunder and lightning strike outside and the statue‘s cross catches fire. Maybe next time…….
Danila’s parents are quite a pair, an attractive couple who enjoy putting on cocktail parties, although the spark has long extinguished from their love life, and they rarely spend time together. Lucretia Love plays the attractive and seductive mother who enjoys some serious S&M with an acquiescing lover; the pair spied by her daughter one night as Mom succumbs to a good whipping across her naked body with a dozen long-stemmed roses. A more lofty production might use these kinky scenes to draw some sort of parallel between the mother’s “unnatural” sexual appetite and those of the demon; but this comparison never materializes, leaving the sadomasochistic scene simply an exploitable moment for viewers’ voyeuristic thrill.
Danila’s boyfriend Carlo (Gianrico Tondinelli) remains steadfast throughout the movie, looking all euro-handsome and offering a shoulder to cry on. Carlo shows up sporadically throughout the movie, nodding to dialogue and decisions concerning Danila, not involved in much aside from “being the boyfriend.” Carlo will, however, get to dramatically comfort his love after her climatic puking scene at the end of the picture.
After experiencing the hot poker of Lucifer, Danila goes nutty, hearing voices, panting and writhing on her bed, feeling and feeding what the Cramps related to years later in song as “the devil behind that bush.” Danila even comes on to her father (Chris Avram) when he stops by her bedroom to check-up on her. What is probably the fault of horrible dubbing reduces Danila’s seductive dialogue to a pedantic discourse on forbidden behavior created by church doctrine; “…..why don’t you try it too Daddy? C’mon, or are you afraid it would be wrong? There’s no such thing as incest, it’s only an invention of the priest…..” that kind of talk doesn’t sit right with father, who retaliates with a swift back-hand across her kisser.
What to do, what to do? Well, the family doctor suggests a little fresh air, a ride in the country to make things better; so off Mom, Dad, Danila and her boyfriend motor in the family auto, making ridiculous small talk about bridge-work and how they ought to go for rides more often (again, possibly the fault of the English dubbing) before being waylaid by a blow-out directly in front of another abandoned church.
Given what has just transpired, you would think Danila a little hesitant to enter the ruins, but she does, and learns from a historian poking around inside that this edifice is no more removed from a tawdry past than the first church she visited. This church was originally an old Etruscan temple to the god Baal and newborn children were offered as sacrifice. Christians later transformed the church, altering interior paintings of orgies and desecration lining the walls into scenes of quiet religious rites. Danila thinks this is all “fascinating” and goes about exploring the ruins on her own, eventually stumbling across a few cloaked, pale-faced women performing a human sacrifice as the crucified devil statue leers nearby from up on his cross. Danila is trapped and graphically crucified as the evil statue drives long metal spikes through her hands and feet into a wooden plank beneath her. It would seem the horny devil has cooled somewhat and turned from sex to torture as his favorite pastime. Danila‘s crucifixion is a morosely grisly and effective scene that stands out from a movie quickly wearing thin on ideas and shocks.
Back home, Danila now bleeds profusely from her hands and feet, prompting the local doctor to stand back and re-evaluate the situation; country rides are no match for the prince of darkness, so a priest (with the cool moniker Father Xeno) is summoned (Luigi Pistilli, recognizable as Eli Wallach’s priest brother from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) to cast the devil out. Danila is taken to a convent, where the usual padded bed posts, aversion to religious imagery, chapped lips, disheveled hair, vomiting, sexual advances towards the determined priest, and overall bad behavior takes place.
During all of this, the mother has a brief confrontation with her S&M heart-throb, telling him she can’t go on, resigning herself to remaining true to her husband and family. This small nod to the exploitable elements of her kinky rose-thorns scene thrown earlier into the mix quickly ties up that go-nowhere element of the plot.
Meanwhile, Father Xeno battles with Danila, who is now psychically linked to the demon statue Rassimov. Ivan Rassimov’s role two-thirds into the movie is greatly reduced to insert head-shots depicting his evil laughter while commanding his girl to evil deeds as flames jump in the foreground.
Confrontations between the Father and Danila heat up when Danila kneels before the priest while seductively licking his clasped hands and pleading with him to “penetrate me, penetrate my soul” but Father Xeno resists. Finally, the determined priest frees the girl from her torment during a climactic battle in the convents center courtyard; Xeno yelling Latin prayers while brandishing a crucifix, Danila grabbing chains, whipping the bejesus out of him and screaming while wind and lighting crack and howl around them. A bloodied but unbeaten Xeno rises, continues repeating his prayers, driving Danila to her final, climactic puking scene. Danila throws-up in loving close-up - illustrating not only the physical exorcism of evil from her body, but more importantly, providing an opportunity for one last gross-out scene. Priest Xeno slumps dead to the ground, the grating synthesized soundtrack reaching a grand crescendo, as Danila’s loving boyfriend, Carlo races in to comfort his girl for the final profile shot and fade out - cue closing credits.
What begins as an adventure into sexual domination, Satan-style, quickly unravels into a series of scenes with spooky music, anguished parents, concerned doctors and little sex, violence or nudity to spice things up. After the first ho-hum sex scene, there really isn't anymore.
L’ossessa instead treads conventional possessed-girl territory; leaving the sexually charged innuendo trampled beneath the usual flurry of inappropriate behavior towards parents and members of the clergy, sweaty fits of religious tantrum and projectile vomiting. Danila barely gets naked, surprising as she would go on to appear naked in many movies and appearances in men’s magazines. A choice was made to keep her “respectable” through much of the movie by having her talk dirty while clad in a nightshirt, and letting her tongue do most of the physical seducing. Rassimov makes for a handsome enough dirty-devil, and it’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t ignite an incendiary spark between himself and Danila, who could have spent her screen-time sexually motivated to serve him while the priest and family race to find a cure.
L'ossessa made the rounds on cable television back in the 80's playing late-night programming slots as sexy, adults-only entertainment under the Eerie Midnight Horror Show title. It would also appear on video under this title courtesy of Continental with a ridiculous cut ‘n paste cover that used the lips from The Rocky Horror Picture Show above a cartoon drawing of a female hand having a spike driven into it as blood spurts out.
Reviewed by Nate Miner