The Eerie Midnight Horror Show / Sexorcist / The Tormented / Enter the Devil / Devil Obsession / LíOssessa (1974/1977) -**
Check it outó it isnít every day that you get two scams for the price of one. As I said back in my review of The Exorcist, no sooner had the crowds queued up in block-long lines to get into that movie than the bottom-feeders of the cinema industry began cranking out cash-ins and rip-offs assembly line style. And as was only to be expected, the Italians demonstrated particular talent in this department. Throughout the rest of the 70ís, hordes of such films poured mercilessly forth like the Roman legions, bringing audiences around the world to their knees in supplication to whatever gods there may be to please make them stop. And at least at first, LíOssessa was just one more among many. It played American theaters as The Tormented and Sexorcist (not to be confused with the flat-out porno of the same name, which was also released in 1974ó donít you love it when they do that?) shortly after its initial European release, and then faded into what most viewers would probably call well-earned obscurity. But then, in 1975, came The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which in defiance of all reason, almost instantly turned itself into a license to print moneyó indeed, to the best of my knowledge, that fucking movie has never once been out of circulation in more than 25 years! Now, if thereís one thing the producers and distributors of exploitation flicks canít stand, itís the idea that, somewhere out there, some other guyís movie is bringing in more money than theirs. And so it was all but inevitable that someone would eventually try to market one of their tacky little films as a Rocky Horror parasite. Why this dubious honor fell to LíOssessa, however, is anybodyís guess. It did, though, in 1977, and on those rare occasions when this film rears its ugly head today, it is usually under the guise of The Eerie Midnight Horror Show, complete with box/poster art that, if you donít look too closely, is a dead ringer for that of the movie its distributors would very much like you to mistake it for.
Daniela (Stella Carnacina) is an Italian art student, and apparently quite an accomplished one. Sheís the pet pupil of all her professors, and her fellow students all respect her for discerning eye, which is all out of proportion to her youth and inexperience. So when one of her teachers makes plans to acquire some religious sculptures from a long-abandoned church that is scheduled to be demolished, Daniela is the obvious choice to act as his assistant in picking out the artifacts that are worth saving. The first indication that this is a really bad idea comes when the professor explains why the church has lain derelict for so long. Back in the 17th century, it was actually deconsecrated because of the amazingly slimy behavior of its clergy and congregation, who one day concluded (understandably, when you get right down to it) that all-night orgies were far more fun than conventional religious services, and converted the church into a veritable Renaissance Studio 54. The fact that Danielaís top choice from the churchís remaining artifacts is a startlingly lifelike statue of one of the thieves who was crucified side-by-side with Christ isnít exactly a portent of good times to come, either.
But then again, Danielaís life is already so fucked up that even if sheíd realized what she was about to get herself into, it might not have bothered her too much. Her family is amazingly dysfunctional, even by horror movie standards, as we learn in the next scene, when Daniela gets roped into attending a party her rich parents are throwing. Her mother, Lucia (Lucretia Love, from The She-Beast and The Arena), is not only cheating on her husband, Mario (Cristea Avram, from Emanuelle in Bangkok and Twitch of the Death Nerve), sheís actually gone so far as to invite her disgusting, sleazy boyfriend (a very appropriately cast Gabriele Tinti, who would go on to appear in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and Cut and Run) to the party. And she scarcely even bothers to disguise whatís going on from Mario or even Daniela! In fact, in a scene that could only take place in an Italian exploitation movie, Daniela catches Lucia and her boyfriend having grisly S&M sex that involves him whipping her bloody with the thorny stem of a rose!!!! This is too much for Daniela, and she skips out to her studio at the university to paint and clear her head.
This just isnít Danielaís night. Her painting and head-clearing is suddenly interrupted by an extremely vivid vision in which the sculpture from the church comes to life as Ivan Rassimov (from Jungle Holocaust and Planet of the Vampires) and has hot, sweaty sex with her. When the vision fades, and Daniela sees that nothing out of the ordinary has happened after all, the girl is still sufficiently creeped out as to want to get the hell out of the studio immediately. This leads us to the one really effective scene The Eerie Midnight Horror Show has to offer. Daniela returns to her familyís apartment building (their place seems to occupy pretty much the entire top story), and begins climbing the shadowy staircase that occupies the center of the tower. As she nears the top, she realizes that her footsteps are not the only ones echoing down the stairwell, despite the fact that a look over the banister confirms that sheís completely alone. Whatís more, that other set of footsteps is ascending much faster than she is. But it isnít until she hears Rassimovís voice whisper her name that she finally panics, and scrambles through the door to her section of the flat. Even then, itís clear that she hasnít quite escaped, as she is suddenly and inexplicably overcome by a flash of sexual ardor, and begins masturbating furiously. (We now return you to our regularly scheduled ineptitude, already in progress...)
And thatís pretty much how she spends the rest of the movie, feeling herself up like thereís no tomorrow, and trying to persuade anything with a dick that comes near her to join her in the sack. Needless to say, this is pretty much the one thing in the world that could distract Danielaís parents from their own sordid problems, and it isnít long before the doctors and shrinks start showing up. By now, Daniela is exhibiting stigmata, having nightmares about satanic rituals (in which Ivan Rassimov stands in for the devil), and generally starting to look and act a lot like a teenaged version of Linda Blairís Regan MacNeil. Eventually, the doctors are forced to admit that they can do nothing, and the Church is called in to see what it can do. Daniela is sent to a convent, where she is exorcised by a priest named Father Xeno (Luigi Pistilli, from The Scorpionís Tail and The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire), sparking an absolutely ridiculous showdown that seems to have been a deliberate attempt to one-up the comparatively action-starved climax of The Exorcist. And of course, when Danielaís demon is finally driven out of her body, it makes its exit in the form of a stream of thick, green vomit. How could it possibly have been any other way?
The Eerie Midnight Horror Show is one of the weaker Exorcist rip-offs any way you slice it, but it is far from being the worst. After all, it does have the staircase scene, and it has enough of that trademark Italian lunacy to keep you from getting all that bored. And as a final touch in its favor, it benefits from some of the goofiest dialogue of all time. It doesnít get much better than the vision in which the devil appears to Daniela after the first, unsuccessful phase of her exorcism and tells her that she has been a good little servant of evil, and that as a reward, ďI will give you back what I have taken from you: beauty! Beauty to be used as a weapon for Satan!!!!Ē It still probably isnít worth going out and looking for this movie, but if you should happen to run across it, there are worse ways to spend an evening in front of a cathode ray tube.