L'ossessa (1974)

a.k.a. - The Sexorcist! (UK) The Tormented (USA)
Enter the Devil (USA), The Devil Obsession (UK) Eerie Midnight Horror Show (USA)

Ivan Rassimov and Luigi Pistilli star in a middling possession horror film from Mario Gariazzo. Alpha DVD USA R0 DVD.

The Film

Danila is a art student and considered quite an authority on statues and sculptures. She helps aquire a statue of one of the crucified criminals from a deconsecrated church's Calvary representation. While attending a party at her parent's house she catches her mother being sexually whipped by one of the guests and quickly departs, returning to the studio. While working on a painting, the statue seems to come to life, stripping and taking her on the studio floor. Thereafter Danila starts to feel herself persued by the demonic figure and she displays strange attitudes. Her parents call in medical advice to find out what is afflicting their daughter but as her symptoms become worse after she has another encounter with the demon in an old temple, they are forced to see religious intervention and she appears to be possessed...

Given the film's rather salacious English language release title of The Sexorcist and the fact it was co-written by Ambrogio Molteni and director Mario Gariazzo, who would later collaborate on Suor Emanuelle (1977), it would be easy to assume that L'ossessa was going to be an all-out sleaze-fest or sexy comedy spoof of William Friekin's seminal 1973 horror. Instead the writers have made a serious possession horror film and although clearly taking inspiration from The Exorcist, it does offer some new ideas to the mix. Of course the storyline follows the inevitable format - young woman starts acting strangely, doctors arrive and suggest she is suffering an unusual mental condition, when it gets weirder they suggest in the Middle Ages she would have been considered "possessed", then with no other ideas, they bring in a Priest for an exorcism. The main difference here is that the script never confirms that Danila's "possession" is supernatural or whether it is a severe mental shock from the overwhelming trauma of catching her mother in flagrante with another man.

This idea does give the film some variation from the other genre films of the era, making it comparable with the more recent Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) or Requiem (2006), although sadly the depth of writing and character exploration comes nothing close to these productions, instead the result is actually somewhat disappointing as the film is forced to eschew the elaborate supernatural possession effects that contemporary Italian production L'Anticristo (1975) portrayed in such an over-the-top fashion. Fortunately the storyline is sufficient to keep things moving throughout the short runtime and there are a few genuinely eerie sequences, oddly though, despite a few nude scenes in the first quarter, the film does not exploit its subsequent opportunities for sleaze (Danila tries to seduce the exorcisting Priest for instance, but remains fully clothed). The climactic exorcism is suitably dramatic and although some might be disappointed by the rather sudden ending, although it avoids the clunky exposition or coda that would probably have been the alternative.

Molteni is a rather workmanlike director and for the mostpart he is content to helm the film in a pretty straight-forward manner, eschewing the elaborately lit Grand Guignol horrors of his contempories Mario Bava and Dario Argento. There are a couple of highlights though which do show some creativity, a demonic worship scene in the old temple is well lit and the initial rape of Danila in her studio which takes place as a crucifix burns behind her has some interesting symbology.

A good exorcism film never goes easy on its female lead and L'ossessa is no exception - fortunately Stella Carnacina gives a superb performance in the part and provides a real contrast between the bubbly and intellegent Danila and the tortured, possessed soul she becomes. Ivan Rassimov (Il paese del sesso selvaggio (1972)) is also well cast as 'Satan' with his strange and alluring looks really suiting the part. The rest of the cast are good in their roles with Spaghetti Western veteran Luigi Pistilli (Da uomo a uomo (1967)) in a key role as a priest and Gabriele Tinti (of the Black Emanuelle series) as Luisa's lover.

L'ossessa is a hit-and-miss film - there are some effectively creepy scenes, a couple of well filmed set-pieces, a generally strong cast and it boasts a few interesting ideas, but the writing is not sufficient to fully develop these and it rather shoots itself in the foot by not being able to introduce the supernatural sequences that are the highlight of most exorcism films. Although not the best of the Italian Exorcist cash-ins (L'Anticristo although flawed is far more entertaining), this is not a bad film and genre fans who know the limitations of third-tier Italian horror cinema should enjoy this.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Ivan Rassimov - Euro-cult regular who also appeared in Giallo Tutti i colori del buio (1972)
Luigi Pistilli - Spaghetti Western regular, he also appeared in La battaglia d'Inghilterra (1969)
Gabriele Tinti - star of most of the Black Emanuelle films including Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Gariazzo - a lesser known Italian director who worked on films from most Eurocult genres including Spaghetti Western Acquasanta Joe (1971) and cannibal film Schiave bianche: violenza in Amazzonia (1985)
Any gore or violence ? Several bloody scenes, but no real gore.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of female nude and sex scenes.
Who is it for? Fans of 1970s Italian horror should find something to enjoy here, although it is definitely a more minor entry.

Visuals Cropped - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour
A poor transfer but better than average for Alpha Video, print is good high VHS quality sharp and colours are consistent. Lots of speckling from the original print and some overall softness. Watchable.
Original Aspect Ratio unconfirmed, no major cropping evident.
Audio English mono - a little muddy in places.
Subtitles None
Extras None.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Also available in the US from Eclectic DVD, similar print quality.
Cuts? Cut status unknown. This print appears to be the US VHS release under the 'Eerie Midnight Horror Show' title, with the opening and closing credits created for that release, it may have been edited from the original, although this is more likely to be for pacing than any exploitation elements.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 5th November 2014.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: