Abby (1974)


Scary, hilarious, and vastly better than its reputation suggests, Abby has a number of moments where you don’t know whether to laugh or scream. I, personally, ended up laughing most of the time. One of these scenes has Abby (Carol Speed) beating up a concerned family friend while chanting, “Here we go ’round the merry-go-round, merry-go-round, merry-go-round….” Another moment has Abby obscenely salivating over chicken blood. Still another is when she rips open her blouse and begins spouting four-letter words at a marriage-counseling session. Then there’s the discotheque exorcism, with the demon bellowing and swearing as the joint is telekinetically demolished. A lot of the movie is ridiculous, yes, but that’s why it’s so horrific. If it were rational, what would be the point?

Some scenes, however, fall off the humor-horror fence onto the comedy side. The best example of this is Abby’s performance of the soulful “My Soul is a Witness” in the church choir. The problem is, Carol can’t sing! Another character mentions her “angelic voice.” Apparently the angels live in her sinuses! Then there’s the use of fried chicken as a constant theme and Juanita Moore’s sage pearls of wisdom about “lovin’ a good man.”

The performances range from passable to quite good. The best comes from the always dignified, commanding William Marshall as the exorcist. Paula Henderson’s main theme, “Will We Find Our Tomorrows,” is memorable, as is most everything else about the movie. Though it’s often silly, Abby is never dull.

Trivia: Made for $500,000, Abby was a substantial success, grossing $9 million during its month in theaters. After that month, Warners sued and profits were frozen. Director William Girdler died two weeks after the suit was settled and never saw a dime.

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