Well, Abby at least.
I’m surprised they didn’t call it The Blaxorcist.
Abby is the charming story of a pastor’s wife who is suddenly possessed by a Yuruban sex god that wants more than just Abby’s soul…
Director William Girdler created some interesting material in his career, one of the most notable exploitation films that he helmed was the pre-Texas Chainsaw Three on a Meathook. Hot off the tails of the huge success of The Exorcist, Girdler and production studio American International Pictures (AIP) grabbed onto those coattails and created the ultra low budget, blaxploitation answer with Abby.
The story goes like this…
Bishop Williams (Blacula himself William Marshall) is in Nigeria on an archaeological dig when he inadvertently releases a spirit called Eshu from its tomb (a wood box with a picture of a guy with a huge boner on it) which apparently flies back to the Louisville Kentucky to possess his daughter in law. Why wouldn’t it just possess him? It’s an AIP film, we shouldn’t think too hard about it.
Back in Louisville, the bishop’s son Emmett is a pastor and lives with his squeaky clean wife Abby who is herself a newly anointed marriage counselor. The woman is a saint. She’s a counselor, sings in the choir and we even see her working in what looks like a soup kitchen at one point! Abby is the ideal pastor’s wife, sweet as can be with a big beautiful smile and a huge heart.
Soon however, strange things begin to happen to our dear sweet Abby. Eshu’s influence has Abby doing crazy stuff like getting off in the shower and cutting the shit out of her arm (which is dismissed as an accident). The family’s white doctor suggests that maybe this is a suicide attempt, but there is no way our Abby would ever consider doing something like that.
During one Sunday sermon, Abby takes the floor with the church choir and we get the chance to hear actress Carol Strand flex those pipes and perform a piece that she actually wrote for the film. She kills it. However, during the prayer Abby begins to choke uncontrollably which escalates into a full on fit. The funeral director removes her from the stage but she freaks out and throws him through a glass door and then barfs on him. Just a normal Sunday.
Later that night, Emmett decides that this type of shit doesn’t make a woman freak out and waxes some sexy verses as he is getting out of the shower standing in what looks like a hand towel. Demon Abby turns her head and growls something like “You think you can satisfy me with that?” and then kicks him square in the nuts.
Things are getting a little serious now and Emmett reaches out to his father the bishop in Nigeria but he dismisses the trouble. During a counseling session we see “pastor’s wife” Abby doing her thing and helping a nice young couple. Emmett soon enters the room and then we get Eshu Abby who tells the woman that she better make sure that her soon to be husband is packing enough meat and then she tears her blouse open(from behind – sad face), and offers to take the man upstairs herself and fuck him. Emmett forcefully removes her to the bedroom upstairs. Later that night, Eshu Abby basically sexually assaults the man.
The next day while Emmett is away at work, Abby is visited by the church organist and then shit gets real. Eshu Abby gets into the woman’s head and accuses her of all of the lies in her life. Shit is swirling all around, it’s windy as hell, the t.v. blows up and Abby basically scares the woman to death. Emmett comes home to the sound of Eshu Abby’s voice resonating through the house and then finds her upstairs bouncing up and down on the bed foaming at the mouth with the organist dead on the floor.
In the film we are treated to various forms of Abby, just like we had various forms of Regan in The Exorcist. There is pastor’s wife Abby with the sweet voice and disposition that you would expect to go with it. Then there is “sista” Abby with a swagga and tone that you would see in any episode of Jerry Springer. After that you have “Eshu” Abby with a deep growl that sounds like she’s been smoking a pack of Newports a day for that last hundred years and a monobrow and glazed eyes that really drive the evil home.
Emmett reaches out to his father again and this time his pleas don’t fall on deaf ears. The bishop instructs Emmett to get Abby to the hospital and that he will come home immediately. This is where the film lifts a lot from the original Exorcist – we see Abby in a montage getting tested in these strange ways that all come up inconclusive so she is admitted to the psych ward for observation. Somehow Eshu Abby senses that the Bishop is returning and escapes the hospital in a pretty comical chase scene that has about ten different doctors and nurses chasing her down the stairwells of what looks like a factory, only to be shut out at the last door.
When Emmett finally meets his father at the airport they head straight back to the house and are greeted by a weird “hybrid” Abby – part pastor’s wife part Sista. She becomes all to touchy with the bishop (she basically tries to grab his junk) and then goes Eshu Abby, slamming stuff around and throwing the men into all the furniture. She eventually seals the two in and escapes into the night. Emmett escapes and flags down the fist car he sees, that just happens to be driven by a little old white lady, and then jacks that shit telling her “Sorry, it’s an emergency”.
We are then treated to another montage, this time of all the beautiful pimpery and soul that Louisville has to offer. This shit is good. The soundtrack is slamming and we are treated to images of playas in their Sunday best – collars for miles, afros to the sky, and lounges that make me miss home.
On a side note, I loved playing with cigarette machines when I was a kid. They were the best.
When we next see Abby she is making her way through a bar filled with the most exciting nightlife and she runs into the funeral director that she puked on earlier in the film. He’s totally tripped out by “Sista” Abby and her complete forwardness, but she convinces him to leave the bar with her for a little grown up time. He just figures that she needs a ride home, but then he realizes that she needs a ride home. See what I did there? Eshu Abby gets real aggressive with the guy when he can’t get it up and then something happens in the car that we only get to see from the exterior. The car starts rocking wildly and then completely fills up with smoke. Maybe she effed him so hard he catches fire?
Emmett is joined by his brother in law who is a cop and apparently gets him off of the grand theft auto charge by having him ditch the lady’s car somewhere. They take to the nighttime streets of Louisville searching for Abby. They eventually come across the club that Abby has been hanging out in (she hooked up with some old white dude earlier and probably fucked him to death), and they are told that she is coming back so they wait. Meanwhile the Bishop is doing his thing, getting ready to handle shit in his own little montage.
Abby comes back to the bar and wastes no time looking for another dude to hook up with. Emmett finds her and she says she doesn’t know him and then begins to make a big ass scene in the bar. They start pouring drinks on Emmett and trying to tear off his clothes, but just then Abby’s brother the cop shows up and clears the place out by firing his piece.
Then Bishop Garnett shows up and the party really starts.
This is where we see full on ESHU ABBY (her final form if you will), with cat’s eyes contacts, scaly skin, and a mono brow from hell. The brother and Emmett try and hold her down but she starts speaking in tongues, levitating, pleading with them individually in sweet Abby form and then puking. Bishop Garnett goes not only for the crucifix, but dons traditional Yaruba attire to assist in the exorcism. He eventually realizes that he is not dealing with Eshu itself, but a wannabe demon that is posing as Eshu, this is the leverage he needs to shut this shit down once and for all. The bar goes crazy, things explode everywhere, sparks fly and a discoball crashes into the bar. Then in a flash of subliminal images juxtaposing Abby and She-Hulk looking, puffy faced green Eshu Abby the exorcism is complete and the spirit is returned to the boner-wood box. Abby is back to normal and the day is saved.
This film would have just been a total shitter if it wasn’t for the stand out performances of Carol Speed and William Marshall. Speed brings a sweet vulnerability to Abby that would have been hard to get with another less charismatic actress. Abby is portrayed as the classic black preacher’s wife. They make a sexualized woman into a monster. The script’s revisions by an African American writer were perhaps responsible for the positive depiction of black Christian religiosity, but they were at the expense of demonizing women, sexuality, and the Yoruba god Eshu, who herein becomes steeped in a Western, sex-negative Christian ideology.
The African religious stuff is, believe it or not, all real. Apparently William Marshall was very into it, and had been promised the ability to inject even more true Yoruba mythology into the script – which didn’t happen. Still, there really is a spirit called Eshu, who is a force of chaos and sexuality.
Abby was a very hard title to find for a long time due to the legal action against AIP by Warner Brothers. Only poor VHS to DVD bootlegs existed until 2014 when a “black exorcist” edition was released with special features and a better transfer of the material.