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The Possession of Joel Delaney

August 12th, 2008 by unkle lancifer · 14 Comments

In this pre-EXORCIST possession thriller, well-to-do New York divorcée socialite Norah Benson (SHIRLEY MACLAINE) is horrified to discover that the younger brother she dotes on Joel (PERRY KING) is possessed by… wait for it…a poor person! (Her repeated, panicked complaints that Mr.Tonio Perez has “entered” her brother’s body also suggest that she’s worried that he might have gone gay too). Forget that this no longer roaming spirit also has a nasty habit of decapitating women; Norah seems more taken aback by the fact that he’s Puerto Rican and hails from the wrong side of town. This is one deranged movie folks. The first half, with its bizarre cuts and awkward freeze-frames comes off as so early-seventies twisted that you’re tempted to forgive the slacky pace (a Santeria ceremony scene goes on for what seems like centuries). And for most of the running time, lil’ bro PERRY comes off as your average pouty, privileged, ne’er-do-well with a hangover rather than any real threat to Norah and her kids. Then BAM! The film’s final act, which takes place in an isolated beach house, has got to be one of the most eff’d up things ever allowed to be filmed. KING suddenly appears clad in leather with a thick accent and a switch blade and begins smacking Norah around, forcing her son to dance a naked jig on a coffee table and her now crying daughter to eat dog food out of a bowl on the ground. This circus of the mental scars is all observed by his decidedly ineffective psychiatrist’s decapitated head which rests dripping on the refrigerator. I’ve seen many an insane movie before, but this eleventh hour lycanthropic switch from JACKIE COLLINS to JACK KETCHUM is like being bitch slapped across the face by a granny you believed to be comatose. This film’s relative obscurity can be blamed on its overshadowing by the cultural Juggernaught THE EXORCIST, but the truth is its overall tone is defiantly alienating and MACLAINE‘s spoiled, arc-less character is difficult to route for. It’s hard for me to diss a movie that is so liberal with the beheadings, but what’s missing here that THE EXORCIST had in spades is a real sincere belief in the supernatural. MACLAINE is warned as much by a man who offers to exorcise the lingering lout from her brother. He tells her “You have to believe to make it work” and I think the same applies here. THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY is not without effective and certainly shocking scenes, but like its main character, it seems to be more terrified of poverty, discomfort and earthly unpleasantness than the world of the unknown.

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Tags: Tykes in Trouble

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kittyleclawNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 8:02 am

    That kid looks too much like Tina Yothers… Keeel her!!!!!!

  • 2 VicarOfVHSNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 11:44 am

    WOW. How is it possible I have NOT heard of this movie?

    I love the lower-class possession theme–I think this is an idea fit for a comeback. Imagine a horror flick in which the protagonist is a conservative republican senator whose son is suddenly possessed by the spirit of a gay illegal alien who’s also a member of the Green party! The horror! THE HORROR!

    I actually read a book a few years ago called The House Next Door by Anne Siddons that wasn’t bad for a weird twist on the haunted house theme (it’s a brand new house, but something in its design makes it eeeeevil), but alienated me at the end when the thing that decided the protags to turn against their architect friend from a good family (who designed the house) was not the weird goings on, but the fact that they learn he was ADOPTED, and therefore they don’t know that his family was blue-blooded after all! It’s hard to describe, but that’s the gist. Weird.

    And Kitte, true fact: this morning I was working on the weekend crossword, and “Tina Yothers” was the answer to one of the clues! Creepy!

  • 3 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I have ALWAYS wanted to see this movie, and now I see it has beheadings, so I MUST HAVE.

    Another “screwed you up as a kid” King movie must be Mandingo. Geesh!

    Nice review and a good reminder to me to see this puppy!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 3:05 pm


    Funnily enough I just got THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR from Amazon a couple weeks ago.  I threw it up on a shelf and forgot about it till you mentioned it here today .That doesn’t beat the Tina Yothers crossword puzzle synchronicity but it’s close!

  • 5 fishmonger19No Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Oohhh, this movie sounds boss. Like TRADING PLACES as written by Robert Bloch. Thanks for the rec.

    HOUSE NEXT DOOR’s an interesting read, too. I enjoyed it about 10 years ago and was recently thinking about seeing what I thought of it now. Stephen King gives it a good analysis in his DANSE MACABRE.

  • 6 VicarOfVHSNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    >>Funnily enough I just got THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR from Amazon a couple weeks ago

    Whoops! Spoilers! 🙂 Sorry…

  • 7 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    This is one of those movies I have heard people talk about for YEARS and have never seen for myself (I wont bother to ask you if it’s out on DVD, as you guys LOVE to flaunt that hard-to-find retro sh!t that YOU’VE seen and that I’VE missed out on that is NOT readily available for me, grumble grumble). Now I don’t know how I’ve had people mention this movie and never mention Shirley McLaine and Perry King (who I have had weird fantasies about since seeing  in Andy Warhol’s BAD). If they are in it (and decapitated heads to boot!) then I simply MUST find a copy!!!! Even if its a BETA MAX copy!!!

  • 8 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 5:16 pm


    Although it has been famously hard to find for years, this one is now finally available on DVD!!! (I thought I’d throw you a curve!) I have to admit that I think this movie is a bit over rated simply because it was so hard to find for so long. Fans of supernatural seventies movies should definitely seek it out, just be warned, it’s far more dated than most of it’s brethren. 

    Don’t worry about spoilers, Fishmonger mentions DANSE MACABRE’s analysis and that’s just where I read about it. (Mr. King already kinda spoiled it for me.)

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    This one goes out to cousin KITTY LeCLAW!!! (too bad the sound is crap)…. Is that not APPLEGATE in the Back????

  • 10 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Now THIS is singing!!!!!!……

  • 11 sbdNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Um…  What the hell is Gary doing in the cutaway in the middle of that Dana Plato clip?  Can someone explain it to me?

  • 12 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Why does the audience start fake laughing at the mere sight of Gary. He didn’t even do anything!

  • 13 sbdNo Gravatar // Aug 12, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    He’s doing something vigorous with his hands…

  • 14 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Aug 13, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Sweet Mother Of Pearl! This IS out on DVD! (How’d THAT happen???)  And NETFLIX HAS it!

    2 Words:

    and Hoo!!!

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