Directed by William Girdler
Dr Williams...William Marshall
This is, certainly, a rip-off of the Exorcist, and not merely because it's a story of demonic possession that results in an exorcism--there are plenty of those that can stand on their own. Abby, though, follows the formula that the Exorcist laid out very nearly step-by-step: a man of the cloth on an archeological expedition accidentally unleashes a demon in a foreign country, and that demon inexplicably travels to America and takes possession of a female, who undergoes a rapid and almost puberty-like transformation. Her voice drops a few octaves, she grows very moody, and she is ruled by sexual impulses. After being inspected for physical and mental health issues, it is determined that she has been possessed, and an exorcism (by the very man who released the demon in the first place) must be performed.
So it's no surprise that Warner Brother filed a lawsuit against Abby's distributor, AIP--although it is slightly surprising that Warner Brothers won. It resulted in this movie being pulled from theaters, but by that time it had already raked in four million dollars, making it a financial success even if the filmmakers didn't get their hands on the earnings.
Often called a blaxploitation horror movie, that's only partially correct. For the vast majority of the film, I was impressed by the fact that the characters onscreen are good people who are treated with respect. They do not speak in jive, and they are not overly-colorful, flamboyant or larger than life. Their race is not an issue or plot point, it is merely a fact that is not dwelled upon or even mentioned.
And then, about three-quarters through the movie, Abby descends upon a bar (which I like to think of as the Whole Different Movie Tavern), the soundtrack swells with groovy funk, and THIS happens:
Oh, well. Can't win 'em all.
Still, between Abby and the Exorcist, the Exorcist is much more exploitative. Abby is a full grown woman who throws herself at full grown men, while Regan was an underage child who threw herself at old men and defiled herself bloody with religious artifacts. There's not much competition there.
Abby is not nearly as shocking or terrifying or thought provoking as the film that it is aping. However, it is a hell of a lot more fun. You can watch it, have a beer and a few chuckles, and then forget about it when it is done. And how fucking great is it to see Blacula himself performing the exorcism--beneath a disco ball, no less!
Quality-wise, Abby is completely eclipsed by the Exorcist. But sometimes you need a little lighter fare, something that satisfies your genre cravings without requiring a shower afterwards. Abby fills that role quite nicely.
"What ever possessed you to do a thing like that!?"