Color, 1974, 85m.
Directed by Mario Gariazzo
Starring Stella Carnacina, Chris Avram, Lucretia Love, Ivan Rassimov, Luigi Pistilli, Gabriele Tinti, Gianrico Tondinelli
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Alpha Video, Eclectic (US R0 NTSC)
Color, 1974, 85m.
Among the wave of Italian Exorcist clones churned out in the '70s, few were reissued or retitled more often than this sexed-up, decidedly eccentric variations with a few surreal moments of innovation here and there. Now in the public domain and usually known by the ridiculous title of The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (complete with faux-Rocky Horror artwork), this originated in Italy as L'ossessa and popped up in English-speaking territories as Enter the Devil (a clever ploy to tie in a Bruce Lee hit, too, for no good reason). In the early '80s it was trotted out to drive-ins disguised as a slasher movie under the title The Tormented, while various video incarnations bore titles like The Sexorcist and The Devil Obsession. No matter how you see it, the film may not be particularly great but it's certainly not boring.
Pretty young artist and restoration apprentice Danila (Carnacina) has a particularly odd home life since her dad, Mario (A Bay of Blood's Avram), and mom, Luisa (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats' Love), mostly spend their time throwing catty barbs at each other and throwing swanky parties. Things take a turn for the worse when Danila takes a stroll outside one shindig and spies mom getting extremely kinky with her lover (the late Tinti, husband and frequent co-star of Laura Gemser) whipping her silly with thorned roses. Danila seeks solace by working in her studio with the statue of one of the biblical crucified thieves, which she helped salvage from a deconsecrated church. The creepy statue comes to life (and turns into giallo regular Ivan Rassimov), then sexually assaults her on the floor. Soon Danila's plagued by malevolent visions - or are they reality? - like a cave encounter in which the crucified assailant pounds nails into her hands and feet while a nude occult ritual is conducted around her. Naturally it's just a matter of time before she's possessed herself and even coming on to her father. That sends her off to a barred room where she thrashes around and chews on torn-up bedsheets, which means it's time to call in a priest (spaghetti western regular Pistilli) who fends off her temptations by flagellating himself. Can he save her soul, and at what price? If you've seen a certain Linda Blair hit, you can probably figure it out.
Extremely sleazy and featuring mostly second-tier talent behind the camera, The Eerie Midnight Horror Show is a pretty typical offering from director Mario Gariazzo, who also juggled sex and violence in Play Motel and White Slave. There's even a bouncy electronic-laced score by Marcello Giombini, setting the stage for his later frenzied work for Joe D'Amato on Anthropophagus and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead. The film strives for class by packing the interiors with artwork and bourgeois decor, but that facade falls away every time the characters' clothes fall off and the stage blood starts flying. On top of that the film sports one of the era's most ridiculous dubbing jobs, never coming close to matching anyone's lip movements. (Unlike most Italian films of the period, no one involved appeared to be speaking English at all on the set.) Several lines are often baffling in their awkwardness, with Love getting some of the biggest howlers.
Thanks to its PD status, we've had some pretty hideous budget DVDs of this film including a very cheap one from Alpha Video and a long-discontinued one from Eclectic (remember them?). These were all derived from a VHS tape, so it's a relief to report that the 2014 limited Blu-ray from Code Red sports a new HD transfer from 35mm with far more satisfying 1.78:1 framing and a considerably healthier appearance in every respect. Colors are generally very good (apart from some occasional high-contrast moments, such as the opening minute or two), and though there's some debris and green scratches here and there, it's a major step up and a far more flattering presentation. The DTS-HD mono audio sounds about as flat and strange as it always has. The film can be played with or without a "Katarina's Bucket List Theater" mode with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters camping it up as an artist, dodging a satanic banana, and offering an extensive roster of credits for all of the main actors.