I had great intentions of starting up my TV Tuesday series again tonight, and I thought that this Exorcist ripoff, featuring a supporting cast that includes P.J. Soles as well as a young and very fine-looking Harrison Ford, would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who is susceptible to getting stuck wasting a lot of time questioning the unanswerable, as in “what series of events took place in order to make this movie fail so completely on almost every level?” So I’m having a hard time writing this one. Spoilers ahead.
We begin with a priest, played by James Farentino (the cop from Dead and Buried), who is serving communion while drunk. After mass, he crashes his car into a pole, and a cross falls down from the pole onto the hood of his car. Symbolism! The priest is dead, but as the paramedics work on him anyway, his spirit is in a black room somewhere else. (All visions and dreams in 70s horror movies were required to take place in a black room.) A voice tells him that he must return to earth to fight evil. He comes back to life.
Then we cut to a girls’ school. Two sisters, a teacher and the headmaster, lament the fact that the school is going co-ed next term. The teacher’s daughter is introduced as a character. She comes home to her dorm room late to find that her room is on fire and she can’t open the door which has just closed behind her. Her roommate, who was out looking for her, is easily able to open it, though, and they escape. Unfortunately, the roommate also catches on fire the next day during graduation practice, but is saved with severe burns to the legs. Now the sister who is a teacher must admit that the paper in her typewriter caught on fire for no reason the night before. She goes to some guy for advice, and he tells her that he knows of a man, a former priest, who helps with these kinds of things, only he doesn’t know how to get in touch with him.
The next thing you know, the priest is at the school investigating. The police wonder who he is, but they don’t stop him. Harrison Ford turns out to be sleeping with the teacher’s daughter, and he was sleeping with the headmistress before she became frigid. The guy with advice calls the teacher again and apologizes that he hasn’t been able to get in touch with the priest who solves mysteries. What? Then who was phone? How did Farentino find out and show up at the school? It looks for a moment like the former priest might kiss the headmistress when she confesses that she has ice cubes in her drawers. Harrison Ford catches on fire and dies. The headmistress completely Regan MacNeils out, makes the dorm fill with smoke, marches all the girls down to the pool, spits nails at the priest.. wait, what? Yes, she literally spits nails at him! Then she vomits in his face. He hugs her, he catches on fire, he jumps into the pool, and disappears. Where did the priest go? We don’t know. Let’s have graduation, the end.
I know that this is the part where I am supposed to admit that The Possession has potential, it has atmosphere, it has a good cast of soon-to-be knowns and the headmistress is played by Joan Hackett who everyone online seems to have heard of but me. Well, I’m tired of apologizing for movies like this one, where whoever was responsible for this mess just told me to fuck off in screenplay format. I can’t do it tonight; I have a bad cold and I’m just in general having a come to Jesus moment with myself about my life today. The best I can say is that I watched the entire movie, and yes, I enjoyed the final confrontation, but for the wrong reasons.
There is so much that pisses me off about this movie. Was this a pilot for some priestly Kolchak clone, where he was going to do a monster-of-the-week thing? Why did someone think that would work, when The Norliss Tapes and The World Beyond did not? Did the makers of this film have a hard-on for Dan Curtis? Why do girls’ school movies always have to function as metaphors for sexual repression? Haven’t these writers ever heard of lesbians? Lesbian sex is pretty good, or so I’ve heard, and so is banging the hot science teacher in the room full of preserved animal specimens, so repression and boarding school don’t have to go together, do they? Why did we get a long sequence of girls putting gross things in someone’s bed as a prank only to stop letting the student characters have any personality at all? What was causing the fires at the school? Was it telekinesis brought on by frigidity, or demon possession? If your last three weeks of high school were characterized by terror, death, and smoke inhalation, would you be able to go back to business as usual after seeing your principal spit nails? Where the hell did the priest go? How did this get a VHS and a DVD release when far superior movies languish in obscurity? Why. why, why? OK, I’m done here. You are welcome to tell me in the comments that this is your favorite TV movie.