‘Abby doesn’t need a man anymore… the Devil is her lover now!’
Abby is a 1974 American blaxploitation horror film about a woman who is possessed by an African sex spirit. It stars William H. Marshall, (Blacula) Terry Carter, Austin Stoker, and Carol Speed as the title character. It was directed by William Girdler (The Manitou; Grizzly; Three on a Meathook), who co-wrote the film’s story with screenwriter Gordon Cornell Layne.
The film was a financial success but was eventually pulled from theaters after the film’s distributor, American International Pictures, was accused of copyright violation by Warner Bros., which saw the film as being derivative of The Exorcist and filed a lawsuit against AIP.
According to websites such as Film Bunnies and Cool Ass Cinema, “From late ’74 to as late as July of 1975 the film was in circulation; and reportedly, it was also on screens in 1976. Apparently, the victory was more or less given to WB as AIP didn’t bother to fight the case because they’d already made a bundle off of the movie.”
See the AIP pressbook for Abby at Zombo’s Closet
The film’s use of the Yoruba religion distinguishes it from being simply a copy of the Exorcist with a black cast. In the story, Abby is apparently possessed by Eshu, a West African orisha of chaos and whirlwinds. He is also a trickster and the guardian of roads, particularly crossroads.
While on an archaeological dig in a cave in Nigeria, Doctor Williams finds a small, ebony puzzle box, carved with the symbols of Eshu: the whirlwind, the cock’s comb, and the erect phallus. When Doctor Williams discovers the mechanism to open the box and unlatches it, a tremendous wind blasts out, knocking Doctor Williams and his men against the cave walls and floor.
The spirit released by Doctor Williams crosses the Atlantic to Louisville, Kentucky to the new home of Doctor Williams’s son, Emmett Williams (Terry Carter) and Abby Williams (Carol Speed).
Why and how the spirit travels the globe is not explained. After Abby becomes possessed, her behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and dangerous…
“While it’s difficult to properly give Abby its due since there’s not even a moderately decent print floating around, one thing worth mentioning on the technical side is the editing. At certain points in the film (particularly during the climactic duel with the demon), quick cuts jump back and forth between characters injecting both an unsettling vibe, and a feeling of action in real-time a la Sam Peckinpah.” Brian Bankston, Cool Ass Cinema
“Although raggedy produced and often slipshod in its execution, there is are a number of interesting ideas at play in Abby that the film does not deserve its status as a camp blaxploitation Exorcist ripoff, which unfortunately seems to be the consensus. If you can locate the film it is certainly worth a look.” Dean Brandum, Film Bunnies
“Girdler’s straightforward narrative serves Abby well, and the cast, by and large, deliver believable, competent performances. Abby‘s exorcism scene (in a bar!) is a delightful touch. Veteran actors Marshall (of 1972’s Blacula) and Moore both lend class to the outrageous proceedings.” The Terror Trap
“Derivative, stilted and flat, Abby remains a must-see film if only for its shameless appropriation of The Exorcist…” Josiah Howard, Blaxploitation Cinema
“Carol Speed does a nice job as Abby. She got the role after the actress before her was canned due to requesting a masseuse in the budget. Speed’s supposed to be the sweet reverend’s wife who has had a switch flipped inside of her to bring out everything sexual. The movie is also aided by veteran blaxploitation star William Marshall (star of Blacula) who brings his booming voice to the exorcist.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects
” … apart from a few comic moments like the possessed marriage counsellor sequence, or the Mrs. Wiggins scene, the movie is fairly dull. No outright gore or retch-inducing sequences, no gratuitous sex or nudity and even the profanity is fairly tame.” Mikel J Koven, Blaxploitation Films