Illustration : Chris Achilleos

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The Possessed

Jerry Thorpe | USA | 1977


Demonic possession movies were flavour of the decade in the 1970s, and TV was no stick in the mud when it came to latching onto a trend. Director Jerry Thorpe, who'd spent almost an entire career in the television medium, delivers a short and efficient shocker enhanced by serious performances from the cast and a script which avoids the hysterics of many of these type of films. Some excellent pyrotechnic effects, a progressive soundtrack and a somewhat ambiguous ending all combine to recommended the film for horror aficionados.

Faithless and alcoholic minister Kevin Leahy (James Farentino; Dead and Buried) is nearly killed when his car hits a telephone pole. Whilst he is being resuscitated by the ambulance crew, he receives an epiphany in which he is commanded to go out and "fight evil by whatever means possible."

Helen Page School in Salem, Oregon — a boarding school for girls. The headmistress Louise Gelson (Joan Hackett) and her widowed sister and teacher Ellen Sumner (Claudette Nevins) become confounded by a series of inexplicable and frightening instances of spontaneous combustion: writing paper, curtains and even a student's graduation gown — all ignite without warning. Sensing that something supernatural is the cause, Ellen calls in the help of (now ex-minister) Leahy to investigate the 'evil' which appears to have befallen the school.

A few days later, Biology teacher and lothario Paul Winjam (a pre Star Wars Harrison Ford), becomes the first casualty, reduced to ashes in front of Ellen Sumner’s daughter ‘Weezie’ (Ann Dusenberry). Winjam, who'd been enjoying secret trysts with 'Weezie' off the back of a relationship with headmistress Gelson, appears to be the catalyst to the sudden malediction spreading throughout the school, an ‘evil’ which Leahy is unsure he can defeat.



Warner Home Video's uncut summer 1987 release came with a vibrant, visually attractive illustration from displaced Cypriot artist Chris Achilleos. Achilleos is better known as the artist behind the iconic Heavy Metal film poster, but he is no stranger to the video market either. As well as providing the illustrations for many of Warner's video sleeves from this period he'd previously designed Thorn EMI's superb Jupiter Menace.


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cast : James Farentino, Claudette Nevins, Eugene Roche, Harrison Ford, Ann Dusenberry, Diana Scarwid, Joan Hackett, Dinah Manoff, Carol Jones, P.J. Soles, Ethelinn Block, Susan Walden, Lawrence Bame, James R. Parkes, Catherine Cunneff