THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY
Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
What's it about
A rich woman believes something is wrong with her brother. Drugs? Depression? His friends? Or, or has the spirit of a Hispanic killer taken over him. Hmm?
Is it good movie?
The premise of a rich white lady, her wild brother, his dead Puerto Rico friend, voodoo, and a beach house sounds like a B-level Lifetime movie. However, what that premise doesnít include is the mean, hard tone taken and the evil spirit in possession of the brother. Released in 1972, The Possession of Joel Delaney is a slow paced, odd flick about a woman named Norah Benson (Shirley MacClaine) who comes to her brother Joelís rescue when heís arrested for attempted murder and placed in the nuthouse. Things quickly spiral out of control as Joelís behavior becomes unpredictable and erratic. He starts blurting Spanish without knowing a word. He gets into voodoo. He carries a switch blade. None of that sounds terribly odd, but when youíre rich, white New Yorkers this doesnít happen everyday.
The Possession of Joel Delaney radiates eeriness at nearly every turn. If itís not the creepy brother, itís the family as they seem to breach that line of incest at times. Strange, but undeniable. The whole family has a sexual connection without sex. Some background is given on the characters such as their motherís suicide and Norahís overbearing nature, but their closeness is as creepy as a clown in a movie theater. Just wrong.
Of course, thereís plenty of dated transitions, sound effects, blurs, and faded zoom ins, everything that evokes that classic 70s feel. Most movies of this decade I love, but at times The Possession of Joel Delaney does a little too much. Itís as if director Waris Hussein used all the hip movie techniques of the time. But I guess thatís rather obvious, isnít it?
The first acts drags as it reveals little about the odd behavior of Joel other than he attempted to kill a man, and that heís a little off. However, everything changes the moment Joelís girlfriend turns up dead; naked, bloodied, arms chopped off, and her head dangling from her hair from the ceiling. Thereís a killer on the loose. Is it Joel? Or is it some crazy Puerto Rican dude?
For the initial dullness, the conclusion makes up for it, specifically brutal and chaotic. Case in point: the forced strip dance of Norahís ten-year-old boy at knife point by Joel in which the boy is shown nude. Itís disturbing, and frankly, itís more or less illegal. Itís not something anyone should see. Joel also terrorizes his niece by making her eat from a dog bowl, and makes out with his sister. Talk about freaking nuts.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen presentation
Audio: Presented with the power of 2.0
Not a classic by any means, but The Possession of Joel Delaney has enough elements to warrant a viewing for fans of the possession genre. Itís a little dated, but MacClainís performance and the finale make it worth while.