“Fasten your seatbelt Beelzebub. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Not all of the dialogue in “Possessed” is actually that hokey, but it certainly doesn’t get much better. No wonder Piper Laurie committed to only one scene in this silly telepic from Showtime.
In fact, the only hope for this half-baked horror movie is that it may pick up on the momentum generated by the theatrical re-release of “The Exorcist.” Based on the supposedly true story of the only documented exorcism performed by the Catholic Church in this country, “Possessed” can’t even boast much of a fright factor.
Jonathan Malen, who plays Robbie, the 11-year-old boy possessed by a demon, looks more like an impish cherub than the devil incarnate while Timothy Dalton, as tormented priest Father Bowdern, vacillates between haunted and haughty all the while employing a wildly erratic accent.
The crux of the story isn’t even about the possession of Robbie, but rather the internal battle fought by the alcoholic Bowdern who is troubled by a terrible incident from his duty in World War II.
Script by Michael Lazarou and Steven E. de Souza makes some honest attempts to flesh out the characters and the story with a subplot about a politically ambitious archbishop (played by Christopher Plummer) reluctant to agree to perform such an arcane ritual just when it seems as if Americans are finally accepting Catholics.
But there are also several sub-plots that go nowhere, like Father Bowden’s civil-rights activism, Father McBride’s (Henry Czerny) naked ambition and whether or not creepy Aunt Hanna (Laurie) had anything to do with Robbie’s present condition.
To fill in the holes, Lazarou and de Souza employ all of the usual demonic possession clichés including spewing liquids, moving furniture and hurling obscenities. But just in case that doesn’t cover it all, there’s an inexplicable ventriloquist dummy and a Ouiji Board scene thrown in for good measure.
For the most part, director de Souza resists the usual camera gimmicks consistent with this type of film and maintains a slight air of suspense throughout, only to blow it near the end with a laughable scene of the three priests, dressed in white robes, marching down the hall to rousing music like some holy Ghostbusters.
Other technical credits far exceed the level of material presented, especially Rosalie Board’s set decoration, which utilizes an impressive collection of stylish 1950s furniture.