Twitter Plot Summary: A woman is touched up by an aroused spirit. Quite a lot.
Based on the supposedly true story of Carla Moran (you can almost smell the cynicism already), a woman who has, in her own words, been assaulted by a spectral menace consistently for the last 30 years, this is a horror movie adaptation of her story. In reality it might seem a little far-fetched, but in movie terms it makes for an entertaining horror story if nothing else.
Barbara Hershey plays Moran, who lives with her teenage son and two younger daughters. One day she is physically assaulted by an invisible force that leaves physical marks on her person. The attacks gradually grow more violent and more frequent until she seeks help and the scepticism of the medical profession.
Despite the fact the spectre is an unseen attacker, the emotional trauma of the attacks is more than ably carried by Hershey. She portrays a woman who is unable to fully comprehend what is happening to her, her frustration and weariness as the attacks continue becoming all the more apparent. Naturally, the authorities don’t believe a word she has to say, and it’s only through a chance encounter with Dr Phil Schneiderman (Ron Silver) that any serious effort is made to bring the attacks to a close. Everyone else, quite rightfully at first, is of the opinion that she may have mental health problems until the attacks and demonic presence is seen/felt by other people around her. Suffice to say, Hershey is the best thing about the film, an emotionally vulnerable performance mixed with genuine puzzlement as to why she specifically is being targeted.
She’s supported by impressive special effects, more so because this is the era before computer generated effects came into play. The demon, despite never being seen, feels like a genuine presence thanks to the clever use of compressed air to show it touching Moran’s body. It’s less powerful when the demon is given visible form, but these moments are infrequent and do little to ruin the solid efforts of the practical effects team.
There isn’t enough variation in the attacks for their repeated use to have increased impact, instead they become less shocking with each passing moment through overuse and lack of imagination. The final act also takes a turn for the silly as the scientific group investigating the disturbances try and capture the demonic spirit in a replica house. Up until that point it’s quite an interesting feature, but it’s like the writer Frank De Felitta literally wrote himself into a corner and couldn’t work out where to go next.
If you took away Hershey’s performance and the effects, this would be just another schlock supernatural horror movie amongst many. Instead it’s elevated above that categorisation on the strength of those two positive points. If it hadn’t have focused so much on Moran’s supposed real life experiences and made an effort to branch out along its own, less silly path, then this could have been a far superior effort than was ultimately provided. With that said, it’s still a far sight better than most of the horror films made in that decade.