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There is no one discernible origin for my love of trash cinema. The roots of my high tolerance for the cheese, schlock, and taboos of the film world are probably too deep for me to actually even understand, or frankly, want to. There are some important events that come to mind though. Incidents that took place over my development that could be pointed to as partly responsible for building or creating my current tastes. Unfortunately for my scholarly cred, I must admit that the driving force behind some of these contributive moments can be boiled down to being a child in the 90s and trying to see some tits. It is what it is. I refuse to apologize for little me. It sounds bad and juvenile but it's the truth, and it sounds that way because I was a juvenile. It wasn't the same as today. Boobs didn't fly out computer screens like doves every time you opened Tumblr. Back then there was no Tumblr, no google, no high-speed porn tubes, and even when the fledgling internet finally showed up, it's bandwidth made waiting for a nipple to render painful. In these primitive times a curious party had to scrounge, conspire and fight for a glimpse of the coveted skin, but this brought with it a positive side effect. Since I couldn't just type boobs in a box somewhere, as a kid I would watch pretty much anything that even had the slightest hint of erotic subplot, and since it was either cable or a vhs tape, I had to just watch the whole thing. Over time, what was originally a misguided search for boobs turned into a (probably equally misguided) search for bad movies. The titties just being one part of an awesomely terrible package of entertainment. Thank the Cinema Gods for the premium channels free trials. Back then HBO and Showtime would turn on their channels for a few free days. I would spend all night watching whatever erotic thriller or near porn filled the later time slots. Usually, it was the same few flicks repeated at random, so after awhile you knew which ones were worth a wait. Somewhere between my transition from little kid looking for some cleavage to manchild just trying to watch some garbage, I ran into Possessed by the Night (1994).

The movie follows a few threads somehow involving each other through interaction with the main character and a magical, pickled one-eyed creature in a jar. A shylock, Gus (Chad McQueen), is first offered the jar as a down payment by a store owner. He initially refuses but his attitude changes slightly, when he gazes upon the preserved abomination and decides to give Mr. Wong a few more days. As he is walking away a group of shop regulars come by and take interest in the jar. It seems to cause the group of men to become violent. So Gus beats everyone up real quick before heading out. We then meet Howard Hansen(Ted Prior), a screenwriter and his sporty, real estate agent wife Peggy(Sandahl Bergman). Howard is working on a horror film script but is having trouble getting it done despite the pestering of his agent, Murray(Frank Sivero). To clear his head the writer goes out for a stroll and ends up at Mr. Wong's store, where he spots the jar full of medical waste and decides he has to have it. He takes it home and is suddenly able to start pumping out some pages, as long as the booger jar sits on his desk. Unfortunately he also starts getting extra aggressive during sexy time, which freaks his wife out a little. At the same time, following along with our shylock friend, we learn that Howard's manager has a little bit of a gambling problem and that a mob boss in this universe proudly “love bimbos” as well as, apparently, plastic surgery. Gus has a pregnant wife at home and wants out of the business, but the boss(Henry Silva) just brushes him off with confusing chatter. The tension in the back in the Hansan household only gets worse, when Murray inexplicably brings over a beautiful live-in secretary, Carol(Shannon Tweed), which he insists will help Howard complete the script. Soon the influence of the jar has Howard and Carol engaging in some strange, cringe-inducing erotic slapping before then tormenting Peggy, who seems to be the only one not affected by the jar or involved with illegal gambling. There's a bunch of sexual tension, conspiring and shots of a waterlogged cyclopic brain winking. Oh, and everyone takes their clothes off... except Henry Silva, luckily.
It's another Fred Olen Ray flick (see: Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) and comes with his style and “humor” but with a little more of a visible budget than his more esteemed films. I guess after directing the Tanya Roberts vehicle, Inner Sanctum he was feeling a little typecast into making erotica crime thrillers, hence the jar-o-throbbing flesh with magical powers. All the better in my opinion. I don't think I would have remembered the film for so long had the only draw been softcore nudity and semi-successful tension. Despite being a part of Mr. Olen Ray’s more “budgeted” era, the tone steps outside of the genre's archetype and into a more fun-loving but still equally trashy flavor. His direction, in this case, is a little more focused than the classics that came before it and somewhat heightened most likely due to production cashflow.
The story meanders on unfruitful plot points and has holes but moves at a fast pace. It’s a lively contrast to other “erotic thrillers” that usually remain confined for long periods in an emotional back-and-forth between soap opera and Murder, She Wrote. It's still just as corny but leans into the cheese, and the added science fiction element helps. By all means, it is still a “Late Night” feature and makes sudden brakes for fucking. The big difference here being the rambunctious behavior can be attributed to the mood changing brain monster in a mayonnaise container. Dialog ranges from passing to hilarious, with a few especially great lines of accidental comedy from Henry Silva’s brand of delivery. The monster thingy looks like something Full Moon would throw together. It's not super realistic, but it looks enough like the love child of a booger and a smoke oyster to be gross. The unexplained thrift store find that causes chaos is a well-worn trope, but in here it's out of place and surreal in what would be another Shannon Tweed drama without it. There is plenty of cheesy nudity with soft light, although probably less then its original target audience was looking for. There isn't much for gore, aside from a little blood when people get shot. It's got a little body horror vibe going on, with the one-eyed fetus thing, but nothing to write Cronenberg about.
Our protagonist is played by Ted Prior a staple in crappy action and b movies. No stranger to naked ladies with guns and bad hairdos, he fits right in with the character. Chad McQueen, aka Cobra-motherfucking-Kai enforcer Dutch from Karate Kid (1984,1986), plays the shylock with the heart of gold, and Henry Silva plays his boss. Shannon Tweed is... well Shannon Tweed, the undeniable queen of mainstream erotic thrillers and all around manifestation of 90s home cinema hotness. She isn't really the main character, but it's obvious the film is built around her. She's a legend, the best there is at holding a gun and undressing dramatically, and for me this is her most rewatchable outing. Sandahl Bergman (see: Hell Comes to Frogtown) looks amazing as the emotionally tortured wife. It's nice to see so much of her and she's probably my favorite of the cast, but I always prefer her as some kind of badass. Fred himself makes a cameo as well as Peter Spellos AKA Orville Ketchum (see:Hard to Die) from the Sorority House Massacre series.
Possessed by the Night might fall in a valley between softcore porn and straight to video trash that only a hormone-driven preteen could initially understand. It's a fun watch that keeps its brain in a jar, but in the end it's a Fred Olen Ray flick starring Shannon Tweed. It is great trash, but if that doesn't sound like your cup of Kool-Aid, this one won't win you over. At least in my case, it served as a sleazy brick in the bridge between my willingness to sit through a film for boobs as a kid and my love for trash cinema as an adult. I don't even want to know what the youth of today are missing with their comparatively magic ways to skip to the good parts, or manifest any kink in front of them in moments. Spoiled fucks, in my day we watched entire Shannon Tweed movies, and we fucking liked it.
| 1994 
Director: Fred Olen Ray
Writers: Mark Thomas McGee, Fred Olen Ray 


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