Something more than your run-of-the-mill supernatural shocker
This film is often compared to _The Exorcist_ although it was released a couple of years earlier. Certainly _The Exorcist_'s notoriety (and box-office performance) have ecclipsed this film, but horror fans shouldn't miss _The Possession of Joel Delaney_! I first became acquainted with this story when I read the novel in "Reader's Digest Condensed Books" at the age of about eleven years and, yes, it certainly upset me! It isn't as overbearing as _The Exorcist_ and doesn't boast the same shocking plot elements, languages and special effects. On the whole, though, it is somewhat more subtle. The slow process by which Nora Benson comes to realize that her brother is possessed by the spirit of a dead killer is carefully developed and will certainly hold you in suspense. _The Possession of Joel Delaney_ is very much a product of its time (the early 1970s) in its focus on drugs, racial tensions and sexuality. Even though the wardrobe, hairstyles etc. do now appear dated, the film has actually withstood the test of time extremely well. This film really helped to put Perry King "on the map," as it were, and deservedly so: the young actor met the challenges of his role quite competently. As Joel, he comes across as vulnerable, appealing and somewhat shy but, when possessed by Tonio Perez's soul, he conveys malevolence very believably: his facial expressions (aided by lighting and makeup, to be sure) and mannerisms change. The Spanish-accented voice, although dubbed, is chillingly effective and the fact that it's obviously someone else's voice actually works in the film's favor as it underscores the fact that Joel's body has been overtaken by an outside force (just as Mercedes McCambridge's vocality did for _The Exorcist_). The horror genre is often held in low esteem because it doesn't treat "themes of profound significance." Aside from the fact that I think that this statement is ludicrous in many cases (although there is no shortage of really bad horror films), it is also untrue for _The Possession of Joel Delaney_. The film was viewed primarily as a social and political commentary at the time of release. This does not mean, however, that it is "preachy," for you can easily ignore the ideological implications and enjoy the film simply as an excellent example of the horror genre. For something different and offbeat, I recommend _The Possession of Joel Delaney_.
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