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Father Kevin Leahy (James Farentino) is in an automobile accident when he is pronounced dead on the scene. In the limbo he hears a voice telling him to return to life and seek out the Evil in the world. Soon afterwards he ends up at a girl's boarding school in Salen, Oregon where mysterious fires have been breaking out. The head mistress (Joan Hackett), her sister (Claudette Nevins) and her younger daughter (Ann Dusenberry) all seem to have some sort of connection.
THE POSSESSED is without question one of the better made-for-television horror movies ever made. It's kind of funny that Warner now handles the release of the picture since it was released the same year as their disastrous EXORCIST II. There's no question that this movie was probably inspired by THE EXORCIST but everything wrong with that film's sequel is certainly improved on here. There's no doubt that I went into the movie not sure what to expect but I walked away with an extremely good film that manages to feature great performances and a pretty good story.
The performances are certainly a major plus because there's quite a bit of character development here. Farentino is wonderful as the Father who finds himself trying to figure out exactly why he was brought back to life and who is behind these Satanic fires. Nevins is also excellent in her role as the mother and Dusenberry is also good. The supporting cast includes Dinah Manoff, P.J. Soles and Diana Scarwid. The biggest name is Harrison Ford who is excellent in a small role as a professor. The film also benefits from some nice cinematography and an extremely effective music score.
Another thing that really works for the movie is its pacing by director Jerry Thorpe. He certainly knows how to keep the film moving and manages to make the story quite interesting and makes it hold your attention even without the big-budget special effects. The ending itself is quite good, although there's no question that they were going for the same feel as THE EXORCIST. THE POSSESSED isn't a masterpiece but it's about as good as a film like this can get.
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