This movie is literally the center of the Venn Diagram that would be made of the movies that I love the most.
Italian ripoff of a successful film — This movie is obviously trying to be The Exorcist.
Satanism — This film has some of the goofiest and most awesome devil tricks of any of I’ve seen.
Exploitation — No one in this film acts like a normal human being and reality has been supplanted by insanity before the demons even get involved.
Multiple titles — This film is also known as Sexorcist, The Tormented, Devil Obsession, L’Ossessa and was later re-released post-Rocky Horror midnight movie success in 1977 as The Eerie Midnight Horror Show.
And the title card that comes up before the movie begins: THIS FILM IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY.
Daniela is an art student in Italy who is so respected by her teachers that she gets to join them as they acquire religious sculptures from a church due to be torn down. That church was deconsecrated way back in the 1700’s because the priests and nuns decided that they would turn against God and start having orgies in the church. And one of the statues, an incredibly lifelike display of one of the thieves crucified next to Jesus, catches Daniela’s eye. She is told that it was pulled directly from a tree, that it was already inside the wood and all the sculptor had to do was bring out the details. However, many tourists have had mental breakdowns just looking at this sculpture.
Daniela’s life is weird even before the crazy gets started. Her rich parents throw a party and we learn that her mother isn’t just cheating on her husband, she’s doing it pretty much in public. Yep — Daniela catches her mother getting whipped by the thorns of a rose — a scene that Becca just randomly walked into and asked, “What are you watching?!?”
Our heroine leaves for her studio at the university. As she paints, the sculpture comes off of its cross in a scene that can only come from the deranged mind of Italian exploitation filmmaking (director Mario Gariazzo wrote Sister Emanuelle and directed Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind). Of course, that revived religious icon then has sex with her, sex that appears to be a dream as she runs from the studio.
Later that night, as Daniela climbs the stairs to her family’s apartment, she keeps thinking she is alone, but the sounds of her footsteps don’t match up. She hears a demon whisper her name and she runs in fear before the demon overcomes her, forcing her into a state of sexual mania and a dream where she is crucified. She spends the rest of the movie trying to get anyone to have sex with her while stigmata appears on her hands and she does all of the tropes of exorcism rip-offs.
And then Ivan Rassimov (All the Colors of the Dark, Shock/Beyond the Door II, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key ) shows up as Satan, giving Daniela her beauty back so that she can work with him to tempt all of the priests, like Father Xeno (Luigi Pistilli, Oliviero from Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key). She tries to seduce him, so to forget that she has tempted him he self-flagellates.
The priest dies and the girl is saved, after she pukes out the demon. But you knew that, right? You’ve seen this film repeated before. But that doesn’t mean that this film isn’t great. And by great, I mean the scummiest version of everything you love about films like this. No matter title you refer to it by, it is everything you want to see.