The Possession of Joel Delaney - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Possession of Joel Delaney Reviews

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½ October 15, 2010
Shirley MacLaine's brother finds himself possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer and she throws herself into the idea of understanding Voodoo in an effort to save him. This can-do attitude falls by the wayside towards the end of the film and she ends up being more typical shrieking female, which is a disappointment.

Worth a watch, but it won't be your new favorite film or anything.
October 11, 2004
Shirley Maclaine is Norah Benson, a New York socialite who slowly comes to realize that the spirit of a madman has taken over her brother's body in "The Possession of Joel Delaney". That short plot summary is the kindest thing I can think of to say about this movie, one of the most offensive I have ever seen. Now, I can be offended by something and enjoy it; [i]South Park[/i] has offended me on more than one occasion. But [i]South Park[/i] is smart and it never fails to entertain me and make me think, and through its very nature should offend everybody at some point. Watching "The Possession of Joel Delaney" just made me feel dirty. First there's the question of Norah's relationship with her brother Joel (Perry King). The movie attempts to mislead you at the beginning by having the two show up at a party together. Party guests comment on Norah's having traded in her ex-husband for a younger man. She looks on jealously as Joel spends time with a beautiful blonde. After the movie does everything but flat out tell us there's a romance going on, we find out they're siblings. But then the film continues to build on an incestuous subtext through brother/sister horseplay in a shower, jealous interrogations about lovers, and near kisses. There are scenes in this movie that MacLaine would refuse to play if real life brother Warren Beatty had been playing Joel. It would be fine if the movie had anything to do with incest, but there's nothing in the story that requires that sort of relationship, and it just makes the audience feel more uncomfortable than needed. Maybe that was the goal; a thriller should make the audience uncomfortable. It shouldn't, however, make the audience want to turn it off. There's also a nasty racist subtext going on. The movie contains a Puerto Rican voodoo cult. I was not aware that voodoo was that big among the Puerto Ricans, but I imagine the filmmakers could tell how racially insensitive the movie was, and decided not to offend anybody in the black community by making the cultists Haitian. The Puerto Rican people are constantly spoken of in derisive asides, and a boring ritual Norah attends comes off as embarrassing to everyone involved. Once the dead man has completely taken over Joel's body, he decides to go after Norah and her two children. Rather than take her son and daughter to someplace safe, though, like their father's house, she decides to take them to a remote beachfront cabin - the perfect place to get away and be chased by a killer without the interference from any police. The final confrontation in the beach house takes the movie to even deeper lows, with a couple of scenes bordering on child pornography. Shirley MacLaine must be ashamed to have this waste of film as part of an otherwise distinguished resume. Waris Hussein directs the movie so that it looks like a low-budget made-for-TV movie on videotape. I know this isn't the case because in the final credits we're told this movie was "[i]film[/i] entirely on location." They should have left the film there.
May 27, 2015
A very strange choice for Shirley MacLaine, this mix of slasher and supernatural horror is ugly, profane and crosses boundaries regarding the use of child actors.
½ February 20, 2013
Plot: Rich white woman (MacLaine), is forced to confront minorities in 1970's New York as she investigates her brothers possession!
Theme: All minorities are otherworldly!
Evidence of theme: Sequence in which MacLaine has panic attack surrounded by minorities on Lexington Ave !!! Hahahahaaaa.
Loved it!
½ June 7, 2012
Pretty daring for 1972. Not sure why MacLaine turned down the Exorcist but did this film o demonic possession.
½ October 15, 2010
Shirley MacLaine's brother finds himself possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer and she throws herself into the idea of understanding Voodoo in an effort to save him. This can-do attitude falls by the wayside towards the end of the film and she ends up being more typical shrieking female, which is a disappointment.

Worth a watch, but it won't be your new favorite film or anything.
½ June 24, 2009
This starts off as a bit of a lame tele-movie, but has an ending that is shocking, confronting and a bit disturbing. It's the type of film you can well imagine was made in the early 1970's and is a logical pre-curser to "The Exorcist", especially with the Shirley Maclaine connection! In a strange way it kind of evokes "Live and Let Die" with it's mainstream 70's mish-mash interpretation of occult themes in a contemporary context.
½ May 18, 2009
The Possession of Joel Delaney is the story of a woman who's brother becomes possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. For it's time, this is certainly a creepy movie. It is even quite scary and disturbing at some points. Shirley Maclaine is someone you really cannot imagine being in a horror film but she is surprisingly great in the film. Perry King, who plays her possessed brother is also quite good. I will say that I have seen the Exorcist and it honestly does not scare me. However, there is an exorcism scene in this film that was creepy and very disturbing. It was filmed very realistically. The climax of the film is pretty hard to watch. It is very intense even by today's standards. There is also a good twist at the end that I did not see coming...although horror movies in recent years have actually used the same exact twist. If you like slow paced, atmospheric horror films, then check this one out.
½ May 5, 2009
How do you rank a movie that's initially intriguing, engrossing, well-acted, but ultimately literally nauseating? There's a line between movies about sickening subjects, and movies that are sickening in themselves. (*A Clockwork Orange* is a good example of the former-- *The Posession of Joel Delaney* is a good example of both.) Shirley MacLaine plays a New York socialite who comes to suspect that her sensitive younger brother (Perry King, in his first screen role) is possessed by the spirit of an sadistic dead killer. There's some Santeria involved, and so forth. (Joel--(Perry-- is an idealistic young man who's rejected the life of privilege to live in Spanish Harlem and write. Unfortunately he made friends with a real sicko murderer and after the guy dies he takes possession of Joel's body. OK, there's no explanation given for how exactly that works, but it's a movie so you can suspend your disbelief for the sake of entertainment.) Perry King does a phenomenal job of portraying a pleasant, affable young man who by the end of the film his facial expressions alone are so sadistic and perverse as to give you nightmares. I won't give away the ending, which is a real bummer, but the final fifteen minutes are incredibly disturbing and, well, sick. There's an awful scene that involves two children being humiliated and degraded in ways that simple should not be on film. Aside from this, the message of the film seems to be that rich white people shouldn't associate with underprivileged Latinos or else they might wind up getting possessed by demons-- or is there an even more offensive allegory going on here? At any rate, despite the considerable level of talent involved, I have to give this film a thumbs-down. If you like occult stuff, stick with *Rosemary's Baby*. If you like Shirley McLain or Perry King, pick another of their movies-- they've both done dozens. If you do end up watching this one, keep some Pepto Bismol on hand, and maybe some sedatives if you have a prescription.
February 27, 2009
Decent and well-acted. I had maybe hoped they'd push the occult side a little further tho. Love occult horror movies.
½ July 7, 2008
Interesting, intellegent, and classy slow burn supernatural thriller with great performances by MacLaine and King as brother and sister, torn apart by King's demonic posession by a psychotic Hispanic murderer.

It might not be a film for everyone, but fans of 70's supernatural horror will most likely enjoy it. It has a similar vibe as Rosemary's Baby and Let's Scare Jessica To Death and one hell of a great downbeat ending.

Worth a look.
½ June 17, 2008
Genuinely unsettling horror. The final scenes will stay with you for a while.
April 17, 2008
A disturbing and uneven movie.
October 11, 2004
Shirley Maclaine is Norah Benson, a New York socialite who slowly comes to realize that the spirit of a madman has taken over her brother's body in "The Possession of Joel Delaney". That short plot summary is the kindest thing I can think of to say about this movie, one of the most offensive I have ever seen. Now, I can be offended by something and enjoy it; [i]South Park[/i] has offended me on more than one occasion. But [i]South Park[/i] is smart and it never fails to entertain me and make me think, and through its very nature should offend everybody at some point. Watching "The Possession of Joel Delaney" just made me feel dirty. First there's the question of Norah's relationship with her brother Joel (Perry King). The movie attempts to mislead you at the beginning by having the two show up at a party together. Party guests comment on Norah's having traded in her ex-husband for a younger man. She looks on jealously as Joel spends time with a beautiful blonde. After the movie does everything but flat out tell us there's a romance going on, we find out they're siblings. But then the film continues to build on an incestuous subtext through brother/sister horseplay in a shower, jealous interrogations about lovers, and near kisses. There are scenes in this movie that MacLaine would refuse to play if real life brother Warren Beatty had been playing Joel. It would be fine if the movie had anything to do with incest, but there's nothing in the story that requires that sort of relationship, and it just makes the audience feel more uncomfortable than needed. Maybe that was the goal; a thriller should make the audience uncomfortable. It shouldn't, however, make the audience want to turn it off. There's also a nasty racist subtext going on. The movie contains a Puerto Rican voodoo cult. I was not aware that voodoo was that big among the Puerto Ricans, but I imagine the filmmakers could tell how racially insensitive the movie was, and decided not to offend anybody in the black community by making the cultists Haitian. The Puerto Rican people are constantly spoken of in derisive asides, and a boring ritual Norah attends comes off as embarrassing to everyone involved. Once the dead man has completely taken over Joel's body, he decides to go after Norah and her two children. Rather than take her son and daughter to someplace safe, though, like their father's house, she decides to take them to a remote beachfront cabin - the perfect place to get away and be chased by a killer without the interference from any police. The final confrontation in the beach house takes the movie to even deeper lows, with a couple of scenes bordering on child pornography. Shirley MacLaine must be ashamed to have this waste of film as part of an otherwise distinguished resume. Waris Hussein directs the movie so that it looks like a low-budget made-for-TV movie on videotape. I know this isn't the case because in the final credits we're told this movie was "[i]film[/i] entirely on location." They should have left the film there.
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