FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 15, 2013

Baby, I love your way

Every once in a while, you read something like this on Netflix...
A stripper regrets spurning the advances of a lecherous dwarf after he curses her unborn children. Months later, her newborn son is a vicious monster.
...and you think, "Oh. Oh my, yes." Then you realize that the stripper is played by Joan Collins and the film also stars Caroline Munro and, as you hit play, you think, "Okay, this moment...right now is the moment where my life changes."

90 minutes later you have seen all of The Devil Within Her (1975) and to be honest, your life did not really change except for the fact that you are 90 minutes older. But you had a great time! Well, actually you didn't have a great time. But you had a time, and that's all that matters.

In the interests of public service and also science, I would like to clear up a few misconceptions you will likely have after 1) seeing the movie's poster art, and 2) learning some of the film's alternate titles. First, the poster.

That tagline leaves things a bit muddied, I know. Was Joan Collins conceived by the Devil, or was her baby? The answer is: neither!

Second, is her baby some sort of grotesque Island of Dr. Moreau reject, a half-baby/half-hand? And if so, is the baby half wicked tiny or is the hand half wicked huge? The answers are: no, I wish, and I more wish.

The baby, though devilish, is all human...however, sometimes- for just a moment! she's not totally crazy- Joan sees a devilish dwarf looking back at her from the crib. As you can see, his top half is not a giant hand, either. Disappointing, I know.

Oh yes, friends. The what the fuckery of this movie is high.

Okay! Some of the alternative titles, let's get to 'em.
  • Sharon's Baby - nice attempt at riding Rosemary's coattails to fame!
  • I Don't Want to be Born - throughout the movie, this was a proposed reasoning for the baby's bad behavior (more on that behavior in a bit): he simply didn't want to be born. Well, I didn't want to be born either. No one does! But most people aren't murderous jerks about it.
  • It's Growing Inside Her - I can only assume this title was ditched because it's too vague. I mean, this could also be the name of a Lifetime movie about a woman coping with breast cancer, amirite?
  • It Lives Within Her - this title collapses under the same scrutiny that The Devil Within Her does: "It" and "The Devil" are only within her during the opening scene; after that, they are in the form of a baby, and the baby is in a crib. And for the record, I would totally watch It Lives Within the Crib and/or The Devil Within the Crib. I am just saying.
  • The Baby, and...
  • The Monster - why oh why didn't they combine those titles into one? The Baby, the Monster! That's cinematic gold.
  • Evil Baby - straight and to the point, all business. I like it.
Okay, so exactly what kind of shenanigans does this evil baby get up to? Pretty standard evil baby stuff: scratching faces, punching faces, yelling and screaming a lot. You parents out there may be thinking, "Hey, my baby does all of those things! Do I have an evil baby? Was the devil within me/my baby mama?" The hard truth is: maybe. Here are some other questions to answer to help you figure it out. See? I truly care.
  1. Has your baby ever pushed his nanny into a lake, and if so, was his pushin' hand suddenly a hairy dwarf hand?

  2. Do people regularly call your baby "large" and/or "strong"?
  3. Has your baby ever busted out of his crib, escaped from his second storey window, fashioned a noose, lassoed the noose around your neck, hoisted you up until you were dead, then dragged your body across the yard and dumped it in a well?
If you answered YES to any of these, then obviously your baby is evil. If you answered NO to any of these, then obviously your baby could still be evil. Though I care, I don't have the time to launch a full-blown investigation. You'll just have to do the best you can, and don't die along the way. Or do die...I'm not the boss of you, you can do whatever you want.

Man, I could watch movies about evil babies all day long. So why aren't The Devil Within Her and I down at the courthouse right now, makin' with the nuptials? I've got my reasons!

First, all the evil baby action takes place off-screen. Generally, it goes something like this:

[shot of BABY, bored in crib]
[shot of PERSON, standing over crib]
PERSON: Oh, he's darling! [leans in, extends hands to touch baby]
[shot of BABY, bored in crib]
[shot of PERSON, standing over crib]
PERSON: [recoils quickly] Ow, he bit me!

WHY OH WHY must it be this way? Even the noose scene described above- we never see the baby do a damn thing. I know that what is implied can be very powerful, and I know that particularly in horror films, less is more. But for fuck's sake, when you're making a horror movie about a possessed, murderous baby, more is more. Way more is the most! I kept hoping for anything- the pitter-patter of little feet running away from a crime scene, Joan Collins wrestling with a doll, anything- but anything never came.

Furthermore, well, the movie is for the most part quite dull. There's a shit ton of filler, from lethargic strip club auditions to a shopping montage to a sedative-influenced dream sequence to a "steamy" sex scene, all of which feel like they're there just to bump up the run time. There are no attempts at character development or anything of the like, and while I know it's a lot to hope for in a movie like this, character development is part of the reason why films like Rosemary's Baby are successful, you know?

Frequently you'll be wondering if The Devil Within Her is actually meant to be comedic. And as to what's up with the baby- is he cursed? possessed by the devil?- it's resolved, I guess, but in a way that's not particularly satisfying...not to mention that the "dwarves have evil magic powers simply because" theme is a bit problematic.

Look, I'm not saying you won't have a good time with The Devil Within Her. It's about an evil baby, so a "good time" goes without saying. What I am saying is, don't get your hopes up, because it ain't your soul mate. That's depressing, I know, but it just means that the one for you is still out there. Keep your standards high! Demand to see murderous, possessed babies in action! Trust me, you're worth it.


JR said...

It's no IT'S ALIVE, that's for damn sure. Nice write-up!

Richard of DM said...

I love love LOOOOOOVE this film. For me, it's a good time, every time.

Jessica said...

You're right.