Helmed by Hammer veteran Peter Sasdy, The Devil Within Her is an early entry in the long line of Exorcist rip-offs that are still being churned out to this day. It’s as bland as expected, despite carrying the appearance of being put together by people who actually know their way around a set and editing bay, but has the added pleasure of being completely ludicrous in a “so bad that it’s still bad but I laughed a few times and hate myself for it” kind of way.
Joan Collins (Dynasty, Tales From The Crypt) stars as Lucy Carlesi, an ex-stripper who believes her newborn son, Nicholas, is possessed or just plain evil. No one believes her, including her husband Gino (Ralph Bates) and Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasence), but it doesn’t stop her from being absolutely terrified of her son’s unnatural strength and violent outbursts.
Lucy’s sister-in-law Sister Albana (Eileen Atkins) shows up just in time for people to start dying and prompts many unnecessary, boring, and poorly written scenes of science vs. religion debates with Dr. Finch, who has observed some of the child’s behavior and has no rational explanation. But none of the expected cliché explanations even hold a candle to what’s really going on : Lucy was cursed by a midget, Hercules (George Claydon), whose advances she turned down, and now he’s possessing the kid and killing people. The revelation is so dumb that it’s amusing, more so because there’s a few scenes where Hercules is dressed up in toddler clothes while giggling like a madman – it’s even somewhat creepy if, like me, you can’t get The Sinful Dwarf out of your head (also, I’m sorry).
The Devil Within Her is no doubt poorly conceived, but that doesn’t stop Joan Collins from overacting and making dumb faces through the whole film to save it from being a complete waste. Pleasence and Atkins give the only straight, sincere performances and the rest of the cast, including Bates (with a really terrible Italian accent), Caroline Munro (Maniac), and John Steiner (Tenebrae) aren’t given enough to do to really make an impression.
Even when taking Collins’ performance, a random tap dancing scene at a strip club, and Ron Grainer’s ill-advised score into account, The Devil Within Her isn’t campy enough to make it tolerable past all of the nothing going on and dry debates, but it is about a killer baby possessed by a midget. So… there’s that.