5. Lorna the Exorcist
Director: Jesus Franco
Writer: Jesus Franco, Robert de Nesle, Nicole Guettard
Cast: Guy Delorme, Jacqueline Laurent, Lina Romay, Pamela Stanford
The name Jesus Franco can provoke mixed reactions in horror fans. To some he represents the absolute nadir of the genre, throwing in as much sleaze and titillation as possible simply to provoke any kind of reaction in the viewer. To others he has a ragged kind of brilliance. His films are always rough-edged and not everything works, but at least he’s willing to experiment and try to create something unique. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, for every startling films there’s at least one that makes you want to claw out your eyes in frustration. Lorna is probably his finest film, bizarre, filled with his usual excess of sexuality, but more disturbing than anything else he ever made. You might be forgiven for taking against the film based on the title alone. It displays the worst kind of cash-in tendencies often associated with horror. If there’s one thing the character of Lorna isn’t, it’s an exorcist. It’s clearly intended to cash in on the then recent box-office success of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, but ignore the misleading title and focus on the film itself and you might be in for a demented treat.
Patrick (Guy Delorme) and his wife, Marianne (Jacqueline Laurent), take their daughter Linda (Lina Romay) on holiday to a resort in the South of France to celebrate her 18th birthday. While there he meets again with the powerful supernatural being, Lorna (Pamela Stanford). Lorna and Patrick made a deal years earlier, Lorna would ensure he received wealth and power, if he turned Linda over to her when she turned 18. Refusal to do so could see Patrick’s family left in a similar state as one of Lorna’s earlier victims, stuck in an insane asylum, maddened by being left on the verge of permanent ecstasy. As Patrick holds out on his side of the bargain, Lorna begins to take over his family, driving them all further into sexual depravity. It’s really another take on the Faust legend, but this time there’s hardcore lesbian sex and softcore straight sex. Among its more memorable scenes, Romay is savaged with a giant dildo, which Stanford then proceeds to lick clean of blood, and then, in one of the single most bizarre scenes I’ve ever witnessed, crabs crawl out of Marianne’s vagina. That’s not a euphemism. She doesn’t have a sexually transmitted disease. Actual crabs crawl out of her vagina and across the floor of the bedroom. Even with that scene, I’m not as convinced as some critics that the film is quite as taboo-breaking as it seems. It definitely is an inspired and provocative piece of cinema with an intoxicating, dreamlike, air, even if some of the creative decisions leave you scratching your head and wondering what the hell Franco was thinking.
So it’s sleazy, but disturbing, which is really what the film needs to be, especially as it feels like nothing if not a trip into Franco’s most depraved sexual depths. Most of the cast are fine in their roles, but the main attraction is Romay. Often an actress held in higher regard for her beauty and her willingness to disrobe and perform hardcore sex scenes than her thespian talents, she gives her best performance here as Linda. She begins the film as a wide-eyed innocent, but we see her slow decline into sexual frenzy and madness and Romay convinces absolutely. It’s a shame she didn’t get more roles that allowed her to show exactly what she was capable of.