Story: A woman is possessed by a blond wig.
Why You Should See It: Did you read the story part? A woman is possessed by a blond f-ing wig. That should be reason enough. But I’ll give you more reasons.
Only two days before I spotted this gem, I went out to see “The Shallows.” I had very low expectations. It was hot, I had to see something, and chose a movie I was sure would suck. “The Shallows” turned out to be pretty good, though I find the demonizing of sharks downright evil. In reality, they don’t hunt human beings. But I needed to cool off on that 90-degree day and a chose a movie about water. I honestly found “The Shallows” refreshing and fun, unlike most Hollywood fares. I was impressed. But seriously, sharks don’t do shit like that.
Two days later, I’m searching for a movie on YouTube and find “The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.” A TV movie. I like the title so much that I watched it. And from the opening frame, I am blown away. I’m feeling unease, unnerved, straight up mortified. Sensations I have not felt in a horror movie in decades.
I adore the character, even though she’s shit-house rat crazy (played by the late, nostril-flaring legend Karen Black, who kills the role). Every frame looks like Hitchcock or Scorsese was behind it. The acting is gut-wrenchingly good. The editing is marksman. This movie is so horrifying, and such a work of art, that I realized “The Shallows” was just good for its time. It just didn’t suck, and that was a great feeling, especially when you’re avoiding the weather. Pretty much how we feel when we vote… just so the other candidate doesn’t get elected.
Back in 1978, when “Mrs. Oliver” was made – for TV no less – there was a high standard for movies. The Easy Riders/Raging Bulls period. Even if you were a TV Director, you had to at least try to match Friedkin, Polanski or DePalma. “Mrs. Oliver” follows the tradition of “Rosemary’s Baby.” The sub-genre of woman’s identity swallowed up by men. Her body. Her career. Her beliefs. Say goodbye to them. You’re a woman now. Doesn’t matter if you live in Beverly Hills, you are your man’s servant. You feel every fiber of this caged feeling. Your identity, just gone. The blonde wig takes her whole. And when a blonde wig is scarier than great white shark, that says something about a movie.
“The Shallows” was also about a woman’s freedom to choose. Although it was well made and shot, I never rooted for the character in the same way I rooted for Karen Black. I didn’t think about the constant yielding a woman has to endure because of something that was not her fault (she has no penis). This loss of individuality is in fact more universal today than ever. You don’t have to be a woman anymore. We are types. Corporations are able to predict our desires. We are this, this, and this. Many of us have said goodbye to who we really are. “Mrs. Oliver” is a story about saying goodbye to yourself. This is why you feel this movie in your gut.
“The Shallows” was a pyrotechnical adventure. I wanted to see more, but in “Mrs. Oliver” I wanted to feel more. I wanted to know the person. I wanted to venture as deep as she could go. And most importantly, I could relate to her feelings of isolation and angst. The suspicion that we are, in fact, all alone in the universe is deeply felt. And that is the greatest achievement of a horror tale, since that is our greatest fear. Penned by horror legend, Richard Matheson, I Can’t Believe It’s On YouTube.
Written by: Norith Soth