Women Suck the Life Out of Men
"Possessed" Plot Summary:
In Libya in the 1300s, a fanged woman bites the neck of a man she calls her solace and her salvation. Centuries later, while Claudia frets about a nightmare she had about vampires, Sydney drags Nigel to Brussels because her friend Eric is dying and believes his girlfriend may be the cause. Eric believes Suzanne is a lamia, a descendant of one of Zeus' lovers, punished by Hera to transform into a venomous snake and drink the blood of men. Only Zeus' sacred sundial can break a lamia's spell over a man. Eric, whose girlfriend belongs to a feminist spiritual group, wants Sydney to find the ancient sundial he has seen at their ceremonies before he grows too weak to survive.
Sydney meets Suzanne at the hospital and finds her harmless, if a little overprotective. But Suzanne wears a necklace with the same ancient symbol as Sydney finds on the gate of an estate where Suzanne's mystical group meets. So does Anna, a green-eyed enchantress whom Nigel sees in a bar and again at the hospital. When Anna finds Sydney and Nigel intruding on their property during a ceremony using the fabled sundial, she spirits the relic hunter's assistant away. Sydney laments to Eric that she has lost Nigel and the sundial, but Suzanne intrudes, accusing Sydney of being obsessed with Eric. Her suspicions aroused, Sydney sneaks onto the estate at night and overhears Suzanne murmuring that Nigel belongs to Anna, but Emanuelle won't let her have him until after Suzanne's ceremony. After rescuing Nigel, the two slip into a secret passage behind a painting of a lamia, where they find the corpses of men in sarcophagi bearing the names of women. Suzanne's is empty, but Sydney guesses that the stone case is intended for Eric.
Sydney and Nigel sneak into a ceremony presided over by Emanuelle, the head of the coven, who says that women are the wellspring of life and control the cycle of birth and death. When Sydney's hood is removed and her identity revealed, Emanuelle says she has been waiting for Sydney for a long time. While Anna lures Nigel to her room to feed him ambrosia and fruit while he lounges in her lap, Emanuelle assures Sydney that she was meant to be a teacher of women - which Sydney says she already is. Emanuelle explains that Eric's death will initiate Suzanne into their order, since a first kill is always done in pure innocence; the girl has no idea her love is destructive to her lover before she learns the pleasure of it. Overhearing, Suzanne shudders in horror. The lead lamia makes Sydney drink something that causes her to pass out. When she comes to, she has been bound to an altar.
Emanuelle shows off Zeus' sundial and takes out a giant snake which presumably is the form into which the original Lamia was trapped by Hera. With Suzanne's help, Sydney escapes, rejecting Emanuelle's insistence that they all might live forever together. "Nothing lasts forever. Seinfeld's a perfect example," Sydney declares, stabbing Emanuelle through the heart when the lamia sprouts fangs to bite her. After the coven leader turns to dust, Sydney recaptures Nigel with a blow to the jaw, then takes the sundial to Eric, who is near death. While Sydney holds up the ancient tool, a devastated Suzanne wills him to live. Eric wakes and thanks Sydney for finding the sundial, but she insists that it was the power of love that saved him.
Nigel tells Sydney how horrible he feels about being unable to resist Anna, but Sydney jokes that she wasn't his type anyway - too old, ancient actually. Back home, Claudia has fallen for a guy she thought at first was a vampire but discovered was a Slayer - a member of the Goth band The Slayers, who encourages Claudia to go vamp. Unfortunately, after Sydney gets back, the boy has a spiritual experience and invites her to an ashram, but Claudia is heartened to learn that at least in the '60s, those were hip.
"I hate hitting women," Sydney grumbles as she battles the coven, saving this episode from the superficial misogyny that plagues it to that point. From Eric's complaint about Suzanne's "New Age feminist crap" to Emanuelle's distortion of Wiccan tribute to the Great Mother, "Possessed" is loaded with stereotypes about female empowerment being a bad thing.
Mousy Suzanne is portrayed as a threat when she has an independent life from Eric; it's only when she becomes his dutiful savior that she's redeemed, with Sydney spewing cliches about the power of feminine love. And Nigel's Anna is a caricature of an evil seductress, feeding him grapes Theda Bara-style while encouraging his "dark side" in the form of red and black abstract painting.
Not that the men look any smarter; in fact, "Possessed" is a study in how too much lust can destroy a guy, even a "twerp" like Nigel (to quote Eric). It's all humorous, at least. Sydney keeps the wisecracks coming fast and furious as the first Lamia tries to lure her to join them - making jokes about greasy skin, phallic snakes, and anything else she can find to ridicule in the ancient coven. I was sorry to see evil, erotic Emanuelle destroyed; she's one of the few women we've seen who's truly an equal to Sydney, even if she is twisted and nasty towards the pathetic little men on whom her life depends.
The cinematography is beautiful and evocative...all these stunning women in flowing robes filmed outdoors in soft-focus, plus Nigel swathed in aristocratic splendor on Anna's velvet and silk bed. I wish something had been said about the fate of the women's cult after Emanuelle's death. The idea of such a space for female empowerment is very appealing, even if these women have a bad attitude about what women should do with their power. Let's hope they don't remake themselves for men as easily as Claudia.
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