Welcome back to my “Tales from the Darkside” Marathon! Demonic possession stories aren’t anything new, and that includes those starring a young girl. This is especially true after the popularity of “The Exorcist.” Today’s tale features another example of this story. Does it follow the same beats or try something new? Let’s find out. This is “The Trouble with Mary Jane.”
Mrs. Nugent has a big problem. Her granddaughter, Mary Jane, has been possessed by a demon called Aisha Candisha. The demon is apparently ancient and is obsessed with wanting to eat the souls of men. Mrs. Nugent has no choice but to call on the help of two occult entrepreneurs, Jack and Nora Mills. While Nora is hesitant to try an exorcism, as she’s accustomed to the usual things like palm reading and Ouija boards, Jack insists they try to do it for the profit of $50,000. Will the exorcism go off without a hitch, or are Jack and Nora in over their heads?
I’m going to be blunt: this episode sucked. It wasn’t scary at all because it was apparently trying to be a comedy, almost like an “Exorcist” parody. But it failed miserably at that, because I didn’t laugh once. A lot of that can be attributed to the acting, but writing is always the first step towards failure when an episode bombs. The attempts at comedy ranged from corny dialogue to “hilarious” bickering, and the overall tone just felt campy in a bad way. The dialogue for the demon came off cliched and had no personality to it beyond “Mwahaha! I’m a demon! Fear me!” If this was trying to spoof “The Exorcist”, they did a very poor job.
As I mentioned, the acting also contributed to this episode being a complete mess. Mrs. Nugent has this tone in her voice that makes her sound so overly dramatic at all times. She got annoying very quickly, especially since she’s the first one we’re introduced to in the episode. Jack had a number of corny lines, and I took nothing away from the actor’s performance. I realize the girl playing Mary Jane was young at the time, and the majority of her performance is spent having another actress’s voice coming out of her mouth, but she overacts so hard as the demon that I started to wish I was watching Linda Blair instead. Nora, played by Phyllis Diller, was the only character I remotely liked. That’s not saying much, as while she’s the most sensible character here and has a dry sense of humor, I felt that she was too much of a nagging shrew for me to fully enjoy her. I also couldn’t decide if Diller was phoning it in or just playing up her character’s annoyance at the whole situation. Admittedly, part of this is because I haven’t seen a lot of her other work, so it could easily have been one or the other.
As for a twist, well, even that’s a let-down. Not only is it predictable, but it’s so lame that it barely counts as a twist at all. I’d say it’s supposed to be a comedic punchline, but guess what? It still didn’t get a chuckle out of me.
If I have anything truly positive to say about “The Trouble with Mary Jane,” it would be how easy it was for me to write up this installment on it. The characters were annoying and hammy, the attempts at humor didn’t hit home, and the story overall was just wasted potential. I went in wanting to like this episode and came out feeling nothing but annoyance and disappointment. Avoid this one at all costs.