Ike (Glynn Turman) is a nice guy. He’s a law student living in New Orleans. When not studying, he makes money driving a taxi cab. He has a beautiful and loving wife named Christella (Joan Pringle). He has a nice but modest apartment. When we first see Ike, he is calmly and rationally breaking up a fight. Perhaps the only real complain that can be made about Ike is that he’s actually too nice. There’s nothing dangerous about Ike. He works hard. He studies. That’s about it.
When Christella and their friends tell him that he needs to take a night off from studying, Ike is reluctant. However, he finally agrees to go out with them. They start out at a strip club in the French Quarter and eventually, they end up watching a hypnotist. Ike is one of the men randomly selected to go up on stage. Amazingly, rational and mild Ike is easily hypnotized. The audience loves watching as Ike and the other men all reacts to hypnotic suggestion. What they don’t know is that, while in his trance, Ike has been … possessed!
That’s right! The ghost of J.D. Walker has entered Ike. Who is J.D. Walker? As we learn from a series of gauzy flashbacks, J.D. Walker was a gangster in the 1940s. He wore a fedora. He wore nice suits. He was every bit as flamboyant as Ike is mild. But then, one day, J.D. was killed, gunned down by his former business partner, Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard).
Soon, Ike starts to act … well, not like himself. Suddenly, Ike is using 1940s slang. He’s wearing 1940s clothes. He’s gambling. He mugs an old lady who gets in his cab and then abandons her on the wharf. When his wife asks him why he’s acting like a 1940s gangster, he gets violent. Soon, Ike is speaking in a different voice and dancing.
What does J.D. want? He wants revenge against not only the man who shot him but also Theotis’s younger brother, a popular preacher named Elijah (Lou Gossett, Jr.). As wild as the possessed Ike may be, he’s got nothing on Elijah. Elijah was a boxer before he became a man of God and he’s still liable to throw a punch or two during his sermons. Elijah, however, is also rather naive and has no hesitation about inviting J.D. to become a member of his congregation. Theotis, who is now Elijah’s manager, is a bit more suspicious…
An oddly paced film that never quite escapes the lengthy shadows of all of the horror films that inspired it, J.D.’s Revenge is worth seeing for the performances Glynn Thurman and Lou Gossett, Jr. Gossett is all energetic charisma in the role of the reverend, giving a performance that features just enough ambiguity that you’re never sure whether you should trust Elijah or not. Meanwhile, Thurman is very good as the mild-mannered Ike but he seems to be having an absolute blast whenever he gets to play the psychotic J.D. During the final confrontation between Ike/J.D. and the Bliss Brothers, Thurman’s performance is so bizarre and over the top that you simply cannot stop watching him.
J.D.’s Revenge was filmed in New Orleans, which add a little bit of gothic atmosphere to the film. As I write this, a lot of our readers may currently be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I wish them all well but I hope they’ll remember the lesson of J.D.’s Revenge. Just say no to hypnosis!