Thursday, August 26, 2010

SPIDERWALKING AND SPLIT PEA SOUP: A LOOK AT EXORCISM HORROR FILMS

Tomorrow marks the opening for another installment in the exorcism sub-genre of horror films. While the name "Eli Roth" attached to the title has been scaring off viewers, let me be the first to tell you that I highly enjoyed The Last Exorcism.  Now, I try not to review films on Day of the Woman but let me state that while the film is far from perfect, it is an invigorating breath of fresh air in comparison to half the garbage that is force fed upon mainstream horror audiences.

I'm not a devoutly religious person by any means, but I have always found the idea of exorcism and possession to be one of the scariest and horrific concepts in all of horror. There's something about the idea of being completely taken over by a demonic or satanic presence in order to do its bidding that engulfs me with mass amounts of anxiety.


I was born a Roman-Catholic, raised Lutheran, and have the mindset of a Universal Unitarian. The town my high school was in has more churches per capita than any other city in the world. This being said, I've had my fair share of religion as well as experienced the different "types" of religious followers. I've seen everything from anti-christ devil worshipers, to the nature loving Wiccans, all the way up to families performing Quiverfull [the Jesus is my condom method] and having families with 16 home-schooled children. I've encountered a countless number of people that have told me time and time again, that exorcism is a very real and very scary practice.  That being said, here is a showcase of some of my personal favorites that deal with exorcism.


Exorcism and possession films are quite the tender subject, so I've deemed it necessary to start off with something a little more light-hearted.  Leslie Nielsen seriously deserves a lifetime achievement award for his work in comedy films.  Cult favorite, Repossessed is my favorite of his horror comedies. The story tells of a priest called on to perform an exorcism of a possessed woman played by Regan MacNeil herself, Linda Blair.  The entire film is a spoof of the exorcism film that put Blair on the map, but it heavily parodies how ridiculous exorcist films can be.  While it may not be scary, it truly does show how difficult it can be to try to portray an exorcism as anything more than levitating foul mouthed children and angry yelling.


Of all the exorcism films made in the last 30 or so years, The Exorcism of Emily Rose seems to hang on the fence of brilliance or disappointment depending on who you're asking.  More of a court drama than a horror film, TEOER contains many scenes that will be forever haunting and will hopefully become appreciated as years go by.  My favorite is when Emily Rose, who never played piano in her life, slowly begins to play Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor (which is arguably one of the most haunting piano pieces ever composed).  Jennifer Carpenter is extremely talented in her portrayal of the college co-ed under the control of demonic forces, and proudly admits to contorting her body into the weird configurations herself.  


SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT!!!


[REC]2 (and essentially [REC]) are not about zombies.  They're demons possessions.  There, I said it.  One of the most horrifying movies to come out in the past 5 years is about satanic possessions and there are quite a few instances in [REC]2 that have to deal with the performance of exorcisms.  I just about peed my pants when I first saw these two films and my mind was infinitely blown when it was finally put together that the mysterious disease was not a zombie outbreak, but a religious explosion of terror.  Damn, Spaniards. 


When we are speaking of exorcism movies, Academy Award winning feature, The Exorcist is the granddaddy of all things possessed and satanic.  Arguably the scariest movie of all time, the story of demon possessed Regan MacNeil has become one of the most iconic and the most profitable horror films ever to hit the silver screen.  With more memorable scenes than any 10 horror films combined, The Exorcist has withstood the test of time by frightening generations for the past 30+ years.  Regan's famous "spiderwalk" has established the unwritten rule that possessed girls must have the ability of body contortion, the head spin has been recreated in countless horror films of all sub genres, and even the ever so comedic "green soup" vomit has been recognized as a staple in American pop culture ever since.  The Exorcist truly is the quintessential exorcism film and every exorcism horror film since, has been created in honor and homage to it.  

7 comment(s):

The Frog Queen said...

Great post! I to enjoy possession films (raised Catholic might have something to do with it) - and I really enjoyed your view on these types of horror films.

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers!

Planet of Terror said...

Great post BJ-C. I'm going to use Jesus is my condom in random conversations.

I've always found this sub-genre extremely terrifying as well being born and raised in a strict Catholic household.

And REC 2 invokes an even greater level of fear with its concept of possession really drilling into the core of who you are not just being possessed by satan or a demon. So much so that you become the embodiment of evil. Creepy stuff indeed.

Emily said...

Funny, I was just writing about The Exorcist on the train this morning because I read the novel a few weeks back and revisited the film. I tell ya, I still feel like I robbed myself of ever really experiencing it. I was 10 when my family finally rented it, too young to grasp some of the religious and sexual connotations but underwhelmed by the visuals since I had watches so many gorier films before. Upon rewatching it, I can see why most consider it the best horror film of all time, I totally do! For me though, there's a weird block that never let me really be affected by The Exorcist.

Part 3, however, did give me nightmares back in the day. I'm looking forward to revisiting it and seeing if it holds up in any way.

MsEmJ said...

Heh. After a friend and I saw "Emily Rose" we joked that the movie needed a CNN like word scroll at the bottom of it that said "please don't think of The Exorcist. Don't compare this move to The Exorcist, etc".

Living Dead Girl Nicole said...

Great post. I have to admit that our of all the different types of horror flicks I think "possession" ones freak me out the most. Everytime I see one when I leave the movie I think "what if?" and I think more then I did going into the movie ha ha.

You might enjoy my post here being and Exorcist fan.

http://livingdeadgirlnicoleart.blogspot.com/2010/03/power-of-christ-compells-you-meeting.html

Trick or Treat Pete said...

The Exorcist still scares the living daylights out of me!!!
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

Cheesemeister said...

Even though I've become somewhat desensitized to horror due to the fact that in one of my other incarnations I write horror fiction, The Exorcist is one movie I can't watch with the lights off.

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