Saturday, September 4, 2010
My Top Six Satan-Free Possession Movies
Forgive me fellow horror movie fans, for I have sinned. I'm a self-professed horror movie fan, but demonic possession films neither scare me nor pique my interest in the slightest. Watching one of the recent previews of The Last Exorcism alone reminded me of my particular horror hangup, because to me it just looks like a camera crew taking on a really angry, feral contortionist (an escapee from Cirque du Soleil with rabies, perhaps?). Don't get me wrong--I think that the idea of one's mind and body being overtaken by a hostile, evil entity is compelling and makes for great horror. However, possession films that involve Satan, the Prince of Lies himself, or one of his minions simply leave me cold.
I suppose the reason for my disinterest is that unlike other movie monsters, Satan is also the key part of many religious belief systems; in my opinion, that's just way too much cultural and psychological baggage for a movie monster to bear. On the other hand, without the popularity of films such as The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, we wouldn't have such wonderfully cheesy, sleazy Satan-themed movies such as Satan's Cheerleaders, Satan's School for Girls, and The Devil's Rain, which features William Shatner, a young John Travola, and Ernest Borgnine as a goat-horned satanic cult leader. I guess it all balances out in the end.
Anyway, possession is a creepy/cool idea that fits perfectly within the horror genre. Keep reading after the break to see the list of my six favorite Satan-free possession movies.
6. The Brood (1979): One of David Cronenberg's greatest films. Some people fall under the spell of Satan; others fall under the spell of unmistakably unqualified self-help gurus, which is just as bad. In this movie, Nola Carveth (Samantha Egger) subjects herself to treatment by Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed). Raglan's treatment method is called "psychoplasmics", where patients exhibit various physical symptoms (boils, lesions, etc.) as they expel their psychoses from their minds. Unlike Rosemary's Baby, Nola's therapeutic-based possession doesn't result in the birth of the Antichrist; instead, Nola literally gives birth to physical manifestations of her deepest, most violent impulses and her offspring then murder whoever incites her rage. There's a scene at the end of the film that shows in great detail how this happens, and Nola even licks the afterbirth off of the newborn freak of nature. It's a birthing scene that would even make the Alien Queen from Aliens want to barf.
5. Slither (2006): If you can't use Satan to possess someone, evil parasites from outer space are excellent replacements. Take Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), for example: After he ingests a slug from outer space, he develops an insatiable taste for raw meat (both from the supermarket and, er, elsewhere) and sprouts all sorts of slimy growths and appendages. But that's not all--his parasite-mutated mind becomes obsessed with his estranged wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) and when Grant uses another woman to spawn more parasites, the people who are infected by those parasites also inherit Grant's unhealthy interest in Starla. It's a case of single-minded possession taken to gory, insane extremes.
4. The Hidden (1987): Another alien parasite with huge appetites. For an over-sized slug with squishy, hairy tendrils, this thing really gets around--it possesses seven characters during the movie, including two cops, a stripper, a dog, and a presidential candidate (!). This is all part of its master plan of having the best and bloodiest thrill ride of its little slimy life, a thrill ride that includes as many sports cars, high-powered firearms, heavy metal tunes, store robberies and bank heists as its gluttonous, black-as-coal heart desires.
3. Evil Dead 2 (1987): How anyone can discuss demonic possession movies without mentioning at least one Evil Dead movie is sacrilege unto itself. Sacrilege! Of the three films in the franchise, Evil Dead 2 is my personal favorite: It's one of those rare horror films that takes off like a bat out of hell within the first few minutes and doesn't stop for anything until the very last frame. Furthermore, I saw this film before Army of Darkness was released, so the ending of Evil Dead 2 came out of left field and completely blew my mind. In keeping with the movie's frenetic pacing, the possessions in this movie (caused by evil spirits referred to as “Deadites”) are fast and furious, and nothing--either alive or dead, in one piece or more, animate or inanimate--is off limits. Even the main character Ash (Bruce Campbell) is possessed twice, and that's not including what happens to his poor, poor hand.
2. Paranormal Activity (2007): To put this film on a list about possession movies kind of gives away the ending, but it’s still one of the creepiest possession movies that I’ve ever seen. It’s also interesting to note that the relationship between the couple in this film, Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat), isn’t too far removed from the married couple in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, where the wife is threatened by an unknown force within their own home and the husband does nothing to stop it, putting his own interests instead of hers. Of the three endings of this film, the original ending--not the ending that was tacked on for nation-wide theatrical release in 2009--is the most effective and most tragic.
1. Session 9 (2001): This underrated, overlooked film has been considered by many to be a haunted house movie, and to some degree that is true. (Indeed, shooting a movie on location at an actual run down insane asylum would encourage that kind of classification.) Yet when you see what happens to all of the characters at the end of the film, it's clear that some sort of possession has happened. I'd go into more details but I don't want to ruin anything, so go rent this film and see it for yourself. Hint: The film's title provides a clue about who--or what--causes the possession. Enjoy!
Honorable Mention: God Told Me To (1976) and Cure (1997). Both of these films feature scenarios where otherwise sane, harmless people suddenly become brutal killing machines due to some sinister outside influence. In the first movie, ordinary people become killers and then calmly state that "God told me too" when asked about their crimes. In the second movie, ordinary people kill others by deeply cutting an X into their necks, and then they completely forget that they committed murder just seconds later. Unfortunately, both films have their share of problems, both in terms of story and execution, so the classic normal-person-turned-remote-controlled-killer movie has yet to be made. Dammit.