I am a horror slut. Self-proclaimed; externally proclaimed. I love it – slashers, ghost stories, demonic take-overs, crazy torturous psychos, prehistoric bloodthirsty piranhas – send them my way! Yesterday my friend Charlotte Johnston invited me to a screening at the London Tombs of “Silent House”. Her basis for this was that (quote) “Andrew! I know you like your horror/messed up-ness…” Yes I do, Charlotte Johnston! Sadly, I couldn’t attend because my flakey friend decided to keep me waiting on the edge of my seat only for me to end up spending the evening eating Special K, alone, with my cat. The positive side to this was that I came across “The Exorcist” whilst channel surfing, which I hadn’t seen in a while.
It was on ITV4 on Saturday evening as well. I had started to watch it with some mates at our friend Sarah’s house – however, when she passed out from white wine poisoning, my friend Danny & I decided it was time to go, leaving just as Regan MacNeil had started slapping her mother about. Anyway, it was on again last night and Cali (my cat – this is such a sad story) and I watched it. Cali wasn’t moved by it at all, but I still reckon it’s an incredibly frightening film.
There’s been a reboot in the “demonic possession” film category lately. I used to roll my eyes at it a bit, seeing as you think that nothing can better “The Exorcist”. But over the years, I think some have come pretty close and, in some cases, overtaken the 1973 classic that sent my Dad, a 19-year-old at the time, into a string of sleepless nights given that he was educated by sadistic nuns. Here are my top 10 films about possession:
10: Stigmata (1999)
Possession doesn’t need to just be conducted by the devil, you know! As this top 10 demon-strates (see what I did there?) one can be possessed by anything from ghosts, to demons, to, in this case, Jesus. “Stigmata” deals with the daring subject matter of channeling Mr. JC – a topic I deem to be daring because you’re more likely to offend people. No-one minds if you possess someone with Satan – we want to see them chucked around and tied to a bed. Serves them right, really. But this movie presents an interesting take on what happens when a woman conveys, essentially, God. And it’s gory too, given that the symptoms Frankie Paige emits are those of the crucifixion. Excuse me, love, but you appear to be crying blood.
9: Devil (2010)
M Night Shyamalan blew us all away with “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs”. He then released “The Village”, which was, to me, a bitter disappointment when it was revealed that there were in fact no monsters living in the woods. Then came the appalling “Lady in the Water” – a story about some bird who lives in the swimming pool of an apartment building which Paul Giamatti must help return to the “blue world”. It’s hideously bad. Shyamalan redeemed himself in 2010 with “Devil”. A group of people trapped in an elevator, one of which is the devil, there to kill the rest of them, who are all guilty of some kind of indiscretion. What better place to do it than in a broken-down lift. That’s where I’d choose.
8: The Possession (2012)
This movie is in cinemas currently. I watched it having spilt Pepsi all over myself as the movie began. I sat there in a sticky mess and have consequently written a complaint letter to Odeon blaming the girl behind the concessions counter and requesting Odeon vouchers. This movie isn’t brilliant – it’s Hollywood-scary, rather than scary-scary. Girl finds box at garage-sale, girl opens box, girl unleashes a dybbuk (malevolent spirit of a dead soul), girl is possessed, girl stabs father in the hand with a fork and starts spitting up moths. There are some visually stunning bits (when Em Brenek has a funny turn in a deserted concrete forecourt) and a creepy scene when the possessed protagonist keeps repeating herself (you need to watch it to get the effect) but this only comes in at #8.
7: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
This had been on my Sky+ for ages and I finally watched it with my friend Janine the other week. I found it to be an intelligent film, which tells the story of a young girl possessed by SIX – count them – demons, including The Antichrist. Blimey. That’s a lot for a teenage girl to take on. And the ending isn’t happy either. What’s more, the story is recounted through a court trial, which sees the priest fighting against a charge for the murder of poor old Emily Rose. It’s a different and effective movie.
6: The Shining (1980)
“The Shining” would be higher up the list if I didn’t feel that the top 5 should focus on demonic possession rather than ghostly possession. What a kick-ass film this is. Jack Nicholson is, of course, fantastic as the writer (it’s always a writer, isn’t it?) who whisks his family off to an abandoned, snowed-in hotel, only to be taken-over and driven insane by the hotel’s ghostly inhabitants. Cue axe wielding psychopath chasing family through a frozen hedge maze. Shelley Duvall is exquisite as the terrified wife. I’d love to see a sequel, where someone gets possessed by the same ghosts, this time during peak-season – there’s a bloodbath waiting to happen!
5: The Last Exorcism (2010)
This movie jumps aboard the band-wagon of “found footage” cinematography. An American priest, who performs fake exorcisms to make money, is called out to a desolate farm to sort out Nell Sweetzer, who is anything but “sweetz” given that she is being controlled by an occult troupe of pastors who have impregnated her with demon spawn. Sounds crap – it isn’t. Ashley Bell wins the award for scene-stealer as the innocent Nell. The way the filmmakers contort her body and make her look positively feral is awesome, and the scene in the barn where she asks her exorcist if he should like a “blowing job” is one of the creepiest things I have seen.
“The Exorcist” comes in at #4. Clearly, if I was writing this in 1973, it would be at #1. But this ain’t 1973, sister, and things have bettered it. But as I was reminded last night, it is ridiculously classic. I actually find the buildup to the possession excessively tense and wonderfully eerie. It freaks me out when Regan is getting her CT scan done, to be honest. Regan is a creepy little girl BEFORE she is over-taken by Lucifer. There’s this scene where she’s talking about a pony, rambling on about how pretty it is, in this monotone, flowery voice. THAT’S creepy; worse than when she spins her head round, takes on a British accent and asks her mother if she knows what her “c**ting daughter” did! But in an age where the green vomit has been likened to split-pea soup, I still find this film incredibly disturbing.
Dear Lord, these are splendid films. We’re now up to “Paranormal Activity 4”, which I am desperately excited about seeing at Halloween this year. I think it will outdo “PA3” as well, which was good, but the weakest of the series so far. The hotly anticipated Halloween release of these installments has replaced the void that was left by the termination of the “Saw” franchise. Anyway, “PA1” remains the classic so far – the fact that our protagonist has been followed wherever she has gone since childhood, after a demon decided to latch on to her and her sister, is positively sinister. Her gradual descent into total possession is wonderfully understated and the events that occur in this film are genuinely scary. I complained to Odeon after a screening of “PA2” after a drunken teenager got into a row with my sister during it and a couple had sex on the back row. Clearly that was Odeon’s fault. Voucherssssssssssssss!
For anyone who hasn’t seen Spanish horror flick “Rec”, see it TONIGHT! “Rec” stands for “Record”, given that the movie follows a reporter called Ángela who is doing a night-shoot with a firefighting squad, being followed and taped by her trusty cameraman, Pablo. The crew gets called out to the scene of a domestic drama, occurring at an apartment complex. Off they all go, like innocent little bunnies. At the apartments, they find that an old woman has become trapped in her flat; what they don’t know is that the woman in question has been infected with a virus that biologically causes demonic possession. Oh yeah, that old chestnut. Anyone infected becomes a nasty, violent, rabid killer. Again, sounds silly, but who cares – because the finale of the film is literally the most terrifying thing I have ever watched. I’ll try not to spoil it, but let’s just say the cause of this virus is a demonic woman who has been locked up in the derelict penthouse for ages to starve and die. Our heroine, Ángela, becomes locked up there by the end of the film, in total darkness with this demon-girl (who is very much alive, terribly gaunt and frightfully vicious). The moment we see her, on the night-vision camera, is petrifying and properly disturbing. Ángela must hide from this woman as she prowls around in the pitch-black, trying to sniff her out. Its f**king awesome!
1: The Devil Inside (2012)
“The Devil Inside” takes the #1 spot hands down in this instance. Only released this year, its one of the most believable and troubling movies made on the subject of possession, to date. It follows Isabella Rossi as she visits her mother, Maria, in a mental institution in Rome, having been sent there years ago after she killed a load of religious figures and turned herself in to the police. The theory was that Maria was possessed. Again, filmed as “found footage” (which I think makes it more grainy and realistic) Isabella skips on over to the nut-house to re-acquaint herself with mummy. I can’t go through all the moments that are ingeniously produced in this film – there are simply too many – but the outstanding parts focus on those that are in need of a good old exorcism. Most frightening is the poor young lady locked in her parents’ basement who is found contorted into a ball. As the exorcism begins, the sequence that follows in pretty horrific – I’m talking blood coming from unmentionable orifices, foul language and very disturbing interchanges between the woman and the priest. There is something about referring to a man of the church as “priest”, in a malicious, gritty tone that sends a chill through you. Among other highlights are the scene in which Isabella is shut in the same room as her crazy mother (who behaves like Satan on acid), the baptism in which a demonic vicar tries to drown the baby he is christening, the incident where said vicar meets his end and the moment a giant black dog jumps up at a fence and scares the life out of everyone in the cinema. See this film if you haven’t.
And there we have it — some messed up shit. Enjoy!
– – A