|With a cat named Hobbes, this is extra scary.|
But there is one horror genre that just doesn't work for me, no matter how many different films I try. If you've got a demon or devil possessing your main character for the bulk of the movie, odds are I'm going to find the whole thing pretty uninteresting.
|Anyone else remember this one?|
But I started to suspect that maybe the movies weren't the issue. It was my mental malfunction. The real clue arrived with the film The Conjuring from 2013. People went bananas for that movie and called it one of the best horror films of the decade. I was excited and went in with high hopes. I found the movie well acted and put together, but not very scary. I figured I was overhyped. So I gave it another spin about a year later and... um yeah, still not very scary. In fact it was getting kind of funny.
Maybe it was just that movie. I'd go back to what most folks consider the best of the best when it comes to possession films: The Exorcist. This was a movie that put the fear of God into everyone in the 70s. Folks were getting possessed just watching the movie. And I constantly see it near the top of any horror fan's top 10 list. I'd seen the movie before, back in the 1990s. But the experience wasn't very good. First of all it was on VHS and font loaded with a half hour documentary on the movie. This documentary pretty much spoiled the entire plot, all the best scenes and director William Friedkin came across like a conceited, smug, jerk. Yeah didn't start off on the right foot at all.
But enough time had passed that I felt I could give The Exorcist another chance. I watched it in 2016 with high hopes. My final verdict is - it is a well made and well acted film. It has some very interesting thematic angles to it. But it didn't scare me at all. I found it to be pretty darn slow and kind of funny.
|"Did you just compare me to Satan?"|
But I think there was a deeper challenge going on for all these possession movies. I have a real issue with the entire concept of demonic possession. I end up asking all these questions during the film and it distracts me from getting pulled into the situation.
Let's get this out of the way. I'm not a religious person. I know quite a bit about the Catholic faith and Christian religion as a whole (had to take a couple of courses about the religion on college and most of my family are of the Christian faith). I find interest in it from an mythological point of view, but I'm in no way a believer in the dogma. But even with that in place, I don't think that is my main issue.
|"I have faith in you guys. You'll possess someone|
worthy next time, right? Get it... faith! Ha!"
But I kid the lord of the underworld.
Now I've heard from some people that the corruption of innocent souls is what makes The Devil and his minions most happy. Ok, fine. So he gets off on the possession of people who are pure but not able to do much in the grand scheme of things. But couldn't Satan hurt more innocents by possessing someone with power? I mean, it just doesn't make any sense to me.
So the whole movie I'm pondering the idiocy of Satan and his minions and not being scared at all.
|"Yeah I just out performed the|
devil. Not bad, eh?"
Or take another example that really works, Prince of Darkness by John Carpenter. In this case you are dealing with an incarnation of The Devil, and he can possess and control people. But what makes it even more horrifying is that his controlled minions are working to free him. Stopping the possessed humans is important because if you don't, The Devil will be freed and destroy the fabric of the universe. The stakes are frightening on a cosmic scale in this movie, and makes the possession of a single child in a fancy apartment in New York seem kinda silly and pointless.
|The hell of "Cure" is the very personal kind.|
You could see these possession movies as metaphors for mental illness, and The Exorcist even shows that as a possibility. In that lens I can understand how they are supposed to be frightening. But the added weight of Christian Mythology actually weakens the concept for me. I find Prince of Darkness to be the most disturbing of the possession type of film, and really it only uses possession as a portion of its horror. The real terror in that movie comes from the cosmic fear. The more you think about the implications of what is on the other side of that mirror the scarier that movie gets.
I've come to the conclusion that traditional possession movies are just not my cup of tea. I end up finding them funny or frustrating (usually a combination of the two). I don't feel I can review them without that bias, so don't expect me to post a review of The Conjuring or The Exorcist any time soon. But maybe I'll give Repossessed another spin.
Update: I just gave The Conjuring another viewing, and in the context of watching a another movie before it, I actually appreciated it a bit more. Still didn't find it terribly scary, but I will say it is very well put together and generates some solid suspense and a couple of creepy moments. The big bonus is that it is the ghost of a witch possessing the mother, and not a demon or devil. I can imagine a human with such limited goals as possessing someone in their old house. So the movie doesn't have the same type of issue as The Exorcist or its many imitators have in that regard.