TEN-ish GOREGIRL-FRIENDLY POSSESSION FILMS
Possession films have made a comeback in the last few years. A lot of them are pretty mediocre or just plain suck. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come up with ten. As it turns out, ten came together easier than I thought it would. I even threw in a few worthy sequels as a bonus. Honorable mention goes to Beyond the Door; a film that seems to be better known for the fact it borrows from The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby than for its own content. Beyond the Door is actually well-filmed with some rather unique moments. Beyond the Door does have other less admirable qualities however. It is a messy story that isn’t terribly well-written and the dialog sometimes made me laugh when it shouldn’t have. I also enjoyed The Last Exorcism. I loved its intriguing ambiguous story until the finale when it was no longer an intriguing ambiguous story. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth for what was otherwise an enjoyable well-acted film. The last film I short-listed was Paranormal Activity. A lot of mixed feelings about this film out there. There are no dishes flying through the air, projectile vomiting, or young girls sticking crucifixes in their coozies; it definitely leans towards the subtle. There is a nice steady building of tension and they construct a pretty eerie atmosphere with very little. That said I did not like it enough to put it on a list that represented me. Here are thirteen possession films I can get excited about…
EXORCIST (1973) & EXORCIST III (1990)
Directed By: William Friedkin (Exorcist)
Directed By: William Peter Blatty (Exorcist III)
The Exorcist is a long-standing favourite which is without a doubt one the best-acted, well-filmed, intense possession movies ever made! If you are unfamiliar with the story the plot summed up simply is about an actress whose pre-teen daughter becomes possessed by a demon. The demon makeup is exceptional and the nasty things this demon makes that little girl say and do is downright naughty! Exorcist III is a film I had only seen once when it was a new release at my video store. Someone on Twitter who I can no longer recall suggested I re-watch Exorcist III and I am glad I did. It is an intelligent well-acted entry with some genuinely disturbing images which may be left mainly to your own imagination but are equally as effective. There is one particular visceral scene however that was downright brilliant! This one should really have been the follow-up to the original instead of the sketchy Exorcist II.
EVIL DEAD (1981) & EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Evil Dead really blew my mind back in the day! The effects are really top notch and the film has a great intensity that never lets up. It has gore, a woman raped by a tree and a bit of humour for good measure. Ash is not the iconic figure he becomes in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness; he is just a regular guy in this one. Both films feature possession by Kandarian demons that use humans like they are marionettes. The demons in both films look wonderfully nasty and fantastic! Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn is more of a remake than a sequel and it is one of the best horror-comedies ever made. Ever! It is too much fun seeing Ashley J. Williams possessed, punched, kicked, thrown down stairs and cutting off his own arm! Bruce Campbell pulls off some impressive physical comedy and endures a considerable amount of abuse in the process. Demon possession doesn’t get livelier than this. Both films are masterpieces!
THE ANTICHRIST (1974)
Directed By: Alberto De Martino
The Antichrist came out the year following Exorcist and is oft cited as a rip-off. Besides the subject matter and some perhaps too familiar possession antics I didn’t think it was all that much like Exorcist. Carla Gravina is excellent in the central role as the wheelchair-bound possessed woman. And who doesn’t love a satanic orgy? It is one of the most insane satanic orgies I’ve seen, and that is saying something! There is some unsavory inclusion of animals that will not sit well with everyone, but it sure was unique. It does take a while to get going, but it isn’t an uninteresting trip getting there. The pacing could be better but otherwise I think The Antichrist is an entertaining exploitative gem full of sex and Satan-possessed shenanigans that should be of interest to anyone who is a fan of Italian horror.
DEMONS (1985) & DEMONS 2 (1986)
Directed By: Lamberto Bava
A seemingly random group of people are given passes to a screening of a horror film. The patrons are trapped inside the theatre and become possessed by demons one by one. Demons has awesome demon makeup, fantastic transformations and some beauty gore! It also has one of the most outrageously campy finales ever filmed involving a helicopter falling through the ceiling, a sword and a dirt bike. Relentlessly paced and tons of action. I really don’t know how any horror fan could not like this film! Demons 2 isn’t quite as well paced or exciting as the original, but it certainly has more than its share of memorable moments. Like the original the effects are absolutely superb and there is a nifty little kid demon. Aren’t you a cute little demon! Gitchy-gitchy-goo. Possession at its high-energy gooey best!
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
Directed By: John Carpenter
Re-watching Prince of Darkness was what inspired me to do this list of possession films. If you didn’t read my review for Prince of Darkness yesterday I’ll sum it up. Prince of Darkness has a wild story involving a cylinder of fluorescent green swirling liquid that is the discombobulated body of the Anti-Christ. It features a multitude of possessions ranging from subtle and stone-faced to giggling and psychotic. The scenes with the possessed homeless people are quite creepy. Despite a light gore factor the film’s horror is well-executed and effective. It also has Donald Pleasance! John Carpenter plus Donald Pleasance always equals entertaining.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)
Directed By: Kevin Tenney
Having a séance on Halloween night whilst partying in a funeral parlor? You are just looking for trouble. In the case of Night of the Demons it is demon trouble. The teens become possessed one by one and the result is a bunch of nifty effects, neato demon makeup, unique deaths and a whole lot of fun. Night of the Demons is screamingly 1980s! Bloody hell with the big hair already! There is no second guessing what decade this film came from. The effects hold up real nicely though and Night of the Demons is just a shitload of fun!
REC 2 (2009)
Directed By: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
It is a spoiler even having REC 2 on this list. I do apologize for that, but I thought it deserved to be here. I thought this supernatural twist to the continuing Spanish saga (REC 3: Génesis came out recently) worked surprisingly well. The explanation is quite serviceable and there is great gore, action and intensity that made for a pretty damn fine ride. The film starts off where it ended and you would expect some redundancy here, but Plaza and Balagueró keep things fresh. REC 2 is not as creepy as the original, but it still has an electric atmosphere, great intensity and some outstanding scenes of horror. I’ll keep the nature of the possession hush hush here, and tell you REC 2 is well worth a watch.
AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg
Those unfamiliar with Amityville Horror, the film is about couple George and Kathy Lutz and their small children who move into a stunning waterfront home for an impossibly low price. A beautiful “possessed” home that is! The home has a history of grisly murders enacted by a possessed family member. Amityville Horror is pretty freaking hokey as far as its horror elements are concerned. The effects are mostly buckets of blood and some pesky flies. And the pig with the glowing eyes? What is with that? That made me laugh even when I was a kid! The strongest elements of the film are the more dramatic bits. Rod Sterling is excellent as Father Delaney in his brief scene, and James Brolin’s descent into madness offers up some intensity. A little more character development would have been nice but the relationship between George and Kathy was still interesting. I think Amityville Horror is still rather fun, its hokey qualities kind of charmed me when I re-watched this last week, also I enjoy looking at Brolin, he is kinda sexy in this.
THE SHINING (1980)
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
The Shining is such a slick little bitch of a film. Jack Torrance takes a job as the winter caretaker of a massive hotel with a bad reputation for making its winter caretakers go mad and hack up their families. Jack settles in with wife Wendy and son Danny and attempts to begin work on a book. Needless to say that book never gets completed because all work and no play makes Jack go freaking crazy! Possession films come in all shapes and sizes. There is no demon that jumps inside of Jack but there is no doubt he has become possessed by the evil within the walls of the intimidating structure. It could be said that Jack didn’t have far to descend into madness. The character is pretty manic and intense from the get go. Elevators releasing rivers of blood, dead twin girls, beautiful women that turn into rotting corpses, weird sex games in animal costumes, imaginary bartenders and one mad daddy-o! Fantastic visuals, well-acted top notch entertainment!
JD’S REVENGE (1976)
Directed By: Arthur Marks
Thanks to Wednesday’s Child over at Deep Red Rum for this recommendation…JD’s Revenge rocks! Isaac, a mellow law student moonlighting as a cabbie becomes possessed by a circa 1940s mobster out for revenge. Glynn Turman is awesome as the possessed student. Turman makes Isaac a likable and empathetic character and really makes you believe he has been possessed by a bad-ass gangster. Love those outrageous suits! Louis Gossett Jr. is also strong as Reverend Elija Bliss. Some aspects of the story are not very well fleshed out but it is nonetheless a trip. Although IMDB lists horror among its genres, I would be hard-pressed to call JD’s Revenge a horror film. Outside of the actual possessed part, JD’s Revenge is an exploitation, action, crime kinda thing and a damn entertaining one at that.