The best demonic possession movies

Hollywood loves nothing more than reviving existing intellectual property to which it already owns the rights. This is the entertainment industry’s version of resurrecting a dead horse so that it can be brutally whipped again.

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The announcement of a reboot or the continuation of an old movie or TV show always comes with a gushing statement, allegedly from the cast and crew, saying they are thrilled to being able to introduce beloved characters and so on to a new audience, or words to that effect. Hollywood publicists likely have a model for these statements, filed alongside model apologies from celebrities accused of sexual misconduct and racism.

Half a century ago …

Exorcist: Linda Blair, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller

The Exorcist was released in 1973, and the sequel to the new story film (a brand new trilogy, of course) is slated for 2023. Report the resurrection and flogging, and don’t be surprised when the first new film is inevitably due out on 50th anniversary of the original. But at least the sequel has potential. It is to be directed by David Gordon Green, who has done a decent job of reviving the Halloween franchise. Original star Ellen Burstyn is set to return and she will be 90 when the new film is released. And how many Hollywood productions featuring 90-year-old women who aren’t Betty White do audiences get to see these days?

Sequels, prequels and a spin-off

In terms of representing demonic possession, The Exorcist hasn’t been surpassed in the five decades that have passed since Linda Blair threw up the first shot on the big screen. Yes, there have been some gruesome sequels, not to mention the weird dueling prequels of 2004 and 2005. Warner Bros. laughed at the film delivered by Paul Schrader (director of American gigolo and writer of Taxi driver). They actually ordered a new one from Renny Harlin (including Cut-throat Island once held the record for the biggest box office flop of all time). Both were horrible.

David Gordon Green has announced that his new trilogy will be a sequel to all sequels and prequels, unlike his Halloween reboot that ignored everything after the original. The new exorcist will probably forget the ephemeral TV shows, which had Geena Davis playing a character who turned out to be the adult version of Regan from the original film. This was presumably intended to be a shocking twist for the three or four people still watching the show at this point.

But 2023 is far away, so what are the best demonic possession movies you can add to your collection while you wait for a 90-year-old woman to fight the forces of Satan?

The Last Exorcism (2010)

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An evangelical minister who has performed a large number of exorcisms (as you do) is disillusioned that he did not believe that any of the individuals were actually possessed. In a mock documentary format, he agrees to perform his final exorcism, debunking the process. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that there really is a demon in the house.

It is remarkable that a film so dependent on clichés manages to be utterly terrifying. The Blair Witch Projectt has a lot to answer for, but the mock documentary format is used well here, helped by the old trick of casting actors that no one outside of their immediate family has heard of, helping to further suspend disbelief.

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Possession (1981)

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Sometimes you want a good old school scare. Sometimes you really want to be bothered. If you’re in the mood for the latter, director Andrzej Żuławski’s disturbing (and downright insane) film is for you. Mark (Sam Neill) is a spy who returns home after a ruined marriage to his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani). Everything would be relatively simple if it weren’t for the weird lookalikes he constantly encounters and the creature hiding in an abandoned house next to the Berlin Wall. Does Mark have a serious mental illness, or is it a case of… well, the movie title should give you a clue.

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Requiem (2006)

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Anneliese Michel was a German woman who died in 1976. After showing apparent signs of psychosis (believed to be caused by her temporal lobe epilepsy), Anneliese’s family believed the only explanation was demonic possession, and the Catholic Church local finally (and reluctantly) authorized an exorcism. No spoils, but it didn’t end well. This story was dramatized in the years 2005 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (to be avoided like COVID-19), then the following year in the German drama Requiem, which aims to tell the story with as little sentimentality as possible, and ends up being deeply heartbreaking.

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Suspiria (2018)

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Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake was a loving tribute that managed to be incredibly entertaining, maintaining the relentlessly unsettling atmosphere of the 1977 Dario Argento original and arguably deepening it. Suzy (Dakota Johnson) arrives at a renowned dance academy in West Berlin to start her classes, only to find that not all is what it seems (but it’s a horror movie, so, duh) . Witchcraft, deception, possession and Tilda Swinton playing three different roles – what more do we need?

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The Evil Dead (1981)

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Sometimes demons can be banished by a priest uttering some strategic holy words while a wind machine kicks in, and sometimes they just need to be chopped off. Sam Raimi’s beautifully grotesque film chooses the latter option. To take more is to approach more, Devilish death is an orgy of blood, interspersed with genuinely frightening elements. Surprisingly, the impact has been maintained throughout its two sequels, the reboot, and the spin-off TV series.

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Jennifer’s Body (2009)

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Megan Fox is often considered a feast for the eyes, with Michael Bay’s camera lingering over her toned physique in a kinky way that triggered puberty among young male viewers of the original. Transformers. But Megan Fox, a feminist icon? At the time, Jennifer’s body was seen as a disruption to writer Diablo Cody’s streak of success after winning an Oscar for Juno, but the interpretation of the film has changed over the years, and it has been described as a feminist classic.

It’s hard to be a young woman. It’s even harder to be a young woman who offers herself as a virgin sacrifice to Satan in return for success, only to be possessed because she was not actually a virgin.

Jennifer's Body DVD Cover

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