Seven Movies About Possession

Published on October 19th, 2015 in: Horror, Listicles, Movies, Science Fiction |

By Less Lee Moore

The Devil’s Candy

When most people think about possession movies, they think about The Exorcist. While that is certainly a worthy film (and my personal favorite horror film ever), it’s not the only one out there to deal with the topic. The Devil’s Candy and February are two recent films that put a fresh spin on the subgenre. Here are seven more movies about possession, just in time for Halloween.

“But the Somafree Institute is a wonderful environment for someone with diminished mental capacities!”

1. Burnt Offerings, 1976

The Rolf family, played by Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Lee Montgomery, is hoping to have a nice, relaxing summer vacation in an old mansion from the 1890s. In exchange for their incredibly low rent, they must not bother the elderly woman who lives on the top floor. What could possibly go wrong? For one thing, the house really really likes Karen Black. A lot. Maybe a little too much, actually.

When Biore porestrips go terribly wrong.

2. Demons, 1985

Written by Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava, it’s obvious right away that Demons is going to deal with some crazy shenanigans. A movie about demonic zombie vampires comes frighteningly true when one of the audience members gets scratched by a creepy mask that’s featured in the movie and becomes infected, turning into a demonic zombie demon, who then attacks everyone in the theater. Who then turn into demonic zombie demons. Being trapped in the theater only makes things worse. Talk about self-reflexivity!

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Zuul.

3. Ghostbusters, 1984

Although Ghostbusters deals primarily with well, ghosts, there’s also that important part of the movie in which Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis become possessed by Zuul and Vinz Clortho, respectively. The subtext of “The Keymaster” and “The Gatekeeper” might have been lost on you if you saw this movie for the first time when you were ten years old. Sigourney Weaver’s post-possession outfit is definitely what all the hip demons will be wearing this season.

“For the last time, stop calling me Harry!”

4. The Hidden, 1997

Director Jack Sholder had previously delivered two more good movies to us: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Alone in the Dark. In 1987, just a couple of years before Kyle McLachlan portrayed Special Agent Dale Cooper, he played another FBI agent in Sholder’s science fiction film about an alien who gets its kicks by causing people to do outlandish, illegal, and usually (self-)destructive things. You can see nods to this movie in Men In Black (gross cockroach aliens wearing human suits) and District 9 (weird alien weaponry that can only be used by aliens).

“What do you see?” “Something terrifying: a film franchise.”

5. Insidious, 2011

Insidious premiered at TIFF’s Midnight Madness in 2010 and scared the crap out of everyone who saw it. A lot of what makes Insidious so effective is that it doesn’t rely on the typical possession/exorcism tropes and builds up suspense throughout. It’s also not afraid to be funny in order to disarm you. (True confession: after I saw it I remained scared for six months.)

Even Wet Naps can’t help you now.

6. REC, 2007

While filming a documentary series on fire fighters, reporter Ángela Vidal and her crew encounter something terrifying in an apartment building when the firemen are attacked by an old woman who was supposedly trapped in her apartment. The found footage conceit works in REC‘s favor because it feels organic and unforced. REC also has a cool twist on the zombie genre. Jaume Balagueró’s 2007 film went on to spawn three sequels and two North American films.

“YEEEAAAHH- oh, forget it.”

7. Session 9, 2001

An abandoned mental institution. An asbestos removal crew. A person who is plagued by nyctophobia, or an extreme fear of the dark. These are all important elements in Session 9 and along with the not-completely-explained personal problems of the crew, they synthesize into a seriously scary psychological horror. Trust me, the voice of “Simon” is going to stay with you for a long time.

This article was originally published on the Toronto International Film Festival Vanguard programme blog.

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