The spooky new supernatural thriller Deliver Us From Evil sees Eric Bana play a jaded NYC police officer. “I’ve seen some horrible things,” he says, “but nothing that can’t be explained by human nature.”
That changes when he meets a renegade priest (Édgar Ramírez) who convinces him a plague of demonic possession has infected the Big Apple. Working together, they combat the evil forces with exorcism and faith.
Deliver Us From Evil is based on a nonfiction book of the same name authored by Ralph Sarchie (with Lisa Collier Cool), a sixteen-year NYPD veteran who investigates “cases of demonic possession and (assists) in the exorcisms of humanity’s most ancient—and most dangerous—foes,” in his spare time.
“Before going out on a case,” he writes, “I put aside my gun and police badge and arm myself with holy water and a relic of the True Cross.”
Sarchie’s story joins a long list of exorcism movies with roots in true events.
The Exorcist, the granddaddy of all demon possession movies, is based in part on the 1949 case of an anonymous Maryland teenager dubbed Roland Doe. He was determined by the Catholic Church to be under a diabolical spell when strange things started happening — levitating furniture and holy water vials crashing to the ground — after he played with a Ouija board.
Exorcist author William Peter Blatty first heard about Doe’s story when he was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1950. He drew from newspaper reports and a diary kept by the attending priest, Fr. Raymond Bishop, as the backbone of his novel.
The character of Father Lankester Merrin, the elderly priest and archeologist played by Max von Sydow in the movie, was based on British archaeologist Gerald Lankester Harding. Blatty said Harding “was the physical model in my mind when I created the character, whose first name, please note, is Lankester.”
In recent years hits like The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins as a real life exorcist tutor, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose with Tom Wilkinson as a priest accused of murder when a young woman died during an exorcism, are based on true events.
Finally in The Possession, a haunted antique carved “Dybbuk” box — containing an evil, restless spirit — turns the behaviour of a young girl (Natasha Calis) from angelic to animalistic. The owner of the real-life box offered to send it to producer Sam Raimi but the filmmaker declined. “I didn’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “I’m scared of the thing.”
If the Paranormal Activity movies curdle your blood and The Conjuring kept you up at night, perhaps A Haunted House 2 will be more your style. A humorous hybrid of horror hits, it stars Marlon Wayans and Jaime Pressly in a sequel to the popular (but critically lambasted) 2013 comedy.
According to IMDB in the new film Wayans has “exorcised the demons of his ex” and is trying to start his life anew with his girlfriend. Unfortunately his new house turns out to be haunted and, even worse, his back-from-the-dead ex has moved in across the street.
It’s all played for laughs and will likely not give audiences nightmares but it would be interesting to know how the makers of movies like Sinister, The Possession, and Insidious feel about having their movies made fun of.
Some filmmakers are flattered.
Night of the Living Dead icon George A. Romero enjoyed the zombie takeoff Shaun of the Dead so much he asked star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright to appear in Land of the Dead. The duo can be seen chained up in a 12-second cameo under a sign that reads Take Your Picture with a Zombie during the film’s carnival sequence.
But not everyone gets the joke.
Years ago Boris Karloff made it known he wasn’t very happy about a horror comedy. He was approached to play the Monster in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but declined because he felt the duo’s brand of slapstick would be an insult to horror movies. Nonetheless he did some promo for the film—there are publicity pictures of him buying tickets at the box office—and later appeared in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Another horror legend said yes to Meet Frankenstein but no to the comedy. The movie was the only other time Bela Lugosi played Dracula on the big screen and he played it straight.
“There is no burlesque for me,” he said. “All I have to do is frighten the boys, a perfectly appropriate activity. My trademark will be unblemished.”
Finally, the movie Young Frankenstein gave overdue credit to an old time movie studio technician. When Mel Brooks was prepping the film he discovered that Ken Strickfaden, the designer of the “mad scientist” electrical machinery in the Universal Frankenstein films, had all the equipment from the original movies stored in his garage. Strickfaden agreed to rent Mel the props and received a screen credit, which he hadn’t been given on the original films.
So your daughter starts staring into space, being moody at dinner and talking back when you tell her to do something. Is she a typical teen, or is she possessed by some sort of evil supernatural spirit? That’s the question posed in “The Possession,” a new thriller starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick.
Based on an allegedly true story, the trouble in “The Possession” gets into gear when Clyde (Morgan, best known as Denny on “Grey’s Anatomy”), a divorced father of two, buys his daughter Emily (Natasha Calis) an antique carved box at a yard sale. Em becomes obsessed with the box, but soon her behavior changes from angelic to animalistic. Art first her parents (mom is played by Sedgwick) think she’s reacting to the divorce or trouble at school, but soon come to the only other reasonable explanation possible—she’s possessed by an ancient spirit called a dibbuk who lives inside the bad mojo box and causes havoc before devouring its human host.
“The Possession” doesn’t feel like a modern horror film. One or two possession pictures pop up every year and seem to do well at the box office, but the heyday of the genre was in the 1970s when movies like “The Exorcist” made national headlines. This movie won’t make headlines, or even spur that much conversation on the drive on the way home from the theatre, but it is a throwback to a time when horror movies relied on creepy whispers and shadows rather than special effects for the scares.
Danish director Ole Bornedal uses lo-fi effects to great effect to create an atmosphere of corrupted innocence. For instance, he shoots the little girl hiding behind an empty glass jar to distort her face into a mask of horror in one memorable sequence.
So visually the films works, but story wise, not so much. You may not look to a movie about demonic possession to be airtight plot wise, but this one is leaking air from multiple plot holes. It would be too spoiler-ish to detail them all here, but it would appear that the dibbuk is a little less discerning about who he attacks than the experts would have us believe.
In the moment, while you’re in the theatre, “The Possession” is creepy enough. Later though, when you give it some thought you might wish the lid had stayed closed on that particular box.
We can all imagine the fear that comes along with being chased by a werewolf. Or waking up to find Dracula staring down at you. They are living, breathing (or in Drac’s case, dead and not so breathing, but you get the idea) embodiments of evil. But how about inanimate objects? Have you ever been terrified of a lamp? Or creeped out by a tire?
In this weekend’s The Possession, a Dybbuk Box purchased at a yard sale brings misfortune to everyone who comes in contact with it.
It’s not the first time that the movies have imbued an inert object with evil powers.
There have been loads of haunted houses in the movies. In most of them, however, the house is merely a vessel for a spirit or some unseen entity that makes its presence know by making the walls bleed or randomly slamming doors. Rarer is the house that is actually evil.
Stephen King wrote about a house that eats people in the third installment of his Dark Tower series. On screen Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg visualized the idea in the appropriately titled Monster House.
In this animated movie three teens figure out the house across the street is a man-eating monster.
By the time they got around to the fourth installment of the most famous haunted house series, the Amityville Horror, filmmakers had to figure out a new plotline apart from the tired “new owners move in to the house, get freaked out leave,” storyline. In The Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes, a cursed lamp causes all sorts of trouble when it is shipped from the evil Long Island house to a Californian mansion.
Much weirder is Rubber, the story of a killer tire — yes, you read that right — with psychokinetic powers — think Carrie with treads — who terrorizes the American southwest. It’s an absurdist tract on how and why we watch movies, what entertainment is and the movie business, among other things. But frankly, mostly it’s about a tire rolling around the desert and while there is something kind of hypnotic about watching the tire on its murderous journey — think Natural Born Killers but round and rubbery — that doesn’t mean Rubber is a good movie.
Finally, think bed bugs are bad? How about a hungry bed? The title of this one sums it up: Death Bed: The Bed that Eats.