Ready for a deep dive into horror? Each week, acclaimed director, writer and producer Eli Roth compiles a curated list of films that best exemplify horror’s various sub-genres. Whether you’re a new horror fan or a die-hard expert, “Eli Roth’s Deep Cuts” has a recommendation ready for you.
The “possession” horror genre features not only some of the best horror movies ever made, but some of the best movies of all time.
These are not those films. In the latest installment of Eli Roth’s Deep Cuts, the director takes viewers on a wild journey through some of most demonically sleazy additions to the possession genre. Featuring multiple silly The Exorcist rip-offs, an evil smart home, Linda Blair dressed as ice cream, a young John Travolta and more, these deep dives into demons are sure to include new movies for fans to laugh and scream about.
Make sure to check out some of Eli Roth’s recommended gems of the demon genre, plus “deeper cuts” featuring some of the most controversial examples.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977, dir. John Boorman)
Linda Blair returns in one of the most insane big studio sequels of all time. It’s been a few years since Regan’s exorcism, and she’s living in an amazing New York apartment and participating in experimental hypnosis to try and deal with her past. Enter a weary Richard Burton, playing a disgraced priest who senses Regan might need his help. What happens next involves Africa, a tap dance routine, and James Earl Jones dressed as a giant locust. The plot makes little sense and some of the dialogue gets laughs (Regan cheerily tells a little girl, “I was possessed by a demon. Oh don’t worry, he’s gone!”). However, this extremely expensive movie has stunning cinematography (William A. Fraker was the first to use a Steadicam on this film, although The Shining usually gets all the credit) and art direction. When Warner Brothers released the film, it was so badly received that John Boorman re-edited it and they released it again. His original director’s cut re-emerged on video years later.
Check out Eli Roth’s commentary about the trailer:
Beyond the Door (1974, dir. Ovidio G. Asonitis)
Juliet Mills, cheerful star of Nanny and the Professor, decided to try something new by playing a possessed, pregnant housewife in this weird Italian Exorcist rip-off. Director Ovidio G. Asonitis was known for his insane rip-offs that blended elements of various popular movies. So, Mills spews pea soup and swears like a sailor, but she is also possibly going to give birth to a Satanic entity’s baby and has creepy, Omen-esque kids (her daughter is obsessed with collecting paperback copies of Love Story, which is weirder than anything Damien does). The movie was, surprisingly, a big hit, and Warner Brothers tried to sue for copyright infringement. They lost, and Beyond the Door was allowed to spread its madness.
Abby aka The Blaxorcist (1974, dir. William Girdler)
An archaeologist in Africa (William “Blacula” Marshall) unearths a box containing a sex demon. It travels across the country and possesses his good, Christian daughter-in-law Abby. Abby has some of the most bizarre possessed behavior of the 1970s — watch in shock as Abby becomes violently aroused by cutting up chicken! The demon’s insatiable desire leads Abby to hit singles bars and discos looking for men to victimize, until the archaeologist and his son perform a very long exorcism. As with Beyond the Door, Warner Brothers sued American International Pictures for ripping off The Exorcist. This time, they won. Abby was lost for decades, and did not emerge until a shoddy DVD was released in the 2000s.
The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972, dir. Waris Hussein)
Just before The Exorcist, there was The Possession of Joel Delaney. Shirley MacLaine plays Norah Benson, a Manhattan socialite who is creepily obsessed with her brother Joel. Joel begins acting violent and speaking with his dead Puerto Rican friend’s heavily accented voice, and women around him start to literally lose their heads. Norah’s cleaning lady calls “possession!” Norah goes downtown for a voodoo ceremony, thus throwing a rock at a wasp’s nest. Possession‘s finale is beyond sleazy, especially for an artsy mainstream film with a big star. The critics’ jaws were on the floor.
The Devil’s Rain (1975, Robert Fuest)
Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, was a technical advisor on this one. It pits cowboy William Shatner against Satanic Priest Ernest Borgnine, who has kidnapped his parents and turned his entire hometown into a gaggle of green blooded Satanists. SPOILER! In the end, acid rain melts everybody – including a young John Travolta! – into piles of waxy goo. Anton LaVey deems it authentic!
House of Exorcism (1975, dir. Mario Bava)
Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil is a beautiful, lyrical, strange story about an Italian tourist (Elke Sommer) in Cordova, Spain who gets trapped in a villa with a decadent family haunted by lost loves and necrophilic desires. The family’s butler, Telly Savalas, might be Satan, as he seems to control everything. Producer Alfredo Leone thought the movie would be too weird and nonsensical for American audiences, so he hired Sommer to come back and shoot new scenes where she gets possessed and swears, vomits frogs, and performs various vulgar acrobatics for an exorcist at a local hospital. Scenes from Lisa and the Devil are intercut to show what goes on with Lisa’s soul while her body is possessed. It makes less sense than Lisa and the Devil, and is much more ridiculous. That said, it’s oddly fascinating, and it was yet another gonzo Italian Exorcist rip-off that proved boffo at the box office.
Demon Seed (1977, dir. Donald Cammell)
Julie Christie lives in a “smart” home, run by a HAL 9000-esque computer. When her husband goes away for the weekend, the computer reveals that it’s in love with her and intends to impregnate her. She proves uninterested, so it terrorizes her. This fairly tasteless movie (in which Christie appears to be raped by an air conditioning duct) could only have come out of the 1970s, and yet it is oddly relevant.
Killer Party (1986, William Fruet)
A slasher kills teens at a costume party. But wait! Is it actually a slasher, or a sorority sister possessed by a demon? If teens getting killed and demonic possession bore you, Killer Party also contains a movie within a movie, a hair band music video, and sex comedy antics. Check out a clip from the movie below:
Black Roses (1988, John Fasano)
Demons disguised as a hair metal band come to a small community and turn all of its teenagers into possessed criminals! Can Matt, the town’s “cool” teacher, stop the band and their malevolent minions before they take over the world? A lot of parent groups in the ’80s actually did think that hair metal bands were Satanic demons waiting to corrupt their children. Black Roses is just one of several horror movies to deal with this media-manufactured “social problem” (see also Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare and Trick or Treat, starring Ozzy Osbourne).
Repossessed (1990, Bob Logan)
Linda Blair plays a Donna Reed-esque housewife who is totally over her childhood Satanic possession. Until, one day, the dark lord’s voice emanates from her again. Only wacky, dumb exorcist Leslie Nielson can help! In her History of Horror interview, Blair said that she is proud of Repossessed and recommends it for kids who are curious about The Exorcist. If the idea of possessed Linda Blair dressed as an ice cream cone screaming “Lick me! Lick me!” at Leslie Nielson makes you laugh, by all means seek it out.
The Convent (2000, Mike Mendez)
A gaggle of unlikable teens break into a church and summon evil demon nuns. Only the woman who first sent the demons back to hell in a massive fire 40 years ago (dazzling Adrienne Barbeau) can help them. The tagline for this movie did a great job letting audiences know what to expect: “Nuns, guns, and gasoline.”
Click here to see all of Eli Roth’s Deep cuts.
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