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When It Comes to Demonic Possession, It’s Not Scary If It Doesn’t Get Ugly

Blogger Stacie Ponder’s horror columns appear every Wednesday.

Whenever I set out to make a list of the movies I find the scariest (which happens more often than you’d think), I always include The Exorcist. It’s a film you’ll find mentioned just about every October when various websites and publications trot out their various horror movie-related lists. Yet I realize there are plenty of people out there who don’t find The Exorcist to be frightening in the least. To me, that’s like not finding ice cream delicious and I shake my head at those people in dismay. But for the people like me who find The Exorcist so frightening, well… why is that? What makes it so scary? Is it Regan herself I find horrifying? Yes and no. See, people are afraid of Michael Myers because they think Michael Myers is going to kill them. Regan doesn’t do much beyond lie in bed all day and get more and more disgusting. As a horror movie villain, she’s a total slacker! I figure so long as I avoid her bedroom, I should be safe.

On the other hand, she creeps me the hell out. The yellow eyes, the levitating, the stinky breath, the exceedingly foul language and the 30-packs-a-day voice (courtesy of Mercedes McCambridge) make Regan the stuff of nightmares as well as the poster child for personal hygiene. My reaction to Regan (and, admittedly, plenty of other imagery in Friedkin’s film) is purely visceral: She just looks and sounds scary as hell to me. So scary, I still don’t enjoy watching the movie alone.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
On the other end of the demonic possession spectrum is The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I realize this probably puts me in the minority, but I enjoyed it. I thought Jennifer Carpenter (as Emily) was suitably bendy and cuckoo and it was entertaining. But was it scary? Nah. This is due, partially, to the fact that the film was more courtroom drama than it was straight-up horror. Mostly, though, it wasn’t scary because Carpenter remained pretty throughout. Sure, she got a little gaunt and her color went bad, but overall she still looked like sweet Emily Rose. All spiritual issues aside, the girl just needed some sun and a sandwich. I didn’t want to run away from her, I wanted to take her on a picnic.

The Possession of Joel Delaney
Honestly, I can’t attest to the scariness (or lack thereof) of The Possession of Joel Delaney.
It was released on DVD just last week and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never
seen it before, despite the fact that it stars both Shirley MacLaine
and someone named Lovelady Powell who not only has the best first name
ever but also boasts The Happy Hooker on her resume. The point
is, Joel Delaney is played by Perry King and apparently he gets
possessed by the spirit of a Spanish killer. Everything I’ve read about
the film indicates that it’s actually quite effective and atmospheric;
while this makes me want to see it all the more, I’m keeping my hopes
in check. After all, I just know that pretty boy Perry isn’t gonna let
his face get all gnarly!

Night of the Demons
I find my superficial reaction holds true for other
possession-related films as well; so long as the possessee in question
is horribly gross-looking (pointy teeth and bad skin help), chances are
I’ll call it scary. It doesn’t matter if someone is taken over mind and
body by a pencil or the devil himself, if the filmmakers bring the
grody, then I’ll bring my hands up to cover my eyes. Even the silliest
movies that feature unsuspecting folks being overtaken by evil get me
looking over my shoulder, so long as those unsuspecting folks get ugly.
I mean, it doesn’t get much more silly than Night of the Demons,
now does it? I’ve got two words for you: Linnea Quigley. Alright, three
words: Linnea Quigley’s lipstick (those of you who know what I’m
talking about are probably smiling right now; those of you in the dark,
let’s just say that Night of the Demons is worth the rental
price, then you can smile along with us). The short of the film is
this: Angela hosts a Halloween party in a funeral home, all the
stereotypes hold a séance which releases a demon, the demon possesses
all the stereotypes, and so on. It’s classic horror movie cheddar,
folks. But man, when Angela’s face is all demonized and she’s floating
around the funeral home in her black bridal gown, my reaction might
lead you to believe that I was watching…well, that I was watching The Exorcist.

There are plenty of movies that fall into this category for me: Lamberto Bava’s Demons,
which finds an audience trapped in a movie theater and turned into the
gooiest, grodiest demons you’re likely to find is one. If they all had
simply started killing each other, I might have said “Hmm, how
unfortunate.” But they all get their gross faces on, and therefore I
end up saying “Mmmmrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”, or something to that effect.
Because I’m scared.

And I have a mouth full of Goobers.

To sum up, I find that possession is scary so long as there’s a
hideous face to go along with it. I guess that means that what I’m
really afraid of are hideous faces, or perhaps the idea of getting a
hideous face for reasons beyond my control. Holy crap, am I really that
vain? Wow. What a breakthrough! That’s why I love writing this column
— it’s better than therapy. Now I just need to write about Asian
horror films — that’ll get me to address my phobia about long, wet
hair and all my problems will be solved!

sp.jpgA fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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