Film: The Rite

I should be working on my thesis, I have a chapter due on Tuesday. I’m not concerned. It’s like a paper, and you know, it’ll be done and it’ll be awesome.

In the meantime, Paul and I finally went to the movies again…I insisted we go and see The Rite, because I go and see all the Anthony Hopkins movies.

I really liked The Rite, it was about exorcisms, which I am very into. I was “lucky” enough to brought up with just enough old world religion to find demonic possession scary. So basically, this is what we have –

Also, I spoil movies like it’s my job – so, you know, sorry.

The Rite

A young guy works as a mortician (which was one of my Mom’s dream jobs – mortician or butcher, make of it what you will.) more so, he’s from a line of morticians. He’s not a happy mortician so he decides to go to…seminary. Michael goes off to seminary, and does pretty well. After four years of work, he decides this whole Catholic priest gig might not be for him, and tries to leave. He writes an email, and the next day he witnesses a tragic car accident, in which a vehicle hits a bicycle, the woman on the bike is dying and asks him to administer her last rites, which he does (despite not being a “real” priest yet, he’s got the spiritual know-how). Just when we think this will turn him around and he’ll become a happy priest, he gets sent to Rome to participate in a new program to train up lots more exorcists, because there are literally demons going apeshit.

Now, Michael is very personable, and very good looking, and is made out of doubt. Anyway, long story short, he gets sent to learn from Father Lucas, who is an old priest who lives in a ramshackle home, surrounded by partially feral cats and performs “unorthodox but effective” exorcisms. As usual Anthony Hopkins is awesome, and it’s probably just me, but sort of hot. So he lets Michael observe and help out with an exorcism, of a young, pregnant girl who is apparently possessed. It’s the usual possession gig, contorting, lewd statements.

Michael doesn’t believe, he think she needs psychiatric help because he realizes her pregnancy is the product of abuse and incest (not unreasonable, apparently possession and psychiatric trouble look uncannily similar.) Eventually, the demon wins the game. He also gets to observe the exorcism of a young boy who claims to have nightmares of a red-eyed mule kicking him, and he’s covered muley looking bruises. Lucas breaks his pillow and retrieves a tiny frog (now those of you with a good background in demonology might be getting close to figuring out what we’re dealing with…cats…frogs…if you’re not, don’t be hard on yourself.)

Anyway, Michael’s dad dies, the boy predicts it, and the next thing we know, he’s having dark visions, and suddenly Father Lucas is possessed. For real.

Naturally, it falls to Michael (because everyone at the Vatican has mysterious popped off on holiday) to find his faith and deal with it (with the help of a beautiful, female reporter.) I think we all know what happens, Goodness prevails, but not before Anthony Hopkins gets to be really awesome and possessed, more lewd comments, blaspheming, crude gesticulations, upturned crosses – it’s fantastic, classic, exorcism related fun.

I really like all this contorting, vomiting stuff, but again, I have to ask – why? Why are demons doing this? I understand, every soul counts. I’m not arguing with Satan’s business plan, I mean it obviously works like a charm. We eventually find out that the primary demon making trouble is Ba’al, he’s kind of a big deal. The first and principal king of Hell, in charge of the entire Eastern area, it’s a corner office job for a demon.

“Hey Ba’al, buddy, you wanna job this week?”
“Oh, sure, Satan, what do you have in mind?”
“Well, I have this pregnant teenager, and an eight year old, who really could use some tormenting.”
“Really. An eight year old and a pregnant teenager.” *pause* “seems kind of…like grunt work…”
“Oh” *sigh* “Well, it’s in Rome, you picky bastard. You could pester some priests.”
“Ugh, I don’t know, I’m so busy, and tired all the time, being First King of Hell…”
“Get out of here, I’m the fucking Dark Lord, bugger off and stop complaining.”

It just sounds like it sucks. Also, I maybe the degree with which one can make mischief while possessing a body is more limited than we imagine, because frog generation, pallor, spitting, and shouting obscenities is less than I imagine. Maybe Hollywood is making out like it’s less dramatic than it is, maybe in real life, demons are dismembering, raping, pillaging – making serious trouble. I just don’t know. Either way, The Rite was excellent. I read one review that said it started off well, and then went “too crazy”. Yeah, that’s sort of what horror movies do, the climb towards a dizzying climax of grotesque. It did a good job.

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Film: The Last Exorcism

I went this weekend to see The Last Exorcism. I was really excited about this for a few reasons, firstly, I like movies about exorcisms, secondly, I have a crush on Eli Roth and will see anything he’s remotely connected to. I was actually really impressed with it, usually I have my reservations about horror films with PG-13 ratings, because I like my movies very bloody.  What I do not like is hand-held camera shooting. I find it irritating and disorienting and it makes me want to punch the character holding the camera. There were some really good examples of why I hate this form in this film. Right, so the person with the camera in the film is a guy named Daniel. Daniel is 1/2 of a film crew making a documentary about how one gifted preacher from Louisana’s whole exorcism routine is a fake. Mostly, I am completely fine with this premise, however, amoungst all this hand-held faux doumentary style there are random scenic establishing shots of the rural Lousiana environment. Now, this, makes me wonder, why, in their moments of terror and difficulty would good old Daniel take time to go and stand in the rain and take creepy establishing shots of the house, the barn, the cars?

The other thing that this film really drew my attention to is Demon Logic. It was not a real flaw of this film, or of any demonic or exorcism based movie, but more of a question as to how we have constructed the manifestations and behaviors of demons and in turn, the demonically possessed. I am not totally sure why any demon, possessing the body of a young girl (because apparently all any self-respecting demon wants is to be inside a young girl…make of that what you will.) would use their time the way they do in these films. Let’s have a look into the demon day planner, shall we?

Sundown: immobilize victim, frighten family – 1 hour.

8pm: Spasms.

8:45pm: Froth at the mouth, roll eyeballs around.

11pm: Go for a creepy walk.

11:10pm: Stand creepily in the garden, possibly with arms outstretched.

11:25pm: Gruesomely slash up some livestock, watch Law and Order.

1am: Contort.

2:34am: Take another creepy walk.

2:40am: Stand creepily in living room.

5am: Withdraw.

I don’t want to  be negative here, but exactly what is the point of all this? Why, if you are a demon, don’t you just, you know, defile some flesh, get a good soul grip and be on your merry demonic way? Why all this standing around, and frothing? It’s not really accomplishing anything. Like for example, I’ve never really understood why that whole pea-soup, upside-down-stair-walk was even happening in The Exorcist. It would make sense if the demon in question was killing people, or livestock or making  brownies, but all this gratutious demonic showmanship seems at best, unrealistic, at worst, a real fault in the demonic behavioral structure. I’m just saying that if I were demon, I wouldn’t spend so much of my time standing around creepily and contorting.

That said, The Last Exorcism is excellent, well produced and suspenseful. It’s suitably graphic, and shocking considering it’s mild rating and does a good job of really using it’s setting. Like many horror films, it benefits from the rural Louisiana countryside and the spirituality smorgasbord that is the deep American South. I was particularly impressed with the possessed, Nell. She straddled the boundary between innocence, malevolence and unnerving sexuality well.

The film also does a good job of bringing the nature and location of evil into question. I think the most effective horror films are the one’s where we don’t know who or how to trust. One’s where it’s difficult to figure out whether the monstrousity we’re looking at is a supernatural, Satanic manifestation or whether it’s an evil emerging from humanity and human nature.

I’m also delighted to see a smaller, less gratutious horror film, like this doing so well at the box office. The promotional work has been excellent and it deserves it’s success. It’s not only a triumph for the filmmakers of this work, but for the genre as a whole.

In mildly related news: I found that I has neglected to ever tell my two best friends about The Human Centipede today. I had forgotten how entertaining it is to recount first sequence. Also, my friend Seana, who is a nurse, seem confounded as to why the Doctor didn’t intravenously feel the centipede segments and give them ostomies from which to defecate, thereby eliminating the risk of infection and starvation – but also compromising the link gastrointestinal system. How differently medical professionals think.