Ever since the release of the Academy Award nominated The Exorcist, back in 1973, Hollywood has benefited quite a bit from movies about exorcism, and the box office numbers show no signs of recession. With the release of The Last Exorcism 2, I decided to spotlight three films that are criminally overlooked, and that I think fans would definitely enjoy.
Here Comes the Devil
Directed Adrián García Bogliano
Screenplay by Adrián García Bogliano
From Argentinian filmmaker Adrián García Bogliano, Here Comes the Devil, is a coming of age tale of demonic possession, sexual awakening and suspected child abuse. Staying clear of the typical traps of exploitation, Bogliano takes a low-key, less graphic approach to the unearthly proceedings. This isn’t your standard possession film. That’s not to say there aren’t displays of the supernatural, but those hoping for frightening exorcisms may be disappointed (although you will get scenes of levitation, albeit low cost effects). Instead the haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria is the films selling point. Bogliano treats the sexuality of his characters with an honest reality, striking a perfect balance between family drama and domestic horror.
Set in Tijuana – home to superstition and stories about el diablo – a young couple and their son and daughter stop at a roadside gas station across from desolate hills and mysterious caves. Despite warning, the children set out to explore the forbidden grounds, said to be harbouring dark secrets, and get lost in their newfound playground. The following day, they return to their distraught parents, and while physically unharmed, something just doesn’t quite seem the same.
In what seems like an homage to Peter Weir’s masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock, Devil is an ominously atmospheric package that recalls the best of genre stylings from decades past – particularly those from directors Nicolas Roeg and Ken Russell. Sex and death and the tight bond between the two are at the bleeding center of the film. Devil is erotic, violent and mysterious, managing to be a haunting meditation on fear, sex, death and the beyond. Ambiguity is often good and Devil leaves us with many unanswered questions. Amidst the confusion and unsettling atmosphere, the result is a discreetly artistic genre pic.
Alucarda, La Hija De Las Tinieblas / Innocents From Hell
Directed by Juan López Moctezuma
Written by Alexis Arroyo and Juan López Moctezuma
Part nunsploitation, part possession/satanism movie, and part vampire flick, Alucarda (“a Dracula” backwards) finds satanic going-ons in a convent after orphan Justine comes along, only to be seduced by another orphan named Alucarda. Director Juan López Moctezuma came along during the new wave of 70′s Mexican genre pics that expressed radical and subversive views. Alucarda never received much attention from critics nor audiences, but over the years became something of an underground cult classic. Moctezuma (who also produced Jodorowsky’s El Topo and Fando Y Lis) was an important intellectual figure in Mexico in the fifties, sixties and seventies, and his three horror films (which also includes Mansion of Madness, and the American co-production Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary) were all distinctive works. The film was independently financed outside of the Mexican mainstream industry and was shot with an English-speaking cast. The set design and art direction is stunning as well as Xavier Cruz’s cinematography. The gruelling exorcism conclusion to Alucarda reminds one of the final scene in Brian De Palma’s Carrie. While it is not widely known by many cinephiles, many fans who have seen it, including myself, consider it an unrecognized gem. Seriously, this movie is batshit crazy and a must see!
The Exorcist III
Directed by William Peter Blatty
Written by William Peter Blatty
William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, wrote and directed this creepy thriller, based on his novel Legion. Thankfully he ignores the events of John Boorman’s disappointing Exorcist II: The Heretic, and abandons cheap scares altogether; instead allowing the events to unfold as a detective story about one man’s search for faith. The Exorcist 3 isn’t quite as good as the first film, but thanks to some powerful performances by Brad Dourif and George C. Scott, Blatty directs a picture that is just as frightening.
There are several stand-out scenes: The dream sequence with George C. Scott moving through Heaven, delivers a strong punch, and the moment where George C. Scott enters the ward and the camera pans upwards to reveal one of the patients crawling on the ceiling, is spooky as hell. However, the most memorable scene comes when a nurse investigates strange noises during her graveyard shift. Director Blatty shows great patience in holding a far shot for an ample amount of time, while making good use of ominous sounds heard in the distance. The sequence culminates with not one, but two of the best jump scares you’ll ever see; both will have you jolt from your seat. On the climactic exorcism scene, Blatty fought with the producers who demanded a frenzy of special effects. In retrospect, this might be one of the rare times in which the studio made the right choice, and not the director. After all, what is an Exorcist film without an exorcism?
The picture is extraordinarily well acted by the likes of George C. Scott, who provides some of his best work, and Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), who is equally riveting as The Gemini Killer. Gerry Fisher’s widescreen lensing is put to excellent use within the narrow corridors and caged cells of the asylum, and Barry De Vorzon’s eerie score will make the hairs on your arms stand up. Those looking for a truly creepy picture, look no further. The Exorcist 3 will get under skin.
Note: Look out for Samuel L. Jackson, who makes a cameo as a blind man, Larry King as Himself and NBA Knicks all-star Patrick Ewing and Fabio, who both appear as angels.
– Ricky D