By Chuck Francisco
July 17, 2013 Source: Mania.com
Demon possession/occupation films cut a wide path through the corn field of horror films. Even within their broad category they are wildly diverse. They're very much en vogue at the moment because they can be made inexpensively and still succeed in scaring the pants off of audiences. Of course just because they can be produced on the cheep doesn't necessarily guarantee success. Many of these flicks are released, make a profit, and then disappear into the cloudy wastes of lost memory. Time will tell if this is to be the fate of The Conjuring, which hits theaters this week. If you'd rather not venture out to see the newest James Wan film on opening weekend (or you're being crushed under the boot heel of the same oppressive heat wave I am) here are some classic demon movies with which you cannot go wrong.
The Exorcist (1973)
Perhaps the most frightening movie of all time loses nothing to generational distance. Many horror films lose their ability to scare as they age and culture shifts, but The Exorcist remains the film I positively will not watch with the lights off. Speed dial an old priest and a young priest, then share this with a horror rookie for generational horror scarring. (Hide something foreign in the popcorn bowl for added fright)
Satan's Cheerleaders (1977)
This odd duck begins like any of the Crown International Pictures teen sex comedies made for drive-ins of the time, but it's not at all the light hearted flesh romp that those other films aspire to. Instead this early horror-comedy from a young Dimension Films features the cheerleaders beset by backwoods satanists on their way to a cross state game. Extra points are awarded to it for featuring John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, and John Carradine, as well as the marvelous twist.
The Evil Dead (1981)
With this year's resurrection of the franchise releasing to the home market this week, I expect the arguments to flare up anew. Steer clear of all that and watch the movie that launched a thousand careers (ok so perhaps only a handful, but still!). The original Evil Dead is a much beloved classic, which horror fans have likely watched into the ground and back out again. Perhaps it's time to give the hilarious commentary track a listen?
2007's [REC] is a truly scary film. I recall watching it on my computer with the lights off, leaning in close to the monitor. It was a mistake, and much trouble sleep ensued. While the Americanized remake is competently shot, and almost completely the same structurally, it lacks the visceral punch of the original. See this and turn down your lights, where applicable.
Demons 2 (1986)
I really dig Demons 2, perhaps far too much. That it takes place in a high rise where tenants are watching a dramatization of the horrific events of the first film makes it all that much to meta and stimulating for me. The claustrophobic setting and the bleak nature of the ending also add to the stakes (which are no low stakes). Bava and Argento always bring it, and this lesser praised film is well worth your evening in.
With so many demon movies out there, the choice is truly yours as to the manner of your possession. Quick and gruesome, or slow and creepy, the important thing is that you put your soul into it. Will you dive in to see something new this weekend at the theater, or do your plans include curling up on the couch with an old favorite? Perhaps both. What are you watching, Maniacs?
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.
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