Sunday, September 8, 2013

SAPI and SOUL: Seven More Movies About Possession

At this year's Festival, there are two movies screening in the Vanguard Programme about possession. What are the chances? It's like there's some global cultural zeitgeist centering around the idea that people are not acting like themselves or have been taken over by an alternate consciousness. But there's been talk that those movies are played out.

Enter the theme of possession! Sapi, directed by Brillante Ma Mendoza, is a satirical assault on the media that also happens to focus on a case of demonic possession, while Soul is another look at demonic possession from Chung Mong-Hong.

In honor of these two films that take a differing approach to a similar theme, we thought we'd share our list of seven other movies about possession.

1. Burnt Offerings, 1976
The Rolf family, played by Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Lee Montgomery, is hoping to have a nice, relaxing summer vacation in an old mansion from the 1890s. In exchange for their incredibly low rent, they must not bother the elderly woman who lives on the top floor. What could possibly go wrong? For one thing, the house really really likes Karen Black. A lot. Maybe a little too much, actually.

2. Demons, 1985
Written by Dario Argento and directed by Lamberto Bava, it's obvious right away that Demons is going to deal with some crazy shenanigans. A movie about demonic zombie vampires comes frighteningly true when one of the audience members gets scratched by a creepy mask that's featured in the movie and becomes infected, turning into a demonic zombie demon, who then attacks everyone in the theater. Who then turn into demonic zombie demons. Being trapped in the theater only makes things worse. Talk about self-reflexivity!

3. Ghostbusters, 1984
Although Ghostbusters deals primarily with well, ghosts, there's also that important part of the movie in which Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis become possessed by Zuul and Vinz Clortho, respectively. The subtext of "The Keymaster" and "The Gatekeeper" might have been lost on you if you saw this movie for the first time when you were ten years old. Sigourney Weaver's post-possession outfit is definitely what all the hip demons will be wearing this season.

4. The Hidden, 1997
Director Jack Sholder had previously delivered two more good movies to us: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and Alone in the Dark. In 1987, just a couple of years before Kyle McLachlan portrayed Special Agent Dale Cooper, he played another FBI agent in Sholder's science fiction film about an alien who gets its kicks by causing people to do outlandish, illegal, and usually (self-)destructive things. You can see nods to this movie in Men In Black (gross cockroach aliens wearing human suits) and District 9 (weird alien weaponry that can only be used by aliens).

5. Insidious, 2011
Insidious premiered at Midnight Madness in 2010 and scared the crap out of everyone who saw it. A lot of what makes Insidious so effective is that it doesn't rely on the typical possession/exorcism tropes and builds up suspense throughout. It's also not afraid to be funny in order to disarm you. (True confession: after I saw it I remained scared for six months.)

6. REC, 2007
While filming a documentary series on fire fighters, reporter ÁngelaVidal and her crew encounter something terrifying in an apartment building when the firemen are attacked by an old woman who was supposedly trapped in her apartment. The found footage conceit works in REC's favor because it feels organic and unforced. REC also has a cool twist on the zombie genre. Jaume Balagueró's 2007 film went on to spawn two sequels and there's a fourth installment on the way. REC 2 screened at Midnight Madness in 2009!

7. Session 9, 2001
An abandoned mental institution. An asbestos removal crew. A person who is plagued by nyctophobia, or an extreme fear of the dark. These are all important elements in Session 9 and along with the not-completely-explained personal problems of the crew, they synthesize into a seriously scary psychological horror. Trust me, the voice of "Simon" is going to stay with you for a long time.

Now that you know that there can be good movies about possession that aren't The Exorcist, you'll be well prepared for both Sapi and Soul, both screening at this year's Festival.

SAPI Screening Times:
Sunday, Sept 15th, 3:00 PM SCOTIABANK 14

SOUL Screening Times:
Monday, Sept 9th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 11
Tuesday, Sept 10th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 3
Saturday, Sept 14th, 12:00 PM SCOTIABANK 10

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