Aside from tales of haunted houses, and ghosts, the religious horror genre is one of my favorites. These stories of people possessed by demonic forces are some of the creepiest in my opinion, because those demons can do crazy things to ordinary people! Now whether you actually believe in real world demon possession or not, these movies do have a basis in real life events. Maybe it’s not demons per se, but look at the things that mental illness can do to a person?! Still pretty scary.
Here are some of my favorite horror films in which exorcisms play a role:
The Exorcist (1973)
directed by William Friedkin
Of course I had to start with The Exorcist. No discussion of exorcisms, or even horror movies in general, would be complete without this fantastic film. I swear that the more I watch this movie, the better and scarier it gets. A little girl possessed by a terrible demonic force just because she wanted to have a little fun with a Ouija board. I mean, that could have been me! The deterioration of her mind and body are terrifying, and her mother’s desperate measures to get her help are so moving. P.S. The book’s really good as well!
The Exorcist III (1990)
directed by William Peter Blatty
Now, while it’s no match for the original, I think the third film in this series still deserves a place on this list. This is an excellent film that has the police Lieutenant from the original film (now played by George C. Scott) investigating a series of murders that seem to link to a serial killer (modeled after the real life Zodiac killer) who is now dead. It seems that something (serial killer? demon?) is possessing an amnesiac, and traveling from body to body to commit his murders.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
directed by Scott Derrickson
Inspired by the true case of a young girl, Anneliese Michel, who died after an unsuccessful (or unnecessary) exorcism attempt, The Exorcism of Emily Rose tells the story of a priest who is on trial for negligent homicide after the death of a young woman, Emily Rose, who died while he was performing an exorcism on her. The movie flashes back so that we can see the events that ultimately led to her unfortunate death… and those events are very creepy… especially when they take advantage of Jennifer Carpenter‘s (playing Emily Rose) double jointed-ness. I really enjoyed this unusual take on the exorcism genre.
The Last Exorcism (2010)
directed by Daniel Stamm
This found footage movie follows a charlatan, Reverend Cotton Marcus, who performs fake exorcisms making a documentary exposing the truth about the acts he has been performing on unsuspecting people. Unfortunately for him, his next “victim” is actually possessed, and so he gets more that he bargained for when he meets Nell. I felt like the found footage genre was used very well for this particular movie, keeping the viewer on their toes, and keeping things moving along and intense as Cotton realizes that he was wrong in thinking that all possessions are hoaxes. This movie also has a surprise in store at the end.
directed by Manuel Carballo
Again focusing on a young girl, this film has the girl in question, Emma, being the one to think she herself is possessed, rather than having someone else suspect it. In fact, her parents are convinced that something is medically wrong with her, and so decide to have numerous doctors look into Emma’s condition. After she exhibits more strange and dangerous behaviors, she becomes convinced that she caused has some kind of demonic force to take possession of her mind and body and convinces her Uncle, who is a priest, to perform an exorcism on her. All is not exactly as it seems though….
I’d love to hear about your favorite horror movies featuring exorcisms! I’m always on the lookout for a good one.