Hollywood Moves Back to Demonic Possession Stories
Wall Street Journal
Move over, vampires, werewolves and zombies—demonic possession and exorcism are taking over. It’s enough to make your head spin. Some 40 years after “The Exorcist,” demonic possession is back, spewing out movies, TV shows and books. “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” based on the “Evil Dead” film franchise about demons plaguing vacationers at a cabin in the woods, is premiering on the Starz cable network on Halloween. The creator of zombie hit “The Walking Dead” is bringing his possession comic book “Outcast” to Cinemax next year.
A sequel to the hit 2013 film “The Conjuring,” about an attempted exorcism, is in production. “The Witch,” a film-festival darling about possession in a Puritan family in 17th-century New England, is set to open in February. A revival of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” opens on Broadway that same month, starring Saoirse Ronan as a young woman amid charges of witchcraft in Salem. A reality-TV special advertised as a “live exorcism” of a haunted house is scheduled to air the night before Halloween.
The reborn success of demonic possession in popular culture owes something to the zombie, werewolf and vampire surge of the past decade. Horror movies used to play in theaters to a passionate but finite audience, mostly teens. They’d show up on opening weekends, then move on to the next offering.
Streaming services, looser broadcast standards and more television options have broadened this audience and fueled more projects. Teens can make a TV show or movie viral in minutes. Young-adult novels turn into hit movies, like the “Twilight” vampire-werewolf films. “The Walking Dead,” about a dystopic world overrun with zombies, is the most popular show on cable TV. The 2013 zombie movie “World War Z” racked up big world-wide ticket sales for weeks.
The new wave of possession films could take scary movies even more into the mainstream. Possession is more personal than vampires and zombies—the threat comes from within. Teenagers especially relate to the notion of one’s body and mind being taken over by an uncontrollable force they can’t understand.