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Top Five Possession Movies That Inspired The Eighth

Written by Stephanie M. Wytovich

 

I recently gave a guest lecture on writing at Seton Hill University, and a student asked me what movies were most influential to me while I was writing my novel, The Eighth. I was fairly surprised by how easily I was able to answer the question, but in some ways, it also wasn't completely shocking to me because while I was working on the book, I tended to have the following movies playing on loop, not to mention that I was also writing to their soundtracks, too. See, for me, the creative process is all about immersing myself in the subject that I'm writing about, so while I was working on The Eighth, which is a story about exorcism and possession, I wanted to get as close to the subject as possible...well, as close as possible without needing a priest myself, that is.

I spent hours watching all the films that I could find that dealt with these topics-from classics to lesser-known works-in addition to also reading real-life accounts of possession, and researching the history and contemporary practice of modern day exorcism. But truth be told, there are few things that I love more in life than a good horror flick, so here are the top five movies that helped me conceive, shape, and birth the underworld and its practices in my sinful debut from Dark Regions Press, The Eighth.

THE EXORCIST

I first read/watched The Exorcist when I was an undergraduate literature student in Mike Arnzen's Literary Criticism course. For as long as I can remember, anything that dealt with religious horror was (and remains to be) banned in my parent's house, so this was the first time that little Regan found her way to me. What I love most about the movie is the struggle between Father Karras and his faith, not excluding, of course, the infamous crabwalk and head-spin scene. To me, this is where religious horror began, so I wanted to repeatedly watch it to take note of what worked, what didn't work, and what other movies were trying to one-up or imitate what it started.

 

ROSEMARY'S BABY

I first read/watched Rosemary's Baby fairly early on in graduate school, and I can remember being immediately taken with the story. I loved experiencing Rosemary's descent into madness as her faith and trust in her husband, as well as all those around her, is constantly questioned. I think in a lot of ways this is a psychological horror story first, and then a religious/body horror story second, so that seesaw of the mental and the physical was something that was absolutely necessary to me when creating Rhea's character.

 

THE POSSESSION

My brother and I saw The Possession when it first came out in theatres, and I can remember talking nonstop about the body horror elements that were in the movie and how they resonated with the characters and plot points that I was creating, i.e., the face in the x-ray, the hand crawling out of the mouth, the rage that wore on the little girl's face while she was eating breakfast with her family. I loved that there was a creature literally making a home inside the girl's body, and to me, that was a level of horror that I hadn't experienced yet. Sure, I was familiar with the demon birth, and the idea of spiritual possession, but this child had something that was literally crawling out of her mouth, and there was no way that I could hide how excited and terrified that made me because I felt like the doors to possibility in my own world that I was creating were just flung open and begging me to come play.

 

THE LAST EXORCISM

I really enjoyed this movie, but after watching it, I knew that I wanted to do the exact opposite when it came to my female character. More often than not in exorcism/possession movies, the girl who gets sought out by the Devil is the white-dress-wearing-innocent-virgin-girl who is devout and faithful and is therefore targeted for damnation for all of those reasons. To me, it always seemed strange that the Devil would want that type of soul-yeah; yeah, I get the whole corruption thing, but that's not how I view the Devil, so stick with me because why take the good when the bad is already willing to work with you? That's not to say that I wanted to make Rhea evil per say, but I certainly didn't make her the epitome of innocence either. I wanted a girl with some bite so that when the Devil came knocking, he had a force to reckon with. I wanted Rhea to not only recognize the evil within her but to not be afraid of it, either. In other words, I wanted to create a character that would eventually make the Devil wonder if he bit off more than he could chew. I wanted him to be on the lookout for his equal, and then question if maybe he found something or someone possibly more powerful than him.

 

SE7EN

While not a possession movie in the conventional sense, Se7en is a film that deals with psychological obsession and prophetic possession where one man seeks to relay a message commenting on the sins that pollute our world: gluttony, wrath, lust, envy, greed, sloth, and pride. I pretty much watched this movie on loop while I was writing the novel, and if push came to shove, I bet I could quote most of it now if put to the test; it's easily one of my favorite films (up against Fight Club and American Psycho, of course).  What I love most about this story is that the serial killer associated himself and his work with the seven deadly sins, and not only personify them, but in many ways, become them, too. In The Eighth, I wanted my characters to struggle along a similar path, but again, rather than look at sin as something negative and evil, embrace it and accept the blessed gift that it was/is to them.

 

NOTE: Hat-tip to The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an instructor by day and a horror writer by night. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University's MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is simmering in sin with Dark Regions Press.

Learn more about Stephanie at her website and follow her on Twitter @JustAfterSunset.

HorrorTalk would like to thank Stephanie for sharing with us what inspired her. Be sure to order her latest novel, The Eighth, at Dark Regions press by clicking here! Follow along the book tour with these hashtags: #TheEighth #SevenDeadlySins #TheSeven #DarkRegionsPress #HookofaBook

The Eighth synopsis:

After Paimon, Lucifer's top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil's grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins—sins who have their own agenda with the Devil—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?


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