I’ve decided to watch 31 horror movies this month and then write about it. Here are all of the movies I watched in the first week of October, in chronological order.
1. The Exorcist
Normally I have a “no Christian mythology” rule for my horror, which is why I hadn’t seen The Exorcist before. I didn’t end up finishing it before it left Netflix, but I saw enough to feel like my rule was warranted. We have an “ancient evil” unearthed in Iraq, a beleaguered single mom/actress (played by Ellen Burstyn) who sees her once loving and cheerful daughter literally possessed by demons. I’m sure a lot has been written about the movie as an analogy for the ways mother/daughter relationships can become problematic as puberty approaches but I don’t think that’s particularly interesting.
The thing that surprised me the most about this movie was how much of it ends up being medical/body horror, as they perform various tests on Regan to find out what’s wrong — including a “spinal tap” that looks a lot more like “let’s stick a tube in your jugular.” Following that, there’s a conversation with one of the doctors about whether to consult a psychiatrist or not and he says “let’s explore all of the medical avenues before we start looking at somatic possibilities” which I just found to be a fascinating statement. I would hope that some thirty years later we have a better understanding that there isn’t a sharp bright line between psychiatric issues and so-called medical issues.
Anyway, obviously, science isn’t up for tackling demons and the exorcist gets called in and that’s right about where I had to stop to go have tea with a friend. My main issue with the movie is the main issue I have with most movies that have Christian mythology at their core — it relies on having a kind of fear instilled in you by the church that I just can’t fathom. On top of that, there’s a kind of xenophobia or fear of the other underlying it in this movie — the film opens with the Muslim call to prayer. I know that this is a somewhat alien sound to a lot of Westerners, but to me it’s just the sound of lunchtime. (There was a mosque next to the primary school I attended in Botswana and the noon call to prayer coincided with our lunch break.)