Sunday, November 4, 2012

15 Nights of Fright - Possessive Double Feature

Every night from now until Halloween Matt will be reviewing another of his 15 favorite horror films in a segment called 15 Nights of Frights. Slashers, monsters, aliens, and ghosts will all come out to play in the next two weeks and one day. So, find a safe place and leave the lights on while Matt gives his thoughts on all things frightening. Above The Film presents Ginger Geek Blog's 15 Nights of Fright.

Note: Thankfully internet returned to my home, and I can now post the remainder of my Nights of Fright.

Tonight's Frights:

The Exorcist (1973)
When ever someone thinks of a movie about possession, they are thinking of this movie. I don't care if they haven't even seen it, they are thinking of this movie. Considered one of the scariest movies of all time, it was the film that made an entire generation swear off of split-pea soup and forcibly masturbating with holy symbols. (finally.)

Come on, just let Jesus f*ck you.

The films follows actress and single-mother Chris MacNeil and her young daughter Regan. When Regan starts to get very sick Chris tries to take care of her, but when Regan starts spider-walking down flights of stairs and displaying telekenetic powers Chris realizes this is no mere flu virus. 

SARS maybe, but not the flu.

With nowhere else to turn Chris, and one of her friends murdered, Chris calls upon another friend, Father Karras for help. Karras, currently weak in his faith due to the ill health of his mother agrees to assist another priest, Father Merrin in an exorcism of the young girl.

The tone and pacing of this film is perfect and once it truly gets into the full extend of Regan's possession it is just terribly disturbing at points that it makes you wonder how they convinced Linda Blair's parents to let her in this film. (The answer is because it's Hollywood.) The film's ending is one that can be seen as happy, in one way, but also terribly sad in another. I almost feel like to don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen the film, but here I go anyway (it's been almost 40 years, people.)

After constant prodding and taunts from the demon inside the girl and Father Merrin dying of a heart attack during their attempted exorcism, Father Kerras attacks the possessed Regan demanding the devil to possess him instead. When it does, Kerras summons all his strength to keep it from hurting the girl and instead throws himself out of her second story window and down a long staircase in the alley behind the house. While the girl being saved is a shiny, happy ending for her and her mother it is also a little nihilistic in the death of Merrin and Kerras's need to sacrifice himself to save her. While the film shows Regan and Chris both being thankful for Kerras's sacrifice it still feels that Kerras never truly reached a resolution in his loss of faith.

The Shining (1980)
Wait, what? Um, Matt, I thought The Shining was about a haunted hotel. Why is this in the double feature about demon possessions?

First off, slow your role fake person that apparently is speaking to me through my own blog (weird.) Secondly, there are a lot of theories that float around about what The Shining is truly about and why Jack Torrance decidedly goes crazy and tries to murder his family with an axe while staying at the Overlook Hotel. Yes, it is true that the concept is that the Overlook Hotel haunted, but there is a bit of a possession angle theorized, and I am here to explain it to style.

In Opi GANGAM style.

Okay, so before I do that, though, I will at least give you an overview of the film and the wonderful terror that it holds in store. The story follows struggling playwright and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance, his meek wife Wendy, and their young son Danny who has a special psychic gift we later find out is called The Shining (TITLE OF FILM :D) Anyway, Jack is looking for a way to just cut himself off from the world for a while in order to write another play and find a way to do so in becoming the winter caretaker for The Overlook Hotel in Colorado. 

Jack and his family move into the hotel and as the months in the snow continue, ghost of the hotel's past begin to make appearances, and there seems to be a change in Jack's personality seems to be occuring. Lashing out after long periods of being withdrawn and closed off.

Plus, he kept taking the worst Christmas card photos

Soon after a major snow fall, creepily watching his son and wife play in the snow, thowing a ball at a wall, making out with a waterlogged corpse, and drinking alcohol given to him by ghosts (Big Book don't say sh*t about drinking Ghostohol, or as the kids call it booooooooooze) Jack decides the only rational thing to do is kill his family. After attempting, failing, killing the black dude that also had The Shining and chasing his sun out into the hedge maze behind hotel Jack freezes to death when he is outsmarted by a 6-year-old and becomes lost in the maze. At the very end a photograph on a wall in the hotel depicts a July 4th party at the hotel in 1921 that Jack kept seeing ghosts from, and smack dab in the middle JACK MUTHAF*CKIN TORRENCE.

Does KY make lube for this kind of Mindf*ck?

 Yep, that's our hero in the hotel, a good 60 years before he ever stepped foot in the hotel. This picture and this fact, as well a conversation Jack has in the movie are what fuel the "possession" theory that I mentioned all those paragraphs ago. You see in the beginning of the film the manager of the hotel tells Jack a story about former caretaker they had that went mad with cabin fever while doing the winter long chore of watching the hotel and murdered his entire family with an axe. (FORESHADOWING) The man's name was Charles Grady. Later while Jack attends the Ghost Party in the ballroom he runs into a butler in the bathroom calling himself Delbert Grady and Jack regonizes him from the news article as CHARLES Grady, the man who murdered his family. When Jack identifies him as "the old caretaker" Grady tells him that Jack is the caretaker and has "always been the caretaker." 

Now, this is where I have to warn you that not everyone will agree with me. There are a lot of different interpretations of this film and it's ending, and this is the one I believe to be the most true. The difference in Grady's names when he is the ghost from 1921 and the man who in the 1970's went mad and killed his family suggests that a concept in which the Hotel takes hold or "possession" of certain people, particularly the people involved in this July 4th party for whatever reason. Now, while I do not recall it ever being stated in the movie, apparently the Overlook Hotel is supposed to be built on a Native American Burial Ground (way to go, Poltergeist) and that is supposed to explain the ghosts, and I believe it does in a way, but not just "ghosts of dead people are haunting it." That picture symbolizes the most triumphant time in the Hotel's career, as well as a triumphant time in American history (the day, not the year.) I believe they opened their doors for the first time on July 4th, 1921 and the spirits of the Indian Burial Ground they built on cursed anyone involved in the opening of the hotel, and that is not in fact Jack himself in the picture, but Jack in a previous life. The spirits that haunt this hotel have a hold over his spirit and are able to draw it back to the hotel in order to destroy him all over again. They lure him in through his weakness (alcohol and a struggling career) and push him until he breaks.

In the novel, they burn the hotel to the ground, which would in fact end anymore of these occurrences like the ones that happened with Grady or Jack, but in the film they do not, leaving the hotel free to torture and destroy them again.

And it will, because it's that kind of assh*le.

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