As the demonically-charged Jennifer’s Body chomps its way into American theaters this week, we did a 360-degree head spin, marked out a pentagram and decided to sacrifice ourselves at the bloody altar of movies’ freakiest female possessions. So here are 6 of the Scariest, 6 of the Sexiest, and — not to be forgotten — 6 of the Silliest devilish girl possessions on film. Have the projectile vomit bucket handy, and get ready to levitate…
In a film that’s filled with terrifying moments, it’s the first demonic possession that lingers. Here’s the thing: if you and your friends are in a creepy cabin in the woods and you find a tape with some old guy rambling about “The Book Of The Dead, bound in human flesh and inked in human blood”, you pretty much press “stop” before he gets to the bit where he starts reciting occult invocations. If you’ve been dumb enough to keep listening to that point, you definitely don’t go out in the woods to investigate when you hear a spooky disembodied voice saying “Join us…”. But that’s exactly what Cheryl — short-lived sister to franchise hero Ash — does, leading to her infamous rape by devil vines. Soon after, while her friends and brother try to guess which cards are being plucked from a deck, Cheryl is possessed by a Kandarian demon. It’s what we hear — her sudden psychic ability (“Eight of spades! Two of spades! Jack of Diamonds, Jack of clubs!”) that sets the spine tingling. And then she turns around.
William Friedkin’s direction. William Peter Blatty’s script. The basis in a 1949 real-life case. Powerhouse acting from Ellen Burstyn and Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller. Dick Smith’s make-up effects. Mike Oldfield’s haunting “Tubular Bells” and Jack Nitszche’s score. Cinematographer Owen Roizman’s extraordinary demon shadows and subliminal flashes. And, perhaps as much as anything, Mercedes McAmbridge’s indelible voice from the depths of Hell, which wasn’t properly credited at the time. All of it added up to give enormous, unrivalled power to Linda Blair’s 12-year-old girl Regan, infested with the demon Pazuzu, king of the demons. Spider-walks. Head spins. Projectile vomit. Disses about your momma doing stuff in Hell. It’s all terrifying and, to this day, unsurpassed.
Megan Fox has some strong competition, in both the cold-blooded and the carnality stakes, from a little-known English Beelzebabe in this underappreciated shocker. In ye olde England, a peasant farmer tilling the soil unearths some skeletal remains that’re not quite human, not quite animal; but all bad. Thus is unleashed a demonic force that begins to possess the citizenry. The main vessel is teen temptress Angel Blake, who tries to seduce Reverend Fallowfield by letting her dress fall away. When the Rev resists, Angel reveals she’s already dabbling in a bit of sacrificial murder. “Little Mark had the devil in him, so we cut it out,” she says coquettishly. Then 18-year-old Linda Hayden relishes such scenes and she smoulders in the role — until she’s made to wear oversized novelty eyebrows in the film’s second half. Then follows a totally creepy scene where she presides over a rape before repeatedly stabbing the victim with big shears and licking her lips with bloodlust.
Or is The Exorcist the be all and end all? Roman Polanski’s film, from Ira Levin’s book, isn’t nearly as flashy, but it is insidious and deeply creepy. And while The Exorcist lets you off the hook, here the end is only the horrific beginning for the baby and mom of the title. Mia Farrow is the Manhattan mother-to-be of the son of You Know Who, delivered unto her by Satanic rape. We know this. She doesn’t. Her husband, played by John Cassavetes, might. The events that keep the infernal foetus safe foretell The Omen, as does the sinister devil-worshipping conspiracy. True, Rosemary herself isn’t actually possessed, but the devil makes her not only do it, but carry it and, most terrifyingly, keep it. Rosemary’s trapped forever as mama to the beast, even if “he has his father’s eyes”.
Predating Poltergeist and ahead of its time — if it has a time — The Entity has future Oscar-nominee Barbara Hershey as a single suburban mom whose house is haunted by a particularly nasty invisible spirit. His manifestation? Raping her repeatedly. Hershey’s performance is full-tilt but the malevolent manifestation sequences — as she’s smashed around the bathroom, for instance — are scary in the worst non-fun way. Still, if horror’s meant to scare, then this succeeds. Like Emily Rose and The Exorcist, this claims to be based on a true story. Hideo Nakata, Japanese lord of the Ring franchise, is apparently remaking it.
This mixture of courtroom thriller and “true” horror introduced the world at large to Jennifer Carpenter — now better known as Dexter’s high-strung sister — as the title character. Is she possessed? Or psychotic? Either way, Carpenter is a standout, speaking in tongues, smacking holy men and achieving a scary transformation mostly without make-up but a whole lot of facial and bodily contortion. For the role, she won “Best Frightened Performance” at the MTV Movie Awards. The film is based on the actual case of a German girl, Anneliese Michel, who died in 1976 after priests who believed she was possessed tried to exorcise her demons. A German film called Requiem was also made in 2006 as a more docudramatic interpretation.
“That’s a different look for you, isn’t it?” deadpans Bill Murray’s Dr. Peter Venkman as he opens the door to see Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett, now possessed by Zuul and looking all the hotter for it. That her takeover is complete is confirmed when s/he/it declares ever-so-memorably: “There is no Dana, only Zuul“. Drool. Weaver has never looked more ravishing — the Alien finale included — than in that flaming crimson dress set against the New York skyline. This possessive state of affairs comes about when Zuul — an 8000-year-old demonic minion of Gozer the Gozerian — takes control of her in a scene in which three demon hands pop up out of her sofa before she and her furniture are sucked into the light… thus turning her into “The Gatekeeper”.
The only possessed lady to have originated in the mind of Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike, this, like Ghostbusters, caught a 1980s screen siren at her most ravishing. And she had pretty stiff competition from co-stars Cher, Susan Sarandon and horniest little devil Jack Nicholson doing his best devilish Jack as the devilish Daryl Van Horne (surely the most obvious Old Nickname since Louis Cypher). After being the last of his conquests, Sukie Ridgemont joins her similarly enchanted gal pals for some levitation and Luciferian love-makin’. Not so much possessed as she is, well, rather empowered, by the end of the movie Sukie is impregnated with the devil’s spawn. Pfeiffer wins on the sexy side of things, but special note has to be made of Veronica Cartwright’s scary-funny cherry pit spewing sequence.
Following Heathers, but before Charmed and Mean Girls, there was this tame but trashy and enjoyable grrrrl-power supernatural flick. Robin Tunney’s troubled Sarah becomes part of a high-school coven comprised of Bonnie, Rochelle and Nancy (Neve Campbell, Rachel True and Fairuza Balk). These gals’ goal is to “invoke the spirit” Manon but it’s Nancy who, after getting struck by lightning, gets the hotline to this Higher Evil. She kills Sarah’s love interest Chris (Skeet Ulrich), turns on her sister-witches and, in the end, has a freak-out face-off with our heroine, who’s renounced the dark side. With her big Goth hair, studded choker and bad-girl mascara, Falk’s definitely the sexiest of the craftswomen, and gets the movie’s hands-down best line: “Mister, we are the weirdos.”
If the reviews are anything to go by, The Unborn should’ve stayed that way; it really was a horrifically bad horror film. That said, Odette Yustman was pretty eye-catching in the lead role as the girl who’s sorta-kinda possessed by the twin brother she killed in the womb. How all this relates to Nazi experiments was beyond our understanding because — after so many fake Dolby-blare scares and scenes in which supposedly freaked-out teens calm themselves by going to a rave to drink Red Bull — we’d lost interest. But back to Yustman, yes, quite good looking. The film’s marketing people obviously thought so, using her derriere on the poster as the movie’s major selling point. At the end, for those who drifted right off (spoiler!), Casey turns out to be pregnant with her own — possibly evil — twins. It was optimistic, thinking there might be a sequel to this.
From that awesome mid-to-late 1980s period that gave us Night of the Creeps and Brain Damage, Night of the Demons is a cult favorite because it gives horror audiences exactly what they want — teenage girls who shed their clothes, lines like “maybe I’m in the mood for pork tonight” and democratic demonic possession in which lots of the cast get to go nuts. And when it’s Mimi Kinkade’s Angela’s turn, the lithe Goth — who clearly used the same stylist Fairuza would turn to a few years later — does a sexy dance in front of a fireplace, pants her way to orgasm, crawls across the floor, and then rocks out, underwear on show, to Bauhaus’s “Stigmata”. Then she kisses a hapless admirer, bites his tongue off and spits in back at him with a bloodstained grin.
Fear not — no Faustian pacts were made with either el Diablo or Fox (Megan or 20th Century) when we say this — Jennifer is about as sexy as devil babes get. No-one’s arguing that Megan Fox is the world’s greatest actress — Meryl Streep can rest easy for the moment — but it’s hard to imagine anyone playing this role better. She inhabits the cynical-but-brainless, violent-but-vulnerable role pretty much perfectly and, in terms of bringing evil eroticism to her cannibalistic cheerleader, it’s easy to believe that every guy (and girl) she meets would being torn to pieces for a piece of that. It’s also easy to see why that tongue kiss made its way onto the interwebs as a tool every bit as important to the marketing as the “Hell yes!” poster.
Repossessed might just have been the best movie Linda Blair made in 1990, a year that also see her do Bedroom Eyes II and Zapped Again! That’s not to suggest that this Exorcist send-up is any good. Despite the presence of Leslie Nielsen, then on a roll with his Naked Gun! flicks, this is a dire satire. Seventeen years after Nielsen’s Father Jebedaiah Mayii kicks the devil out of Blair’s l’il Nancy Aglet, the Evil One sets up house in her once again. Hence, the film’s punny title. Exorcism showdowns ensue, with the central one televised on an evangelical TV program, before the unfunny finale sees Nancy reveal that Satan actually hates rock and roll. This enables Nielsen to dress as a punk fronting a band that includes The Pope. They belt out “Devil In A Blue Dress”. Nancy calls 911 and asks to be returned to Hell. Viewers who make it this far might sympathize. Exorcist II: The Heretic is funnier, albeit unintentionally.
At least this one’s deliberately silly. And it’s so silly in fact that you can’t help but smile every time you see it. Up until this point in Tim Burton’s ghoulish comedy, lovely couple Barbara and Adam (Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin) have been relegated to ghosts in what should’ve been their dream house, now occupied by the horrible and pretentious Delia and Charles Deetz (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones), and their cute-as-a-button rebel-Goth daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder). Now, during a dinner party, the “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), as part of his campaign to evict the Deetzes, possesses first Delia, then Charles, then their guests. The result isn’t pea-soup spewing or head-spinning, but rather a spirited song-and-dance set to “Day-O”, with Harry Belafonte’s voice ringing forth from the bewildered victims. For dessert? Demon arms springing out of the dinnerware.
Lucio Fulci’s stab at the possession genre rips off a slew of better efforts, including The Exorcist (possessed little girl), The Omen (creepy photos), The Birds (beaky freakouts) and Rosemary’s Baby (a character is actually named Adrian Marcato). It also takes up the Egyptian theme getting screen time then (The Awakening , Time Walker ) and hedged its bets with alternative release titles The Possessed and Eye of the Evil Dead . Anyway, typically crazed (if stylishly) realized story cut short, little Susie gets possessed/cursed by an Egyptian demon that’s transferred via an amulet given to her by a blind crone in Egypt, where her dad’s on an archeological dig that specializes in tomb desecration. Back in Manhattan, all heck breaks loose, with Susie getting her blue glow on, a cobra appearing out of nowhere and a guy turning to sand. Turns out an evil Egyptian force is using her as a kinda time-space portal. Jinkies.
One of the last horror films from legendary schlockmeister Al Adamsom, this has the titular character possessed by the spirit of an occultist named Reanhauer, who seeks revenge on the medical establishment after they fail to save his life when he has a heart attack. His evil essence — a green glowing cloud — enters Nurse Sherri while she’s pleasuring herself, causing her to get rabid red eyes and a shouty man-voice as she attacks the medical establishment with pitchforks and cleavers. In the usual fashion of Adamson’s flicks, this was marketed to different demographics, playing some theaters with padded naughty footage as a sex romp, while other inner-city audiences saw a poster that posited it as a blaxploitation flick. In any guise — or under any of its various titles (Black Voodoo, Beyond the Living, Hospital Of Terror) — it’s a bit of a dud, although, by Adamson’s standards, one of his more professional shows.
Could any ’70s teenage boy resist such a title as Satan’s Cheerleaders ? After a generous serve of tame titilation — and talk of an “orgy” — our four pom-pom babes hit the road to The Big Game. But their school’s Satanist janitor uses his occult powers to make their car crash and the girls find they’re trapped in a village populated by old character actors (John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo and, of course, John Carradine), most of whom are devil worshippers. In a plot twist that’ll amuse those who’ve seen Jennifer’s Body , the Satanists want an “unsoiled maiden” to be the “bride” for the “Prince of Night”. But these feisty gals are spectacularly unafraid to be in the presence of his Growling Darkness. “Are you kidding, man?” says Debbie, smirking, when’s she’s selected first. “I’m no maiden, I’ve been a cheerleader for three years…” But the bad guys get even more than they bargained for when it turns out their last choice, Patti, is already channeling some supernatural Higher Power of her own. So, a little bit Exorcist, a little bit Carrie, and a whole lot of dumb.
Those who thought The Final Conflict or The Omen remake were the worst things to happen to the devil-child franchise clearly missed this little stinker, which was originally made for TV but crept into cinemas briefly. This time out, Lucifer gets himself born in the form of Delia, and is adopted by a couple or the usual high-profile types. There follows the usual Satanic shenanigans involving the black-haired, black-eyed child staring evilly as a nanny goes out a window with the help of a Doberman and mom (in this case Faye Grant) gets suspicious about her kid’s real birth parents. Turns out Delia’s Damien Thorne’s daughter — and thus granddaughter of the Devil. But wait, she’s not the Antichrist because that’s actually the embryo implanted into mommy. It makes even less sense given that, er, The Final Conflict ended with the Second Coming, which appears in this film to have been forgotten by Earth’s entire population.