Exorcisms, Movie Studios, the Church...and the Masses

1/06/2011 Posted by Admin

Exorcisms, Movie Studios, the Church...and the Masses


By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

While many of the Roman Catholic Church’s practices have fallen out of favor with the public (such as actually attending church services and praying ), there’s one that still fascinates the masses--exorcisms. And there’s nobody who wants to cash in on that age-old practice more than Hollywood.

“The Last Exorcism,” released in August, cashed in on demonic possession and grossed $65 million worldwide. If Warner Bros. has their way (and they probably will), the new Anthony Hopkins’ film “The Rite,” about an American priest who studies at an Italian exorcism school, will be a sleeper hit when it opens Jan. 28.

Yes, the idea of a school for exorcists seems a bit far-fetched, but you might be surprised. In November 2010, the New York Times reported on a Baltimore conference held by the Roman Catholic Church to train 66 priests and 56 bishops in the rite of exorcism.

Exchange Italy for Baltimore and what you have, in a nutshell, is the new Anthony Hopkins film, or 122 potential John Constantines in a closed-door conference. Or, more likely than either of those scenarios, there was probably a lot of talk about a bogus archaic practice that has been glorified far too often over the past few decades.

After all, everyone now knows what a demon looks and acts like. Right?

When you hear the word “exorcism,” your mind turns to Linda Blair’s Regan from 1973, spider-walking, twisting her head 360 degrees, spitting up pea soup and engaging in a number of other unnatural, unhealthy and obscene actions. It’s all very evil, and it has now become tangible and universal for anyone even vaguely familiar with “The Exorcist.” And in this day and age, who isn’t?

Movies have materialized a “bad guy” in the minds of the movie-goers, and have given the church an easy way to grab headlines and the public’s attention. But what might initially seem like a propaganda stunt, the church is only supplying a service to the public that is, sadly, demanding it.

The Times article states that the few priests who were trained to perform exorcisms in the United States were “overwhelmed with requests from people who fear they are possessed by the Devil.”

Really, people? How, in a world where magic and tall tales have been replaced by science and a thirst for hard facts, is the number of Devil-possession claims on the rise?

So, who’s to blame for all of this unnecessary training of future Father Merrins? It is not up to the church, movie studios, Eli Roth or Anthony Hopkins, but the movie-goers to separate fact from fiction. When done effectively, horror movies are intended to scare you and make you feel a little uneasy at night. It is up to you to be a more responsible movie watcher (OK, maybe not you, because you’re already incredibly responsible, but your neighbor).

Enjoy “The Last Exorcism.” Enjoy movies about demons that may (or may not) scare the crap out of you. But don’t call for an emergency exorcism until you see some heads spinning.

"The Last Exorcism” is currently available on DVD. Below is the trailer for “The Rite,” which hits theaters Jan. 28. What are your thoughts on exorcisms?

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