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08.27.10

8 Exorcism Movie Dos and Don’ts

The Rite, which hits theaters this weekend, is part of a grand tradition of soul-purging horror flicks, from demon children to locust swarms. See the dos and don’ts of cinematic exorcisms.

DO: Remember the Devil’s in the Details

Aside from showing us that even cute little 12-year-olds like Linda Blair could be vessels for Satan, 1973’s The Exorcist was chock full of other tips. For example, when exorcising the demon from a hijacked body, avoid ingesting projectile vomit and instigating a violent rant against Jesus by placing a cross under the possessed one’s pillow. And don’t overestimate the strength of a window.

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DON’T: Forget Satan Has Friends

In The Exorcist, a wise Catholic priest said that you should never get to know the demon being exorcised. Well, this wisdom was completely ignored in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the demons (yes, plural) introduced themselves—young Emily was playing Holiday Inn of the Damned to Cain, Nero, Judas, Legion, Belial, and Lucifer.

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DO: Try to Be the Mature One

The opening sequence of Scary Movie 2 was a spoof of The Exorcist filled with satisfying scenes of puke and demon-human relationships. But in its humor is a clear lesson: It is imperative that an exorcist not stoop to the juvenile level of the tormenting fiend. Otherwise, as seen here, one may be forced to resort to barbaric means to end the dispute.

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DO: Give Keanu Props

Exorcists have a leg up on their demonic adversaries if armed with one thing: Keanu Reeves. In the underappreciated film Constantine, the title character spends his final days chain smoking and flipping the bird, all while expelling half-demons back to hell.

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DON’T: Let the Locust Swarm Hold You Back

Exorcist II: The Heretic, the sequel to the original, was bloated on special effects and thin on plot cohesion. While a priest grapples with his fate, the demon Pazuzu takes the form of a 17-year-old Linda Blair and fights the real Linda Blair. Really. The moral of this story is that pulling out a demon’s heart, even if surrounded by a swarm of locusts, will end a demon’s reign of terror.

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DO: Use Music as a Force of Good

In the 1990 spoof Repossessed, the Devil enters Blair’s body after she watches the religious television show The Ernest and Fanny Miracle Hour. A surefire way to ensure that an exorcism goes as planned is to host a live concert of religious leaders singing “Devil With a Blue Dress,” complete with a guitar-playing pope.

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DON’T: Carry Sharp Objects

When attempting to save your girlfriend from a cosmic force that controls her body and threatens to destroy the world, avoid carrying sharp objects. Just take Wolverine’s word for it. In the climax of X-Men: The Last Stand, he sinks his claws into Jean Grey to rid her of “The Phoenix.” Judging by Hugh Jackman’s primal scream, exorcism by murder of a loved one should only be used as a last resort.

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DON'T: Let Your Job Consume You

All work and no play makes Father Lucas...the devil? In 2011’s The Rite, Anthony Hopkins plays a hardened exorcist struggling to convince his pupil that a pregnant woman (who coughed up nails) is possessed. Soon enough, Hopkins' body is visited by an “old friend,” who is also an ardent supporter of his theory that Satan really does exist. If the nails didn't convince the non-believer, perhaps the chilling voices and telekinesis will do the trick.

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Sujay Kumar works at The Daily Beast. He's written for MTV Splash Page and The Daily Illini.