Have you ever noticed with very little exception most movies about possession and exorcisms focus on female victims? Why is that? Is it for the gratuitous nudity that will no doubt occur when the demon tries to seduce the priest? Is it to garner more sympathy from the audience for a female victims versus a male? Or is it because the movie industry is trying to send a bigger message; that women are weaker than men and easier to dominate?
The first possession movie many of us were exposed to was 1973’s The Exorcist based off of the novel by Peter William Blatty and directed by William Friedkin. While the story was based off of real events, the main character was changed from an adolescent boy to a young girl, Reagan McNeil portrayed by Linda Blair. In the movie innocent and virginal Reagan is taken over by masculine and vulgar demon Pazuzu, who forces her to shove a crucifix into her vagina. In the sequel, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic Linda Blair’s maturity is continually exploited.
Subsequent movies to feature female possession includes; The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, The Devil Inside, The Rite, and The Exorcism of Molly Hartley. All of these women were under the influence of a masculine demonic presence and in need of assistance from a male priest, or male authority figure, to help save her soul.
Under possession these women usually contort into sexually explicit poses, flick their tongues suggestively, expose their breasts, and spit vulgarities and lewd attempts to seduce the men helping them. For instance, in The Last Exorcism Nell under possession asks Pastor Cotton Marcus if he wants a blow job. In these movies the demons use their female vessels to appeal to the men’s sexual weaknesses. You don’t see a demon possessing Dave Bautista or Vin Diesel and ripping off their shirt exposing their abs to get their way with the priest, or even a nun.
In a male dominated world as well as film industry, are the horror movie makers inadvertently saying women need men to save them? It wouldn’t be surprisingly. And really, how inadvertent is it? After all, this is a formula we have seen in movies across all of the genres time and time again.
A kiss from a prince awakens Sleeping Beauty from her cursed slumber, farmhand Westley saves Princess Buttercup from the evil Prince Humperdink, superhero Spiderman saves the beautiful yet hapless Mary Jane from falling to her death time and time again, and Liam Neeson saves, well, every female co-star he has ever acted alongside from certain peril.
While this is slowly changing in the world of movies, the horror genre is slow on the uptake. Sure there is the “final girl” in many of the slasher movies who eventually finds the strength within herself to defeat the boogeyman. And every so often a movie comes along where the woman stalks the man. However, the equation for exorcism movies seems to have stayed the same over the years; girl gets possessed, man gets called into help, man fights demon and girl is saved. Maybe we will see this formula change as more and more independent horror filmmakers are getting exposure and their ideas tend to be breaking outside of the mainstream horror box we have become accustomed to.