Friday, August 27, 2010

Top movies about possession

The Last Exorcism premieres today and the reviews for it are pretty favorable, especially considering it's a docu-style horror produced by Eli Roth. The Rotten Tomatoes tally is a decent - and hilarious - 69 percent, so this might just be a demon flick with lasting power.

To tap into the movie's release, the Associated Press has put together a list of the top movies about possession. The list is fun, and includes classics The Shining, The Exorcist, Ghost Busters, All of Me and Heaven Can Wait.

However, this isn't groundbreaking and omits more recent entries like Evil Dead 2, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Paranormal Activity.

Here's what they have to say, and then let us know what else they missed:

The Exorcist
 (1973): Of course, we have to go with this one first. The imagery is iconic: the spinning head and the projectile pea soup, the rumbling bed and those profane words coming out of sweet little Linda Blair’s mouth. William Friedkin’s film received 10 Oscar nominations and won two (for William Peter Blatty’s screenplay and for sound), and it was the first horror film to be nominated for best picture. Even today, when horror movies feature much more graphic violence, The Exorcist chills to the bone, mainly because the mere idea of a 12-year-old girl being possessed by the devil is so disturbing. This is still one of the scariest movies ever made, if not THE scariest. But it has tough competition from ...
The Shining [Blu-ray]The Shining (1980): One of Stanley Kubrick’s most visually striking films, based on the Stephen King novel (although King himself was famously unhappy with it). The sense of isolation out there at that big, rambling Overlook Hotel – in the snow, in the dead of winter – is enough to make you feel uneasy, but the idea that supernatural spirits in the place could take over a man’s body and prompt him to try and kill his wife and young son is just terrifying. There’s nowhere to run. Kubrick was a master at freaking you out with camera angles, lighting and pacing, but the film’s surreal imagery – the look on Jack Nicholson’s face alone – remains haunting three decades later.
All of MeAll of Me (1984): A great showcase for Steve Martin’s extreme gift of physical comedy and Lily Tomlin’s brainy zaniness. Martin makes you believe he’s truly split in two – that the soul of Tomlin’s character, a dead millionaire, has accidentally entered his body and that both are vying for control over it. What he does here is crazed and precise all at once. This absurd premise is played as if it makes total sense, and that’s why it works. But for all the struggles between these two disparate characters – and all the delightfully madcap humor, carefully controlled by Carl Reiner in one of his better offerings as a director – an unexpected tenderness eventually develops.
Ghostbusters (1984): A comic classic, obviously – let’s just get that out of the way and move on. The phrase “Are you the Keymaster?” spoken by a possessed Sigourney Weaver in a slinky red dress and wild hair and makeup, is instantly recognizable all these years later. But as Bill Murray learns in the kind of sly, confident performance that’s emblematic of his work in the ’80s, there is no Dana, only Zuul. Dana’s been taken over by a demonic beast living in her Manhattan high-rise, causing her to roll her eyes, roar and float above her bed. Director Ivan Reitman takes all this traditional demonic-possession imagery and uses it to amuse us rather than make us scream.
Heaven Can WaitHeaven Can Wait (1978): Warren Beatty showed off his charm and smarts in this screwball-comedy throwback, a remake of 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, winning one for its art direction. Beatty, as co-director with Buck Henry and co-writer with Elaine May, is of course the star as a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who’s killed in an accident but finds himself sent back to Earth in the body of an eccentric billionaire. But Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin do great, showy supporting work, and Julie Christie couldn’t be lovelier. Satire, sweetness and strong visuals blend seamlessly here.