Life and Death and Demons

I just saw The Possessed. Let’s talk demon logic. Spoilers ahead.

The demon in The Possessed is corporeal. It has a body. I do not understand how this works for a bunch of reasons, so I’m going to think about it much too hard. Cascading from pickiest to most fundamental:

  1. The demon is mostly trapped in a box. But when we see the demon, it looks much larger than the box. It also looks much different when it appears on the MRI images than it does when it is crawling on the floor post-exorcism. Is it a shape-shifter? Or does it expand or contract to fill the available space? It looked like a woman in the MRI, but was definitely more of a thing crawling on the floor.
  2. I don’t think the kind of demons that possess people in movies have bodies. We often see representative depictions of the demons. In Drag Me To Hell the demon is a goat:
    laaaaaaaammmmmmiiiiiiaaaaaa
    (
    via)
    In The Exorcist, we get this weird dude’s face:
    He's only there for a second
    (via)
    In general, there are lots of pictures of embodied demons frolicking in their hell playground. But I figured that there’s a difference between the demon in hell, and the demonic spirit that possesses humans. I don’t want to think about the logistics of how this works–do the demons project their spirit selves into the non-hell world? Is it part of their damnation that they sometimes find their spirits topside without access to a body? How do Plato’s forms relate to their non-form counterparts, exactly?–but I never for a minute thought that there was ACTUALLY a vampire-looking dude crouching inside Linda Blair’s sternum. The Possession would have you believe the embodied demon is literally hiding inside the body of its possessed host. Which. No. Just no.
    To continue thinking too hard about this–I was totally fine with the scene where Emily looks at her throat in the mirror and sees fingers coming out of her esophagus, because she’s possessed and hallucinating. I’m fine with demon spirits casting representational shadows. I am not OK with the mother of the possessed watching her daughter’s MRI and realizing there is near-life-size woman chilling out by the intestines.
  3. What does this demon want, anyway? While they’re driving back from Brooklyn, Matisyahu tells the possessed girl’s father that the demon wants most that which it does not have: life. But. That makes no sense. By every available definition of life, the thing that is possessing Emily in The Possessed is alive. I think normally in movies, demon spirits possess people because they don’t have bodies, so they can’t really do much. But this demon has a body. It’s just trapped in a box. So once Emily opens the box, all it has to do is…get out of the box. And then not go back in. If Matisyahu had stuck to the “demons are evil and they like wreaking havoc” explanation, I might have understood why it needed to get into Emily’s body. But to say that the demon is trying to live is metaphysical nonsense. If you’re dead, you’re dead. If you’re alive, you’re alive. If you’re able to possess something, you’re alive, you just maybe don’t have a body, or you’ve left your body behind in hell, or part of your soul is still with your body but another part is out haunting, or whatever. But “I WANT TO LIVE” is not an acceptable motive for demon possession.

Obviously none of these things are really problems; they are just the reasons I think The Possessed is kind of silly, based on the pantheon of other demon movies that have led me to believe I understand the mechanisms of fictional possession. And also the talking box shots just reminded me of the Geico commercials with a stack of money with googley eyeballs.







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