The Phantom Devil
You know, the very best film experiences are sometimes the ones that are the hardest work. If you don’t work at this one, you’ll be stuck at the John Carpenter level. But if you do…
Consider it this way. Some movies are made by fundamentalist Christians as part of their battle with the devil. These depict a battle with the devil, in fact the very same battle. Even though I’m an unbeliever, by my very act of watching, I become a weapon in that battle. Pretty terrifying if you think of it, especially if you believe in created realities (which you must when you watch movies).
It doesn’t matter if these fundamentalist movies are bad, in fact it is better because you maintain your dual perspectives: in the movie and aware of watching it. And in any case, with Pat Robertson’s billion dollar film school, these will get better. Indeed, many people thought Mel Gibson’s film was competent.
Now to this movie. We have one film, the original “Exorcist”. It is thirty years in our past and twenty-five years in the future of the main character. We know, but he doesn’t. That’s always in the background, that one layer of reality.
Then we have another film, the one Paul Schrader made using this same crew and sets. It is made from the perspective of the priest. It is cerebral, based on human needs and weaknesses. It is humanistly cinematic. We don’t see that film, we only imagine it. Another reality.
And then we have the film the studio bosses remade. This one is made from the perspective of the devil. It is cinematically evil: lots of fetid maggots, implied Crowley-like perverted sex (only meekly implied), requisite Nazis, simpleminded natives (borderline in the racist stereotypes here), thickheaded Brits and scheming, lying priests. Each of these vie for control of the narrative.
So we have a struggle for narrative control within this one movie. We have the larger battle between the priest’s movie (which we can only imagine) and the devil’s movie (to which we give money and energy before it even starts). Us as a weapon in that battle as well.
I cannot image anything more horrifying. Doesn’t matter if it is poorly done or not. This is real.
Posted in 2005
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.