After watching The Conjuring, Dilly Hussain writes how Hollywood has profited billions of dollars by glamourising religious exorcism over the years.
Since The Exorcist (1973) which is arguably the best horror movie to date, Hollywood had a tendency to remake and regurgitate horror movies based on supernatural entities, demonic spirits and the Christian practice of exorcism. I must confess, besides historical war genre and gangster flicks, I am a big fan of horror movies.
This Eid, the choices I was presented with were snooker, shisha or going to the cinema, and after reading promising reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB which rated The Conjuring on the same level as The Exorcist, I knew how my evening was being spent!
My friends reluctantly agreed to watch the movie after I told them it was based on a real life story of “The Warren files” and directed by James Wan, the director of Saw and Insidious.
After watching The Conjuring, I couldn’t help but think that religious exorcism and demonic spirits had once again been used by Hollywood to not only make millions of dollars, but also desensitise the masses from religion and genuine supernatural events.
Better than The Exorcist?
If it was simply a question of whether The Conjuring was “scarier” than The Exorcist then my simple answer is yes. James Wan has succeeded in directing probably one the greatest horror movies of the 21st century so far.
Wan’s signature slow build ups to nauseating fright scenes literally had the audience at the edge of their seats. A friend of mines who I promised not to name and shame, is a first dan black belt in Tang Soo Do, he walked out an hour into the movie, waited in the car park and text me “You ruined my life”, so I guess this movie isn’t for the faint hearted!
But saying that, there was hardly any blood and gore, and that’s what made The Conjuring a classy and serious horror movie because Wan felt that it wasn’t necessary to include the typical “hands over eyes” scenes. Instead, he utilised a progressive momentum of scenes filled with suspense which led to numerous classic “jump moments”.
Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) were the real life exorcism and demonic investigation team who documented the disturbing events at the Perron household in 1971 in their famous “Warren Files”. The couple attended the Perron’s new home, and discovered that a witch (Sheba) who sold her soul to Satan by sacrificing her seven-week old baby previously lived at the farmhouse at Harrisville, Rhode Island.
The youngest daughter April (Kyla Deaver) found an old toy that belonged to a young boy named Rory, the son of Sheba’s housemaid. With this discovery the connection between the seen and the “unseen” was established and the paranormal activities heightened. Sheba eventually possessed the mother of five, Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) with the intention of sacrificing April as she did with her newborn.
The Warrens were devout Catholics but Ed was not qualified to carry out the exorcism, nor was he keen due to serious complications in a previous exorcism. However, he was left with no choice but to perform the exorcism on Carolyn. Numerous innuendos pertaining to the lack of “religiousness” of the Perron family were made by Ed who suggested that the children should be baptised and that demons are naturally inclined to people of little or no faith.
Hollywood capitalising on religion
Many would argue that Hollywood has been profiting from their sensationalist depiction of religious exorcism, the role of spirits and demons in Christianity for decades, and they would be right in saying that. But the point I want to make is, what is their objective besides raking in billions?
If you take the global population of Christians (2.2 billion) and Muslims (1.7 billion), we’re talking about over two thirds of the world believe in exorcism, spirits, demons or jinns. If you include Hinduism, Judaism and other indigenous religions in Africa and Asia, we are talking about over 80 per cent of Earth’s inhabitants believe in a concept of Satan, supernatural entities and human possession.
There’s no need to mention how influential Hollywood is to other film industries. You get the likes of Bollywood (India), Lollywood (Pakistan) and Dhallywood (Bangladesh) that have been making Exorcist copy-cat movies for at least 20 years with their own cultural spin, of which many are shockingly ridiculous.
From an Islamic perspective, (I’m sure many Christians would agree) the ritual of exorcism (Ruqya in Islam) and demonic possession of humans is no laughing matter. It is real, it exists and many could narrate stories from Holy Scriptures and the lives of the Prophets (as) to prove its seriousness.
For all three Abrahamic faiths, the story Prophet Solomon and his dealings with jinns and black magic are well known. The Jews of Kabala who sold their souls to the devil to learn the evil art of black magic is also common knowledge. In Islam, we have numerous Ayat of the Qur’an where Allah (swt) mentions that He created another being made from “smokeless fire” known as “jinn” of whom are believers and disbelievers in Him. The story of when Prophet Muhammad (saw) was rejected by the people of Taif, that same day a group of jinn (believed to be Jewish) came to him to accept Islam.
Desensitisation to religion
Taking on board all the aforementioned beliefs in mainstream Abrahamic religions, what does Hollywood aim to achieve by glamourising exorcism, demons and human possession?
My conclusion is that besides making an astronomical amount of money, the ideological objective is to desensitise people from religion in an ever growing secular humanist world that believes it lives according to “scientific facts”. By continuously depicting the ritual act of exorcism, be it in Christianity or Islam, viewers take these events as laughable entertainment once they’ve left the cinema or the TV’s turned off – a night’s fright.
When you see movies like The Exorcist, Blair Witch Project, Poltergeist, Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Conjuring, besides a sleepless night, you tend to become ignorant to accepting or even respecting concepts like afterlife, angels, Satan, jinns, Judgement Day, paradise, hell, and even the existence of God.
The movie ended with a quote by Ed Warren: “Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”
Upon reading that, someone from the audience shouted “yeah right”…need I say more?
The Conjuring is currently showing in cinemas throughout the UK.