From Reaffirming to Challenging Traditions: A critical comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II

This post is based on a presentation that I delivered along with Dr. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard at the MPCA/ACA annual conference which took place October 3-5, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This paper is part of a larger project exploring how exorcism films deal a variety of cultural tensions, including female subjugation/rebellion, colonialism, and more. We hope to develop this project as a book, and recently submitted a prospectus and a version of this sample chapter to a publisher. As always, I welcome any and all feedback, so if you have an suggestions or questions, please leave them in the comments below the article. In any event, thanks for reading.

From Reaffirming to Challenging Traditions: A critical comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II

 Introduction

This paper examines how The Last Exorcism (2010) and The Last Exorcism Part II (2013) differ in their representation of the concepts of possession and exorcism. While The Last Exorcism makes use of the found footage conceit to project the illusion that the events onscreen are real, the film’s narrative reflects what we have termed the “traditional exorcism narrative” initially established in The Exorcist (1973). Beat for beat, The Last Exorcism presents a savior priest attempting to exorcise a helpless woman whose possession makes her at once a monster and a damsel in distress. Thus, the film’s innovation primarily lies in how it portrays these events, rather than in its content. In contrast, The Last Exorcism Part II rejects the found footage conceit in favor of a more straightforward Hollywood narrative structure. The film’s portrayal of exorcism, however, problematizes the traditional exorcism narrative due to the way it ultimately resolves the central character’s possession, because it represents the rare occurrence of a possession narrative that does not align with the idea of oppressing or suppressing feminine power, sexuality, and agency.

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The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 1 – Easy Rider (1969)

The Pop Culture Lens is a new scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we offer fresh perspectives on past media to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so that the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but but present our information in a way that everyone can understand.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)

In Cult Catalogue, I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. More than anything, these posts simply represent my attempt to put forth my thoughts on lesser known cult films and so-called “bad” movies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Unlike the last entry in this series, I was quite sure that I had never seen Voyage of the Rock Aliens. In fact, I had never even heard of the movie prior to this year, and only became aware of its existence when I bought a copy of Trailer War, the fantastic and fun compilation of old grindhouse, exploitation, kung fu, and horror movie trailers released by Drafthouse Films. My complete ignorance of Voyage of the Rock Aliens most likely results from the fact that the film never received any sort of wide theatrical distribution anywhere in the world. In fact, according to the film’s IMDb trivia page, Voyage of the Rock Aliens only ever “played in extremely limited release in America and Europe and debuted on television in Canada.” Furthermore, the film only made its way to home video in a handful of places during the three decades following its initial release. As a result, it seemed as though Voyage of the Rock Aliens was one of those movies destined to fade into complete obscurity. Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising YouTube user who posts under the handle KingTaco7, however, the film has been unearthed for all the world to see, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Phase IV (1974)

This is the first entry in what I hope will be a new, semi-regular feature here at Seems Obvious to Me, in which I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Phase IV, the sole directorial effort from noted graphic designer Saul Bass, was originally released in September of 1974, roughly five months after I was born. If memory serves, I first saw it (or at least parts of it) sometime in 1984, when I was nine or ten years old, and I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with the film ever since. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure I had seen the entire movie, as I could barely remember anything about the actual plot or narrative (which I will get into shortly). Yet for the past 30 years or so, I have been haunted by the film’s unsettling imagery, such as a sequence of people staggering through a torrent of viscous yellow poison, or the shot of a young woman emerging from a sandy floor deep within the bowels of a massive ant hill. I think it’s safe to say Phase IV had an effect on me, even if the details weren’t always clear.

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