History of Horror: Eli Roth takes a look at The Demons Inside


Eli Roth in his latest History of Horror episode takes a look at the supernatural and demonic possessions with The Demons Inside.

The Syllabus

Eli Roth is presenting a master class in his latest History of Horror episode. This time the focus is on the supernatural and demonic possession with The Demons Inside. In film, demonic possession wasn’t fully explored until 1973 with The Exorcist.

The reason for the lack of motion pictures featuring this subject matter was largely due to Hollywood’s Hays Code which was in place from the early 30’s until the late 60’s. Basically, the Production Code ensured that motion pictures would retain some sort of moral decency. Which boils down to the industry attempting to police itself.

However, according to History of Horror, The Exorcist is the film that started the demonic possession trend. Of course, Rosemary’s Baby was beforehand in 1968 but that was about Satan fathering a child and not possession by one of the Devil’s minions.

Roth and his team of experts ranging from Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Fuller, Leigh Whannell, Elijah Wood and Diablo Cody dissect and add anecdotes to each segment. Tonight’s show takes a deep dive into The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity, Jennifer’s Body, Evil Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and Get Out.

What is really compelling about the way that Roth sets up each episode is how he gets the actual principles from the films involved. So, not only do you get the experts opinions on the effects of the genre but you get the filmmakers viewpoints too on what they have created.

The Power of Realism

Part of the reason why possession is such a frightening topic is because we all hate to lose control of ourselves and our lives. Films like The Exorcist remind us that there are more realms than meet the eye in the universe and something like this isn’t far-fetched and could ostensibly happen.

It was very important for director William Friedkin to get Linda Blair to play Regan as a typical young girl. Someone that the audience could identify with. The real scare in this film is her transformation and Friedkin and the actress understood that.

Paranormal Activity has the same formula as The Exorcist. A normal couple’s lives are infiltrated by a demon and there is a slow progression toward possession that keeps the audience on its toes.

The way the film is shot in the “found footage” documentary style just enhances the experience. It ends up being a very effective technique because it enables the audience to feel as if the events are frighteningly real.

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is another story. While it deals with possession it also has a hefty dose of dark humor mixed in with the horrific events. Filmmaker Leigh Whannell likens it to what would happen if you gave The Three Stooges a chainsaw.

Even Quentin Tarantino notes that you had to get it. There was a weird sense of humor that runs throughout the trilogy and if you can find that, you will enjoy Raimi’s efforts.

The franchise was a series of firsts. As Tarantino points out, Evil Dead 2 showed budding filmmakers that there was a new way to shoot a movie. Bruce Campbell spoke about turning the “Scream Queen” trope upside down by having a man scream like a girl. Sam Raimi realized the power in doing that because it would succeed in scaring the audiences.

Richard Donner’s The Omen was an exercise in great storytelling. Having marquee names like Gregory Peck who was a cinematic idol for decades and veteran actress Lee Remick in a horror movie did give this production a distinct element of class.

A Genre Filled with Subtext

As focused on in Episode 1 with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead movies, horror can deliver messages along with scares. Rosemary’s Baby is a movie about Satan fathering a child with a mortal woman but director Karyn Kusama sees it as being a metaphor for “domestic violence and emotional violence in relationships between men and women.”

Even The Exorcist could be seen as speaking to the generational conflicts that were going on all over the world in the 70’s. While Jennifer’s Body as written by Diablo Cody reflects society’s obsession with physical appearance as told in the context of demonic possession.

Jordan Peele’s brilliantly scripted Get Out is also a film about possession of a different sort and takes a look at the horror of racism through this story of black people having their bodies taken over by white people that want their youth and beauty.

That is the unique appeal of the horror genre. Filmmakers have the ability to address societal concerns through may different tools such as demonic possession, monsters, zombies, etc. Jordan Peele says it best, “Everybody has a dark side that needs to be fulfilled.”

The Verdict

I keep reiterating this every week but Eli Roth and his producers and staff have done an excellent job taking a niche subject and making it interesting to anyone who loves film. The talent and the movies that are the focal points of each episode are excellent choices that illustrate the best that the horror genre has to offer.

Related Story. Bruce Campbell talks about The Demons Inside on History of Horror. light

What really works is the fact that Roth has a very conversational style with his guests. Which truly makes you feel like you are eavesdropping on personal discourses in a living room somewhere. That inclusiveness of the audience works and keeps them coming back for more.

Catch Eli Roth’s History of Horror every Sunday at midnight on AMC.

What did you think of The Demons Inside? Do you have a favorite demonic possession or supernatural film? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below. We want to hear from you.