• Abby Brenker

The Best: Films About Possession


The Exorcist (1973) One of the most famous horror films of all time happens to center around a case of demonic possession. 12-year-old Regan must endure the entity within her, while her mother enlists local clergy to help. To me, The Exorcist is the most classic example of possession in film. Not Only does it follow all of the rules, it sets many of them. This film evokes classic paranormal cases like the Enfield Poltergeist and fictionalizes it in a way that feels both grounded and terrifying.


Jennifer’s Body (2009) A much more modern example, Jennifer’s Body is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It’s the classic pairing of an actually scary film, with the fun, levity and flair of a classic teen flick. Jennifer is host to a possession that causes her to murder, quite graphically, her classmates. Delicious.


Possession (1981) This film is a bit newer to me, but now that I’ve seen it I'm obsessed with it. The film tells the story of the end of a marriage through the lens of possession. The allegories are endless. Possession is highly stylized and incredibly rich in its execution.


The Conjuring (2013) Based on true events, The Conjuring tells the story of one of The Warren’s most famous cases. It’s a terrifying film that seeps under your skin and haunts your dreams. It’s directed by horror icon James Wan and kicks off a never-ending (and arguably weak) horror franchise.


Paranormal Activity (2007) This film toes the line between external haunting and possession throughout, but we can’t ignore that iconic shot of our leading lady standing over the bed for hours and hours (see above)…One of the best found footage films ever made, Paranormal Activity has withstood the test of time. Still completely unnerving and equally funny.


Hereditary (2018) Ari Astor’s directorial debut, and a film that changed the landscape of modern horror, Hereditary is an incredible work of art. From the cinematography to the slow build of tension, it implants itself in your brain and stays there. Not to mention dream-girl Toni Collete’s epic performance.


The Shining (1980) Directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, The Shining needs no introduction. If you haven’t seen it by this point, you should stop reading this and watch it. The Shining plays with the idea of possession and addiction, in a similar way to Possession (1981). It works so well on so many levels.


The Evil Dead (1981) I have a very distinct memory of watching this film a few years ago with my family over the holidays. It’s so fun. In many ways it's a classic 80s slasher film, but it’s also so much more. We kept shouting at the television, enraged by the choices each character made. But so invested in their survival.

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