Demonic possession. It makes up a large chunk of the horror genre, from classics like The Exorcist to B-grades like The Rite and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The idea that a spiritual being could commandeer our physical forms is both fascinating and terrifying to viewers.
Now, I’m pretty much the opposite of a horror buff, so instead of any of those movies I’m going to talk about Supernatural and Blue Exorcist, and how possession is portrayed and fought in these series.
Demon possession first shows up in the fourth episode of Supernatural, and remains a go-to plot point for the remainder of the show. The first demon is dispatched using a full exorcism, and throughout the rest of the seasons that remains the best way to deal with possessions, although such varied remedies as psychic powers, a magic gun, a magic knife, and angelic mojo.
Supernatural possessions are usually given away by a blink, where the possessed person’s eyes switch from regular to a full eye black, red, or white (depending on the rank and position of the demon inside). When a demon has possessed a human, they can push aside that human’s consciousness and control their body in whatever way they please, even after the human inside has died.
Demonic possession is nearly impossible to avoid, but the main boys sport tattoos that protect them from being taken over.
In Blue Exorcist, possession is just as nasty, but you see fewer instances of possession by rank-and-file demons and more cases of possession attempts by Satan himself.
Satan is determinedly trying to escape from Hell so that he can take over the mortal world. But because of his great power, he cannot take just any human body as a vessel. Every time he tries, he burns up the person from the inside.
This happens on two notable occasions: firstly, the Blue Night (so named because Satan’s power manifests itself with blue flames) where Satan’s attempts to find a vessel killed many of the world’s most powerful religious leaders; secondly, the possession of main character Rin’s foster father, Father Fujimoto. This incident is what inspires Rin to take up arms against Satan, thus providing the conflict of the show.
So what is possession and exorcism like in all those movies I’ve been avoiding? Are there other pop-culture examples I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, and tune in next time to get some religion!