I was raised in a very religious family. As such, I was subjected to the usual arsenal of fairy tales, cautionary stories, and misguided descriptions of the nature of good and evil. I remember hearing stories of faithful, righteous people – both past and present – who would encounter an evil spirit. It wasn't terribly uncommon to hear of someone waking in the middle of the night and feel a massive weight on their chest and a terrible darkness forbidding them to move. This “entity” would usually depart after the evocation of the name of Jesus.
Eventually, I chose science over religion, and I learned about a common phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. It's simple, really: during REM sleep, the body locks itself to keep from moving around too much while dreaming. If someone awakens rapidly enough, the paralysis is still in effect and can be extremely disorienting and frightening. I know – I've experienced it myself. It's a simple scientific explanation, but it isn't difficult to see how it could be mistaken for a demonic presence.
Although nonexistent, the idea of possession is an intriguing one, about which many stories have been told, not least in the world of film. Our cinemas have been littered with these tales over the years, but the greatest of these shook the world in 1973. I am, of course, speaking of “The Exorcist.”
Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, who co-wrote the screenplay, director William Friedkin's film tells the story of a young girl named Regan who exhibits signs of extreme psychosis. As the terror and bizarre occurrences increase, her atheistic mother is left with only one explanation: demonic possession.
“The Exorcist” plays today at Tinseltown at 2:00 and 7:00 as part of the Cinemark Classics series which will run throughout the summer. Stay tuned for further details.
Tinseltown is located at 4400 Towne Center Drive. Further theater information can be found at the Tinseltown website.
Image: Internet Movie Database