Demonic possession has been a focal point of horror movies for as long as horror movies have been a thing, and every director has their own idea of what a body being taken over by a demon looks like. Some directors, like Sam Raimi and William Friedkin, completely covered their actors with plaster and makeup to create terrifying demonic visages that have haunted our dreams for decades. More recent exorcism movies have leaned into a realism that serves to create a disconnect between the otherworldliness of demonic possession and the very tangible idea of mental illness being misconstrued as something more - that is, until their actors begin raving in German and then jump out a window.
The on film possession scene that all others are compared to come from The Exorcist. It’s inarguable that William Friedkin’s 1973 classic formed the basis for modern film’s idea of what a possession looks like. It essentially created tropes that are still followed to a T. Put on any film where a young woman is possessed by a demon and she’ll more than likely be tied to a bed, in an oversized white sleep dress. Take a look at the demonic possessions that follow the rules set by the classic horror film, and the movies that forge their own paths. Which are scarier? Does it matter? And are you thinking about going back to church?
Do you think there are more terrifying scenes of demonic possession than the excerpts we’ve chosen? If so, tell us in the comments and we’ll check them out.
Someone's in My Fruit Cellar!Photo: Renaissance Pictures
Who knew that such an innocuous phrase could be so creepy? The jittery stop-motion effect of the possessed Henrietta is spooky enough, but when she starts shrieking about eating a fresh soul, it's enough to make us never want to visit another fruit cellar. Thanks for ruining our fall plans, Evil Dead II.Is this terrifying?
Happy Birthday Sally!Photo: DACFILM Rome
Both Demons 1 & 2 are low-budget, incredibly stylized '80s horror films that put every DSLR, found footage, straight-to-Amazon-Prime film about demonic possession to shame. The slow burn of Sally's transformation into a demon isn't just scary, it does that thing where it makes you anxious for what's to come even though you're well aware of what's about to happen because you're watching a movie that's literally called Demons. The close-up on Sally's teeth as they're pushed out by her new demon fangs is good ol' fashioned nightmare fuel, and even though she breaks the fourth wall by staring right into the camera and hamming it up, it's still very spooky to watch.Is this terrifying?
Getting a Head Start on HalloweenVideo: YouTube
In no world does a movie as boring as The Taking of Deborah Logan deserve to have a moment that's this f*cked up. If you've seen the film you know that most of the movie is spent in a found footage malaise that fails to scare or even excite until about the last ten minutes, when everything turns on its head and the old weird lady starts turning into a demon snake and trying to swallow people whole. The visual effects are just cheap enough to give the scene an extra layer of creepy. If you did the visual effects on this film, we owe you a drink.Is this terrifying?
Who Doesn't Want to Cut Their Face Off Every Once in a While?Video: YouTube
The 2013 remake of Evil Dead had no business being as good as it was. Aside from faithfully updating the original material, the film serves as a parable for overcoming personal struggles, and the final 14 minutes of the film offer a visually stunning metaphor for destroying yourself in order to become a new and better person. But aside from being a blood-soaked self-help seminar, Evil Dead also offers up some of the most brutal demonic possession scenes you'll ever see.Is this terrifying?