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There is something fundamentally satisfying about watching a god continually fail as his blind subjects resist the urge to abandon him, when it is clear that he has completely abandoned them. This year’s series on Fox, The Exorcist, portrays that concept quite well. The righteous desperately cling to the hope that the almighty will save them, and that being tested is the ultimate reward of heaven. However, when you take off the god glasses, you can see a brutally evil and relentless demon being given carte blanche with the destiny of the faithful. We know now that demons don’t exist and ALL of the “based on true events” demon possession films are really just about people with mental illnesses, but it is important to think about how we rise to meet evil in other forms.
The Exorcist and Ash vs. the Evil Dead are two shows that I enjoyed watching this year that deal with the topic of evil and possession. The Exorcist will spend ten episodes trying to evict one demon from a young woman, but Ash would just say, “nah, fuck all that,” and chew her head off with a chainsaw. Shows like The Exorcist and Ash vs. the Evil Dead show us the importance, and futility of resistance. They both show the total inability of benevolent forces to intervene as well. The main difference between them is that one constantly beseeches god for help and guidance, and the other relies on the power of the human ingenuity and perseverance. The characters in one show constantly ask, why me? The other consistently asks, where is the next challenge?
In the world of the Evil Dead, the concepts of good and bad are absurd, and both sides treat the ideas of evil and death as some kind of cosmic joke that normal people don’t find funny. The encroachment of the deadites into our world is seen as a nuisance to Ash that stands between him and a giant party in Jacksonville. He is always deciding whether he should run or stand and fight, but most of his life he spends willfully ignoring the problem until it affects him personally. He finds support and strength from his friends and he takes an oversimplified approach to solving challenges. One example was his plan to defeat Ba’al in season two. His plan included making Ba’al swallow a pet tracker, find him later, and then shove a chainsaw up his ass. Easy Peasy.
This is a completely different approach to possession in the Exorcist series. This kind of possession comes from a long tradition in the Judeo-Christian faith. The priests involved must follow orders and protocol, often at the peril of the victim. Exorcising a demon takes a long time and the evil entity is entrenched in the body and threatens to destroy the spirit of its rightful inhabitant. The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn and should be fought at all costs. There is no delusion about what must be done and the priests constantly make sacrifices in order to win. The goal itself is to defeat evil and save the innocent. The priests generally find themselves alone against evil and the church has turned its back, it even seems that god himself has forsaken them.
Although both series are enjoyable to watch, I think that Ash vs the Evil Dead resonated with me on a deeper level. It wasn’t because it is more entertaining to watch and has better effects. I think myself and other die hard horror fans love Ash more because we can see a lot ourselves in him, and we can see the kind of traits we would like to have in him as well. Evil does exist in this world, and we can choose to lay on our faces and beg for a god to come and solve our problems, or we can attach a chainsaw to a mangled stump where our hand used to be, and shove that chainsaw down evil’s throat.
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Artwork by F. Duncan II, 2017.
Born and raised in San Diego California, I grew up loving the action horror and sci-fi genres. The first R rated film I saw was Predator back when I was 8 years old. Aliens blew me away as a youngster and I made a M41-A pulse rifle out of paper towel rolls and rubber bands. I ran around for hours avoiding face huggers and blasting xenomorphs in my back yard and I am bringing that big imagination to Nevermore Horror.