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Possessed Women, Haunted States

Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema

Christopher J. Olson and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Since the release of The Exorcist in 1973, there has been a surge of movies depicting young women becoming possessed by a demonic force that only male religious figures can exorcise, thereby saving the women from eventual damnation. This book considers this history of exorcism cinema by analyzing how the traditional exorcism narrative, established in The Exorcist, recurs across the exorcism subgenre to represent the effects of demonic possession and ritual exorcism. This traditional exorcism narrative often functions as the central plot of the exorcism film, with only the rare film deviating from this structure.

The analysis presented in this book considers how exorcism films reflect, reinforce or challenge this traditional exorcism narrative. Using various cultural and critical theories, this book examines how representations of possession and exorcism reflect, reinforce or challenge prevailing social, cultural, and historical views of women, minorities, and homosexuals. In particular, exorcism films appear to explore tensions or fears regarding empowered and sexually active women, and frequently reinforce the belief that such individuals need to be subjugated and disempowered so that they no longer pose a threat to those around them. Even more recent films, produced after the emergence of third wave feminism, typically reflect this concern about women. Very rarely do exorcism films present empowered women and feminine sexuality as non-threatening. In examining this subgenre of horror films, this book looks at films that have not received much critical scrutiny regarding the messages they contain and how they relate to and comment upon the historical periods in which they were produced and initially received. Given the results of this analysis, this book concludes on the necessity to examine how possession and exorcism are portrayed in popular culture.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 216Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-1908-3 • Hardback • November 2016 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-4985-1909-0 • eBook • November 2016 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
Christopher J. Olson is adjunct instructor of communication arts and science at Dominican University.

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard is associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Dominican University.
Chapter 1 - Introduction: The Politics of Possession
Chapter 2 - The One That Started It All: Feminist Tensions in The Exorcist
Chapter 3 - Rip-offs and Homages of the 1970s: Spotlighting Exploitation with Abby and Şeytan
Chapter 4 - Revisiting The Exorcist: Challenging and Extending the Traditional Exorcism Narrative
Chapter 5 - Keeping the Devil at Bay: Slashers, Parodies, and Satirizing Religion
Chapter 6 - Dangerous Boys and Rebellious Priests: Possessed and the Real Story of The Exorcist
Chapter 7 - True Stories and Found Footage: The Exorcism Cinema Resurgence
Chapter 8 - From Reaffirming to Challenging Tradition: Comparing The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II
Chapter 9 - Conclusion: The Resiliency of Tradition
Olson and Reinhard offer a compelling look at the history and cultural politics of exorcism films in this well argued, adeptly researched study.
Blair Davis, DePaul University, author of The Battle for the Bs: 1950s Hollywood and the Rebirth of Low-Budget Cinema

Possessed Women, Haunted States skillfully studies the cultural politics of an under-explored strand of horror cinema. Ranging from The Exorcist through to recent found footage movies, as well as taking a very welcome, inclusive approach to parody, Christopher Olson and CarrieLynn Reinhard exercise impeccable critical faculties throughout this impressive analysis.
Matthew Hills, University of Huddersfield, author of The Pleasures of Horror