Unsung Heroes of the Exorcism Biz

Clifton Collins Jr. in JT Petty's Hellbenders. If exorcising shit never got rougher than this, I could totally handle the job.
I've been thinking a lot about exorcisms lately. It’s JT Petty’s fault – of all the movies screening at Midnight Madness this year, Petty’s 3-D horror-comedy Hellbenders is one of the films I’m most excited about. It’s been described as Animal House meets The Exorcist, with liberal doses of Ghostbusters—I could only be more jazzed if every ticket came with a free plate of hot, syrupy waffles.

So let's talk about exorcists. This doesn’t seem like an appropriate place for the same old exorcism movie list; who among us has not seen William Friedkin's 1973 classic and its sequels or, for better or worse, more recent fare such as Constantine and The Last Exorcism?

Instead, let’s talk about the dudes who don’t get the props they deserve. Let's face it: being an exorcist has got to be one of the most thankless jobs in horror. Kids talk shit about your mom, the pay sucks, and good luck not ending up on the business end of a demonic possession when you punch the clock at the end of the workday. Take Abby, for instance—a woefully under-appreciated 1974 flick featuring Blacula himself (the great William Marshall) as Dr. Garrett Williams, a professor who must save a young marriage counselor from the West African deity that has possessed her. Written and directed by William Girdler (he of Three on a Meathook and Grizzly fame), Abby is often and unfairly dismissed as an Exorcist rip-off. In fact, in spite of its initial box office success, it was pulled from theaters when Warner Bros. sued its distributor for copyright violations. The devil you say, Warner Bros. Abby is a damn good time, and it’s well worth seeing.

Next up is an Argentinean short film called Deus Irae, about a group of rabblerousing, punk-rock priests who face off with a monstrous demon. I freaking love this film. Think of it as Constantine done right—batshit gore, gnarly creature FX and creepy atmosphere to spare. Very NSFW, and not appropriate for kiddies (unless they’re possessed, in which case this is a cautionary tale and you should totally make them watch it).

Finally, there’s this guy. It’s just a commercial so maybe it’s cheating, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun squeezed into a minute and a half.

So be sure to check out Hellbenders at Midnight Madness. It'll be good for your soul.

HELLBENDERS screening times:
Sun., Sept. 9, 11:59PM, RYERSON
Tues., Sept. 11, 7PM, CINEPLEX YONGE & DUNDAS 7
Sat., Sept. 15, 9:15PM, SCOTIABANK 2

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