You know what’s the common theme in all exorcism movies, the skeptic is never right. Its always a real demon possession. Oh, there are skeptics in each movie. They take a cavalcade of roles — priests, family, parents, the possessed itself. But they’re always proven right. The demon is always real, it’s never a symptom of mental illness, and everyone who survives is left pondering the idea that maybe there is a little more out there.
Oh, sure, the possession is always ambiguous or obfuscated, but it’s never decided one way or the other. It’s always “mysteriously divine”, with plenty of Christian symbolism. Bibles and holy water are the anti-biotics of the exorcism world.
Someone needs to write a story where either A) the demon possession is proved or B) the demon possession is a result of mental illness. Both of these can be scary. If demon possession is proved real, that’s scary in itself. For the other option, there are many horror stories involving the mentally ill. For some reason writers think that unless the possession is kept as ambiguous as possible, that’s good enough for a scare. But the problem is they’re just re-writing “The Exorcist” over and over and over.
Can’t we move beyond the rattling chandeliers and found footage, badly lit shaky cam rituals? Possession isn’t scary because nothing harmful is really threatening. It’s time to break the mold, like “Cabin in the Woods” did with slasher horror.