Reporter’s notebook: Exorcism on the big screen

Have you ever watched a movie about a highly contagious disease and suddenly felt like you’re coming down with something? Or perhaps listened to a podcast chronicling a serial killer and become convinced you’re being followed? The same transference often applies to media relating to exorcism.

Several experts with whom I spoke for my research on Satan or psychosis? Mistaking mental illness for demonic possession said exposure to tales of exorcism could cause people to believe they are possessed. Santa Clara University professor and licensed psychologist Dr. Thomas Plante calls this “social contagion.”

The early 1970s saw a rise in demand for exorcisms following the release of “The Exorcist” novel and Academy Award-winning film. Today, there is a profusion of exorcism movies; across the globe, exorcisms are also being sought with increasing frequency.

“There’s always the zeitgeist of the times,” Plante said. “Media really matters. So, when there are popular movies or television shows that are on TV, or there’s some kind of story in the newspaper or something like that, we get what we call a social contagion effect, which is like, ‘Oh yeah, me too.’ And we’ve seen this time and time again.”

Below is a sampling of movies centered on exorcism and demonic possesion that have been released just since 2000:

  • “Lost Souls” (2000)
  • “Possessed” (2000)
  • “Exorcist: The Beginning” (2004)
  • “The Amityville Horror” (2005)
  • “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist” (2005)
  • “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005)
  • “Blackwater Valley Exorcism” (2006)
  • “Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers” (2006)
  • “Requiem” (2006)
  • “The Haunting in Connecticut” (2009)
  • “Exorcismus” (2010)
  • “The Last Exorcism” (2010)
  • “Paranormal Activity 2” (2010)
  • “Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes” (2011)
  • “The Rite” (2011)
  • “The Devil Inside” (2012)
  • “The Possession” (2012)
  • “The Conjuring” (2013)
  • “The Last Exorcism Part II” (2013)
  • “Annabelle” (2014)
  • “Deliver Us From Evil” (2014)
  • “The Possession of Michael King” (2014)
  • “The Taking of Deborah Logan” (2014)
  • “The Exorcism of Molly Hartley” (2014)
  • “Exorcist House of Evil” (2015)
  • “The Vatican Tapes” (2015)
  • “The Conjuring 2” (2016)
  • “The Exorcism of Anna Ecklund” (2016)
  • “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016)
  • “Amityville Exorcism” (2017)
  • “Annabelle: Creation” (2017)
  • “The Crucifixion” (2017)

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Featured image caption: Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren in a still from “The Conjuring 2” (2016). (Warner Bros.)

Lindsey Leake