FrankScoblete
FrankScoblete
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April 12th, 2014 at 7:20:14 AM permalink
Good versus Evil: Two Movies I Will Never Watch Again

Catholics and most Christians believe that Jesus Christ was/is God incarnate. For Catholics Christ is the second person of the Blessed Trinity – meaning God exists as a triune being of Father (Yahweh), Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. As I wrote in my book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic this is something that is impossible to get one’s mind around --- so I never got my mind around it – or many of the beliefs of the Catholic Church actually.

Certainly some Christian religions of the smaller variety do not think Jesus was/is God; just the greatest of the prophets. That’s fine. But Mel Gibson, a Catholic of the “we should do the Mass in Latin” variety comes from the old school and his brilliant film "The Passion of the Christ" is a brutal, bloody depiction of what Christ suffered in his last hours – during the time called “the Passion.”

It starts in the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ prays and his apostles sleep and there are some flashbacks to Christ’s teachings and his youth. These flashbacks are not enough to stop the viewer from holding his or her stomach for fear of vomiting.

The movie could be the most brutal one I have ever seen. Yes, I love zombie movies but none of the violence in those movies has any real clout --- so what if the zombies are eating someone’s guts; please pass the buttered popcorn.

"The Passion of the Christ" is a knockout punch; indeed, it is many knockout punches. We witness the full torture by the Romans of this man --- whippings (you have never seen whippings like this even in the pre-civil war movies such as "12 Years a Slave"), massive brutal beatings, being spat upon, having a crown of thorns plunged into Jesus’ skull causing blood to flow down his face, then carrying his own cross through a jeering, cheering crowd in Jerusalem to then be nailed to a cross with nails the size of my wife’s forearms.

When you read the exact same account of Christ’s “Passion” in the New Testament, it just doesn’t sink into your mind what this man went through. Look, if I write “and then they whipped him for three hours.” Okay, they whipped him for three hours. Not a nice thing to do. But if you watch a few minutes of that whipping at the beginning, middle and skin peeling, blood spraying and spurting end, you wonder if you are going to puke in the aisle as you run to the bathroom.

[I will deal with the issue of whether this brilliant film is anti-Semitic in another article.]

His death on the cross finally finishes with the “Marys” (one of whom is his mother) and the apostle John taking the ravaged body to a cave where Christ is entombed.

The story does have a happy ending. Christ rises from the dead and we see the brilliant light coming out of the cave. The savior has proven that even death cannot stop him. And a new religion begins. And so does the Blessed Trinity. And so the movie ends.

By this time, you aren’t smiling and cheering Christ’s victory over death. No, you are saying to yourself, “I can’t believe what he went through.” And then thinking, “I can’t believe what I went through watching it.”

When I saw the movie, the theater was packed and at the end, and for several minutes, no one rose from their seats during or after the credits. They all had the look of having been beaten and crucified themselves.

I cannot, I will not, I am incapable of ever watching this movie again; brilliant though it is.


And now for this other movie; one that stayed with me for years; no, make that decades; no make that for my entire life right up to the writing of this article since seeing it in 1973 at the age of 26.

"The Exorcist."

It’s a simple enough plot. Her name is Regan and she is possessed by the demon Pazuzu; a demon she brought into herself by playing with a Ouija board. Father Merrin, an older priest who is an old hand at exorcizing demons and has fought Pazuzu before, and Father Karas, a younger priest who has a somewhat shaky faith, come to the house to banish Pazuzu from Regan’s body and soul.

They succeed but at a terrible cost.

You have probably seen dozens of “little girl gets possessed by a demon” movies. I have. Some of you may even have seen supposedly true video of little girls who were (or were acting) possessed. I have. I have no lingering feelings from such viewings. They come and they go.

But nothing prepared me for "The Exorcist." In some way, shape or form true evil was captured in this film. "The Exorcist" is not a scary (fun) evil like Poltergeist or others of this type. It is dark, devastating evil. It is truly watching a demon called Pazuzu torturing Regan and disdainfully teasing the two priests.

Regan is demonic. Let me change that: Regan is truly, unfathomably demonic. I wasn’t watching a movie when I saw this. I was there, in the room with Regan, experiencing the horror of the moment --- the horror of each and every moment, second by second.

Father Merrin hasn’t the strength anymore to combat Pazuzu. He dies from the strain of the fight. Father Karas’ faith is too weak to vanquish the demon. But being clever (and taking a scene from the New Testament where Christ casts out demons and sends them into a herd of swine which then fall from a cliff) Karas invites Pazuzu to possess him; Pazuzu does --- after all, possessing a priest of God is a great conquest --- and Karas in his last action with his own free will throws himself out of the window, killing himself and freeing Regan. Karas became like the pigs.

The question one probably asks at the end of the movie is whether Karas dies and goes with Pazuzu to Hell for committing suicide or will God forgive him for that action because Karas saved a little girl’s body and soul?

Actually, after thinking about the ending I truly didn’t give a damn what happened to Karas’ soul. I was too frightened; too stunned; too traumatized in real life after having seen such evil to much care for a fictional character such as Karas. But to me Pazuzu was real. His evil transcended the screen and thrummed my emotional strings. I was totally traumatized.

The corker here is also this: I don’t believe in demons; I didn’t believe in demons when I saw the movie, but I do believe in evil. And in that movie I saw unrestrained, total evil.

Certainly I was a young man of 26; certainly the fears I might have had deep inside me from a 12-year Catholic education might have come roaring back into me from my childhood psyche and that is why the movie devastated me.

So at the age of 44, I decided to watch "The Exorcist" again.

Here’s what happened:

At the scene where the newly possessed Regan, still seeming like the little innocent girl, enters the living room and pees on the floor, I turned the video off and said to myself, “I can’t put myself through this again.” The terror welled up again. I was shaken again.

So there it is. I have two movies that have tormented me; one about Jesus Christ and one about a demon named Pazuzu.

I will never watch either of those movies again.

[Frank Scoblete is the author of “I Am a Card Counter” and “Confessions of a Wayward Catholic.”]
FrankScoblete
FrankScoblete
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April 12th, 2014 at 1:24:47 PM permalink
Just got an email that said the second movie here was not scary at all. That person must have a heart of stone.
Tanko
Tanko
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April 12th, 2014 at 4:07:35 PM permalink
Excellent post.

I avoided seeing "The Passion" due to the scenes you describe.

The film that I can never watch again is this one:

Grave of The Fireflies

It is based on a semi-autobiographical novel.

Be warned. You have to prepare yourself to see it.
FrGamble
FrGamble
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April 12th, 2014 at 4:30:10 PM permalink
Good post Frank and I agree, I've tried to watch the Exorcism again and just can't. The Passion is also so intense and graphic that it is very hard to watch. Along with the physical torture of Christ is the anguish of His soul, knowing full well that even after going through all of this for every human soul out of love, still many will deny Him and ridicule Him.
beachbumbabs
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beachbumbabs
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April 12th, 2014 at 4:31:04 PM permalink
Frank,

I didn't send you the email. But I saw "The Exorcist" in 1976 at our weekly college movie (was finally old enough to see it), which included all the free beer you could drink. So I was blasted before the movie started. I hurt myself laughing. I don't know what to say about that, or what it says about me. But, scared, er...no.

"The Passion". Have never, and will never, watch it. For all the reasons you describe, just like tanko said.

The one I can't watch again is "Schindler's List". The cruelty, emaciation, and hopelessness was just unbearable. I couldn't be happy for the 200+ he saved; I was too horrified at the 6 million he couldn't. But I'm glad I saw it once. There's a documentary out there somewhere, think it's called (the German words for) Crystal Night, which is even worse (because they had no Schindler), and Stephen may have taken some of the video from that (saw them 20 years apart) for the worst of it; I think the video was captured footage edited into some kind of "sense". Saw it in Comparative Religion class; shook me up for life.
If the House lost every hand, they wouldn't deal the game.
kubikulann
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April 13th, 2014 at 2:59:16 AM permalink
Quote: beachbumbabs

I saw "The Exorcist" in 1976 at our weekly college movie (was finally old enough to see it), which included all the free beer you could drink. So I was blasted before the movie started. I hurt myself laughing. I don't know what to say about that, or what it says about me. But, scared, er...no.

This reminds me of an observation I made at the time (well, I saw it around 1980. Not many horror movies then; this was the first I saw, at age 18).

I didn't exactly laugh, but was wondering: what's so scary about it? This is just a movie, and a stupid one at that. I didn't (and never after) "suspend my disbelief". Idem, later, the Passion of Mel Gibson: what, another gory film? Didn't send a shiver, just boring to death (and full of cultural and physiological inaccuracies)
So I looked at the buddies watching the Exorcist, and got the feeling that, among us, some were "easy believers" and other "sceptics". And that this was valid for our religious approach as well as for our reaction to the movies.

So I'm not surprised that Frank IS affected, since he himself says he believes in gods and in evil.
Reperiet qui quaesiverit
FrankScoblete
FrankScoblete
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April 13th, 2014 at 3:01:36 AM permalink
True, "Schindler's List" is probably another one I won't watch again although I have seen it a few times. When I was a teacher there was a course in the school called Holocaust Studies and I attended many of the special programs --- saw documentaries of the horrors and spoke to survivors. I also go to the Holocaust museums. I know it happened. I also know the horrors have happened throughout history. I just can't grasp it fully.
FrankScoblete
FrankScoblete
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April 13th, 2014 at 3:18:16 AM permalink
kubikulann, I never said I believe in gods or demons. In fact, I don't believe in demons as I stated in my article. By the time I saw the movie ten years had passed since junior year of high school when I threw off such a belief. I think the terror came from the capturing of evil and the welling up of childhood fears and, of course, the brilliance of the film makers.

But I do agree that my reaction was powerful and was even powerful at the age of 44 --- almost 30 years after I disgarded the devil. (Of course, we don't need a devil for evil to exist. We just need us.)
1BB
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April 13th, 2014 at 3:48:14 AM permalink
Quote: beachbumbabs

Frank,

I didn't send you the email. But I saw "The Exorcist" in 1976 at our weekly college movie (was finally old enough to see it), which included all the free beer you could drink. So I was blasted before the movie started. I hurt myself laughing. I don't know what to say about that, or what it says about me. But, scared, er...no.

"The Passion". Have never, and will never, watch it. For all the reasons you describe, just like tanko said.

The one I can't watch again is "Schindler's List". The cruelty, emaciation, and hopelessness was just unbearable. I couldn't be happy for the 200+ he saved; I was too horrified at the 6 million he couldn't. But I'm glad I saw it once. There's a documentary out there somewhere, think it's called (the German words for) Crystal Night, which is even worse (because they had no Schindler), and Stephen may have taken some of the video from that (saw them 20 years apart) for the worst of it; I think the video was captured footage edited into some kind of "sense". Saw it in Comparative Religion class; shook me up for life.



My uncle, who was also my godfather, served in World War II as a member of the US Army's 69th Infantry Division. The division rescued prisoners in a sub-camp of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Leipzig, Germany and is recognized as a "Liberating Unit" by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

He returned home with many photographs of the camp and promptly burned them because they were so horrific. When he died a few years ago, more pictures were found by the family and they were turned over to the museum.

Most of the men in my family were combat veterans of different wars and not one of them would talk about their experiences. You don't find out what they did until after they're gone. Many were highly decorated.
Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth. - Mahatma Ghandi
FrankScoblete
FrankScoblete
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April 15th, 2014 at 2:42:49 AM permalink
Maybe it was the time I was born and the fact that I went to the "old-type" Catholic schools as a kid that made these movies so horrible. I have no problem with gore in zombie movies, etc., but that was not the case here. The emails I have gotten tend to side with the idea that "The Exorcist" was just a typical horror movie.

Some of the upbringing of a young Catholic is in my book "Confessions of a Wayward Catholic" where we were instilled with a strong, though hard to understand, relgious view of the world. Today that view is comical; but then? Some what confusing and scary.

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