The Damned Shows That You Should Be Careful Who You Rescue

Movie poster for The DamnedPossession has been a popular topic for horror over the past few years. The Damned adds its own special twist to this horror sub-genre. David Reynolds (Peter Facinelli) and his fiancee, Lauren (Sophia Myles), go to Spain to collect his daughter, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), so that she can attend their upcoming wedding. But, of course, Jill has left her passport at some godforesaken place out in the country, so they all — David, Lauren, Jill, Gina (David’s former sister-in-law who is a reporter), and Ramon (Gina’s photographer, but also Jill’s Spanish boyfriend) — have to travel back there to retrieve the passport. As they start out, it begins to storm, and even though the police warn them off of the road they have chosen, Gina declares it to be safe and the fastest way. So, of course, they are caught in a mudslide, which injures Lauren and leaves the car unusable. They then hike to the nearest shelter, an old inn, where they are met with less than a welcoming attitude by the elderly owner who reluctantly allows them to come inside. While there, David begins nosing around and comes across a small girl being kept in a filthy box in the cellar. He thinks this is probably not the best location for her and takes it upon himself to free her, holding off the innkeeper at gunpoint, and this is when things go from bad to worse. The girl is actually possessed and the spirit inside her is able to move from person to person. The group is caught without a way to escape, and has to attempt to fight off the spirit and save themselves.

The possessed girl, Anna, in The Damned

NOTE: There are some spoilers below!!

While I won’t say that I loved this movie, I did enjoy it for a few different reasons:

  • The mixing of language was interesting and provided for a more foreign feel. Even though much of the movie is in English, there is a lot of Spanish that is spoken. What is different about this movie is that not all of the Spanish sections include subtitles. It creates an interesting language equilibrium. I know enough Spanish to keep up, but others might find this challenging. To me, though, I found it refreshing and different, and very much enjoyed it.
  • Movement of the spirit from person to person is accomplished in an interesting manner. This aspect of the movie most closely resembled that in Fallen, but the spirit in this movie infects the body of whoever kills the previously infected. So, getting rid of those infected by the spirit is rather complicated.
  • While some of the reviews I read brought up the obvious question — why wouldn’t you just lock the possessed person up again? — I think that this becomes a difficult decision based upon the situation. For the most part, everyone is family (or at least “family like”), so you really don’t want to be killing someone unless you absolutely have to, which, at first, no one knows. Additionally, you’re in a strange, out of the way house, so locking someone up there and then what — leaving them? While these considerations don’t really get covered as much in the film as they could have, I think that they are definitely there and add some complexity to the situation.

So, I would definitely say that this film is worth a watch if you are interested in the possession sub-genre!

Mercy: Witchcraft, Possession, and Horror

Movie poster for MercyAfter seeing some reviews (some good, some less than positive) about Mercy, I decided to give it a shot. It’s possible that I’m in somewhat of a minority, but I typically like most Stephen King adaptations. (In fact, the TV adaptations are my favorite things to watch over the Christmas season.) Mercy is actually loosely based on a short story that King wrote called “Gramma,” which I somewhat remember from the collection in Skeleton Crew. The gist of the story is that a single mother and her two sons move back grandma’s house to take care of her after her health has failed. There have also been some problems at the nursing home, so they will need to care for grandma at home for the rest of her life, which no one thinks will really be that long. However, grandma — Mercy (Shirley Knight) — has some dark secrets in her past that quickly come to the surface.

The film is mainly from the viewpoint of the younger son, George (Chandler Riggs). He has always had a special relationship with his grandmother and is fine with moving back to take care of her, while his older brother definitely doesn’t agree. There’s also Uncle Lanning (Mark Duplass) who is not a fan of grandma, an unrepentant alcoholic, and basically not much use for anything but scaring the pants off of kids and depressing everyone. George’s mom, Rebecca (Frances O’Connor) is torn between flirting with her old high school flame, Jim Swann (Dylan McDermott), and focusing on doing her duty for her mother. And, it isn’t until a bit into the film that we realize that grandma hasn’t always been as nice to everyone else as she was to George. In fact, grandma was a real witch. I mean, she had a creepy spell book and everything. Oh, and there was a demon involved, too, which has apparently stuck around throughout the years. In short, George ends up having to deal with a lot more than just his grandmother’s death.

The film is beautifully shot. There are a lot of gorgeous shots of the countryside, which also serve to reinforce the remote location of grandma’s house. I was especially impressed by the dual horrors in the film. Regardless of demons and witchcraft, the natural process of aging and caring for an aging family member is shown from the viewpoint of George, a child, and it is extremely terrifying to see him witnessing the changes in someone he loves and struggling to figure out how to best cope.

Chandler Riggs in Mercy

In the more traditional horror aspects there is much to like here. For example, the idea of selling your soul is addressed, but instead of the traditional setup a different question is implied: What happens if you sell your soul to the devil but he doesn’t reclaim it all at once? We normally think of the payment coming due at the end of life, but what if it is instead a slow, creeping erosion over time? There is menace and dread in the way that the story plays out. There is some quick, shocking horror with an especially creative suicide by axe. There is a huge, spirit wolf creature that is lurking around waiting to grab a soul. And, there is the creepy imaginary friend that George talks to on occasion.

As far as horror films go, I would have to say that the ending was less satisfying for me than I would have hoped. However, I think that the film works, and that looking back on where the story originated and the character viewpoint, the ending makes sense. Overall, there is a good story here and I would definitely recommend giving this one a watch.