Are exorcisms real? Hollywood likes to play to our fears of possession and the supernatural with movies like The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Rite and now The Devil Inside, in theaters now. But can a human truly be possessed by the devil? Or is it all in the mind?
"There are two ways that people get a demon inside them: You're born with it, or you acquire it at some time in life," says Bob Larson, a reverend who has performed real-life exorcisms. "Those who are born with demons have them as a result of an ancestral curse. It means one of their ancestors did something incredibly evil, and it started this chain of demonic possession in the bloodline."
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"In most cases when Hollywood takes on the subject of exorcism, it doesn't do a very good job," adds Reverend Larson. "The Devil Inside is by far the most accurate, and that's one of the reasons that I agreed to speak on behalf of the film."
"We read an article that the Vatican was starting a school for exorcism, and to us that was really interesting," says William Brent Bell, the director of The Devil Inside, who met with some real exorcists to hear their stories. "When you hear these guys, face to face, talk to you about their experiences, the look in their eye, the fear in their eye, you can feel it. … So we tried really hard to focus on the authenticity and just recreate these stories that these exorcists and priests told us about."
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In The Devil Inside, Fernanda Andrade plays the daughter of a woman who brutally killed three people in 1989 during an exorcism. In search of answers 20 years later -- is her mother mentally ill or demonically possessed? – she recruits two young exorcists (played by Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) in Italy to cure her mom using unconventional methods combining both science and religion.
"It's undeniable; exorcism is in almost every religion that exists," says Fernanda. "Demonic possession depends on the way that you look at it. … What I think, personally, it's kind of a testament to the human psyche."
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As for the buzz that The Devil Inside is one of the scariest exorcism movies yet, Fernanda explains, "I think the scared factor is like any big emotion: it just makes you feel alive, so people kind of search for that, and exorcism flicks just kind of push that button a little harder."