First and foremost, I have decided the very first review of this site should be something that I am familiar with, and for the past year of my life, I have been examining cases of demonic possession and reading every piece of written material I can find on the topic. The reason for this is because I myself am currently in the process of writing a book based on demonic possession and exorcism, and because I am so sick and tired of seeing movies and books exaggerate the facts of the situation, I decided that I was going to investigate the topic at exhaustive lengths. This movie called to me, because I had actually previously read the book it was based on, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, by Matt Baglio. The book, though shorter than I would have liked, was a very interesting point of view of a Catholic Priest who made the choice to accept his vocation and learn to become an exorcist. I could speak for hours on the topic, but I won’t. Instead, I will attempt to stick to the topic of the movie, and offer as much information as I can about each topic. Reader beware, this review will spoil the entire movie for you. It will be described in detail, and dissected. You have been warned.
The way my in-depth reviews will work: I will tell the story and events of the movie, and whenever there comes a time where I expand on the story by using real information that I have gathered through my readings/studies, I will modify that text to be red. That way, if you choose to ignore my text, you can just read the black text to follow the movie, and vice versa. I highly recommend reading through my text though, because it will include so many explanations of subtle details that would go normally unnoticed to the common eye.
Do not read beyond this point if you do not want to know what goes on in the movie, in detail. You have been warned.
The movie starts our main character, Michael Kovak (who has been renamed from the novel’s main character of Father Gary Thomas) dressing a corpse in his family profession of funeral directors. In the novel, Father Gary is a licensed embalmer, and while that did not translate into the movie, they do show you that Michael Kovak is involved in this field as well to some extent. He finishes up with his current task, and then goes immediately to eating dinner with his father, presumably to show you that he has a strong stomach and is not of a squeamish nature. During this brief scene, you also see that there is an odd, strained relationship between himself and his father. Michael asks questions about the client and how she committed suicide, a point made to make sense at a later time during the film.
Michael’s interaction with his friend is brief, but it shows that he is going to be joining the seminary schools to become a priest, a decision which his friend vehemently disagrees with. They talk it out at a bar, at which point you see a waitress who flirts with Michael, informing him that she gets off work at 10:00 o’clock, “lickety split”. This particular wording will become important later on as well, and it seems that a good amount of detail was crammed into these few first opening minutes.
The scenes then cuts to a flashback that Michael has of him as a boy, watching his father dress the body of his mother, which quickly alerts us to the fact that his father is his only dysfunctional connection to this world. It quickly cuts ahead into the future, to a time approximately four years later, where we find that Michael is on the cusp of becoming a full fledged priest. He is approached by a professor who informs him that he has failed theology, an extremely important class in the field of seminary students. We find that Michael is having some extreme doubts about his vocation, and it is revealed that he is having trouble in his faith. This is all placed in an email to his professor, which proclaims that he will not be completing the course or becoming a priest.
In a sudden turn of events, Michael is then witness to a fatal accident right in front of his very eyes as he is walking about on the campus grounds where a woman is fatally struck by a vehicle and lies dying in front of him on the street. Though not a priest, he is wearing the collar and this woman asks to be blessed before she dies. Michael, though hesitantly, complies with her request and offers a blessing for her.
Michael’s professor approaches him and has a conversation about Michael’s lack of faith. He boldly claims that if Michael does not complete the course and leaves before becoming a priest, that the Catholic church can convert that free education into a student loan, which totals over $100,000 worth of education. As an alternative, the professor, also a priest, proposes an alternative path. He informs Michael of the Catholic church’s lack of exorcists and the rise of claims of demonic possession. He then suggests that Michael takes a course in the Vatican designed to re-teach men of the clergy the rites of exorcism. He suggests that Michael look at it like a vacation for two months in Rome.
This is basically the series of events in which occur within the first 15 minutes of the movie, and here I will quickly go into some detail as to explain why this was all done correctly. In virtually every single book I have read on the topic, many by actual exorcists in the field, they all claim that people who are possessed are not all religious, and most are not even Catholic. They also claim that people who have a lack of faith or a denial of God are particularly subject to become a “person of interest” to demons on the prowl looking for a new person to terrorize. The fact that Michael has spent his life around corpses does not hurt as well. Many major authorities in the field state that many times, a person-of-interest does not have to be possessed to come into contact with a demonic entity. In many cases, they are not possessed, but rather oppressed, or their living quarters are demonically infested. The best way I can think of to describe what these classifications are in a quick, straight-forward manner are as follows: while not the same, demonic oppression can loosely be classified as someone who goes through life being terrorized by a preternatural, evil entity. Symptoms may include extreme and consistent sadness or despair, loss of focus, inability to get peaceful sleep, and the feeling that something physically weighs down the target. These are blanket terms, and there are many other symptoms involved, but the ones I listed are the most common. Demonic infestation is more akin to being haunted by a poltergeist. People claim to live in a constant state of fear and terror, never finding a moment of peace or security. As with any “transformation”, there are many stages of possession. Some may include demonic suppression, demonic repression, regression, demonic depression, obsession, and finally full-blown possession, though not in that order.
Jumping back to the movie, we find Michael in a new place, Rome, and exploring the Vatican city. They show him being lead to his living quarters, and through his comments we find that he is not used to living a simple lifestyle at all. As Michael enters the class, late, for the first time, we see the class instructor explaining certain key elements of an exorcism. These points are valid and true. It is explained that an exorcism cannot be performed unless it is authorized by a Bishop. What the movie does NOT mention is that any priest can perform a near-identical ritual without the permission of the Bishop/Church, but it cannot be called an “exorcism” specifically. It must be called a “deliverance”. If a priest performs a Deliverance, and calls it an Exorcism, he can be expelled from the priesthood and stripped of his ordination. The way that this is technically explained is because hundreds, maybe even over a thousand years ago, anyone who was baptized could – and did – perform these exorcisms, but instad of following any set standard or guidelines, they did whatever they pleased during the ritual, such as holding the demoniac’s head under water, crucifixions, and other events that could – and did – result in the death of the person they were trying to help. The Roman Catholic Church stepped in, and mandated that from that point on, an exorcism could only be performed once authority had been given by the Bishop. Some of you are reading and asking what would happen if it were performed without the proper sanctioning, and here is that answer: The actual Ritual Romanum would not be successful. By the priest defying the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, he would be engaging in defacto rebellion. And, the most famous rebel of all time, Lucifer, would then dictate the actions of the exorcism – he would in essence, own that priest. The Priest-Exorcist would not be acting by the grace of Jesus, and the Church would have imbued absolutely no power within him. So by conducting the ritual without authority, the Priest-Exorcist would not only be actively engaging in rebellion, but in the sin of Pride as well, because he expects the exorcism to work through his own authority, and not through the authority of Christ or the Church. These two factors would essentially make the ritual useless, because the Priest-Exorcist would be using demonic power to remove the demonic entity from the possessed individual. It would return later, but stronger, and the Priest-Exorcist himself would be rendered powerless and useless to stop it because of the sins he has committed. The instructor then goes on to describe some symptoms to look for during the exorcism, and plays some recorded audio files of a German man spontaneously speaking Russian, a language he had no knowledge of. He also describes situations in which at the recitation of a simple prayer, a mans entire jawbone unhinged itself without any form of physical force, or assistance of any kind. He further goes on to explain that it is up to the exorcist to make sure that all other avenues of investigation have been met, such as psychological evaluation and medical treatment. We skip ahead a small while to this instructor, Father Xavier, mentioning that the exorcist must, very importantly, do what they can to force the possessing demons to reveal both how many of them are inside that person possessing them, and what their names are.
For some reason, in the Bible, it is extremely important to be addressed by your name. In all of the exorcisms performed by Jesus (Yes, he performed many!) he makes it very clear that anyone who replicates what He is doing should in His name force the demon to reveal themselves. To know the name of a demon is to have power over it, but only in the name of and by the authority of Christ, according to the Bible. The reason that it is important to know the number of inhabiting demons is the same reason as why it is important to know their names – because you will have to address them and individually force them to leave the possessed vessel, in Christ’s name. This is almost completely ignored in the movie, and I believe it should have been mentioned in order to give a more thorough explanation of certain processes and reasoning. Often times, the actual name of the demon will not be a name, such as “John“, or “Bill“, but it will be similar to their function. An example would be “I am Anger!“, or “I am the death of children in their beds!“. An answer such as that is suitable, and a Priest-Exorcist can continue an effective ritual with that information. HOWEVER, occasionally, it is possible for a devil to be the possessing entity. This information is very hard to come by, but just like in the ranks of the military, there are different ranks within the hierarchy of Hell. Lower level demonic entities (“Demons“) will usually be the footsoldiers of the assault. They will be the ones causing the paranormal phenomena, and the torturing of the actual peron. They will be responsible for the knocking on walls, and the scratching under the floors and on the ceilings. They will be the ones responsible for giving you intense nightmares, and for not allowing you to sleep. They will be the “dark clouds” you see at the foot of your bed, and they will be the “shadow person” who you will see in your bedroom doorway at night. They will also be the cause for the strange noises you hear such as footsteps walking through your house or running up your stairs, and they will be responsible for trying to convince you that prayer and salvation are useless. They will try to drive you to suicide and/or homicide. And those are the weaker ones. The devils are usually commanders of hell’s legions, and have biblical names, such as “Beelzebub“, or “Astaroth“, or “Paimon“. Legitimate, actual possession is extremely rare, and even among cases of possession, being possessed by a devil is even more rare. These beings are responsible for the more sinister acts, such as the destruction of sacred of blessed objects such as rosaries. They will defy the laws of gravity, for example, they will knock a bucket of water over, and not a single drop will spill, or for example, while water is being drained in a sink or bathtub, it will drain (the “whirlpool effect”) counterclockwise, instead of the physically accepted direction of clockwise. They will often cause levitation of very heavy objects, such as refrigerators, beds, or desks. And, often times, when a person is possessed by a devil, it is not alone, and often times ends up in severe injury and/or death. Some of the most famous cases of possessions involving devils are that of Anneliese Michel, and Anna Ecklund, the case histories of both can be located in posts on this site.
Father Xavier, the instructor, mentions that the most identifiable sign of possession is the intense negative reaction to religious artifacts, such as crucifixes, idols, saint medallions, Bibles, or blessed sacraments such as holy water. Additional, unmentioned sacraments to be used are exorcized water, exorcized oil, and exorcized salt. Intense displeasure and down-right hatred of these objects will result, and at times, there may be even physical reactions as well, such as irritation on the skin where these items were placed, or the possessed person not being able to stay in the same room of said objects. This is often a sign that results in sudden fits of anger, rage, and/or blasphemies. It can also cause paranormal phenomena, such as a crucifix being invisibly ripped off the wall and flying across the room into another wall, shattering it, or for example, if blessed spices or water is used to cook that person’s food, that person will know instantly and react violently.
At this point in the movie, the character of Angeline, played by Alice Braga, raises her hand and questions whether or not this reaction could also occur if the person simply believes that they are possessed. The instructor informs us that it is extremely simple to confuse psychotic illness with genuine cases of possession, and that it is the exorcist’s responsibility to discern the difference. He then sites examples, such as the fact that paranoid schizophrenics are not aware that they are deluded, while possessed people usually are, and have moments of complete comprehensive lucidity. He then explains that one cannot simply manifest ‘abilities’ because they are deluded, and that those are signs of possession as well. In fact, there have also been books written on the topic of demonic possession by psychiatrists! One such psychiatrist is M. Scott Peck, and he wrote a book entitled Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist’s Personal Accounts of Possession. After working closely with Priest-Exorcist, Father Malachi Martin, Mr. Peck was convinced that he had witnessed demonic possession, and claimed that it changed both him and his views on this topic almost instantly.
We cut to the end of the class and witness some flirting going on between Michael and Angelina – I mean hey, he isn’t a priest YET, right? The instructor catches Michael in the hall, and asks him to walk and talk with him for a moment. He mentions that he is aware that Michael was taught by Father Matthew (the professor from earlier who threatened Michael that he would convert his “free” education into a student loan), who happens to be a dear friend of the Father Xavier’s. He mentions that Father Matthew has asked the instructor to keep an eye on Michael, and asks him what he thinks of the course. Michael admits that he is not sure what to make of it, and expressed his doubt. He explains that while he believes in sin, he does not believe the Devil makes a person commit sin. At this point the instructor forcefully suggests that Michael take a day off from class and visit with another dear friend of his, Father Lucas Trevant, played by Anthony Hopkins. He gives him the proper address, and informs Michael that his methods are less than orthodox, and that while that may be the case, he is very well versed in the topics of exorcisms. It is also extremely important to note that some of the worse cases of possession throughout history involved athiests, and generally people without faith. Demonic entities take a notice in you, because supposedly, a person’s lack of belief in a God leaves them open, and is looked at as a form of rebellion. It unveils a void within that person in which faith would have filled, and the demonic entity is all too eager to fill in its place. This is genuinely a case of “You don’t believe in them, but they definitely believe in you.“
As we travel with Michael, we see that Father Lucas lives deep within the city of Rome, and that he is not exactly easy to find. He lives within earshot of a cathedral which at the time we see Michael pass, is sounding its bells. The movie does not go into this, but the sound of a bell is a very potent weapon against a preternatural being. Just as throwing holy/exorcized water on a possessed person is equivalent to an ‘attack’ against the demon inside them, the sound of a bell is like a haymaker roundhouse punch to that same entity. And with it being done at the same time as the holy water being thrown and the ritual being recited, it is like the demonic entity is being spiritually assaulted by a constant barrage of attacks. Despite the fact that most Priest-Exorcists don’t fully understand how the process works, they do know that for some reason, the demonic entity uses the possessed person’s senses, and this is why all of these ‘attacks‘ seem to work well. Father Gabriele Amorth, in his book An Exorcist Tells His Story, claims that the entire process of possession can be related like this: the demon is not always present. He is connected to the possessed person by, let’s imagine a series of pipes. This same demon can be ‘possessing’ multiple people at once, like a puppeteer, but he is not actually present within the person. He sends a “signal” to one pipe (person) that makes something happen, such as a bout of rage that forces them to assault someone. However, when the Priest-Exorcist begins toe Ritual Romanum, it FORCES that demonic entity to come through the pipes, and be present in the person. The Priest-Exorcists refer to this event as “the presence”. Once the ritual begins, that demonic entity is trapped within the body of the person, and the sacraments/sacramentals such as holy water, blessed salts, the host of communion, etc. can all be used as weapons against this trapped entity. Ultimately, the goal is to get this entity to ‘disconnect it’s pipes’ and release it’s hold on the possessed person. According to Father Jose Antonio Fortea, in his book Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look At The Devil, Demonic Possession, And The Path To Deliverance, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 66, question #58, the reason why holy water affects demonic entities is as follows:
58. Why does holy water disturb demons?
The real question is: How can something material have an influence on something spiritual? It would seem that these two realms are so distinct, so independent, that something material should not have any effect on a demon, much less expel him. Actually, though, a material object-holy water, holy chrism, etc.-can torment or expel demons because the Church has given a spiritual power to this object by blessing it. In other words, the Church, with the power she has received from Christ, can join a spiritual effect to an object. Of course, the object itself has no power; rather, the power lies in that of Christ Himself which has been placed upon the particular object. In any event, in my experience there are materials that have a concrete effect because of what they symbolize. Here is an anecdote that touches on this fact: One winter day, extremely cold weather had frozen the pipes in my parish, and we had no water. A possessed girl I was exorcising could not be given water from the holy water fonts because it was several days old and many people had dipped their fingers in it. As I was preparing to go out in search of water, I remembered that there was a bottle of lemonade that had been left over from a meeting of catechists. It occurred to me to bless the contents of the bottle, thinking that the type of liquid was of little importance since its power was rooted in the prayer attached to it. I discovered, though, that its effect on the demon was much less than normal. After a few minutes, I ordered the demon in the name of Jesus to tell me why this was so. He resisted, but in the end he told me that, while any blessed liquid might have some effect on the demons, holy water is more effective because it symbolizes purity and cleanliness. (In fact, every material the Church blesses or consecrates-water, wine, bread, salt, incense, oil, etc. – has a deep and powerful symbolism.)
Moving back to the film, we see that Father Lucas’ living quarters is surrounded by stray cats and other animals. As Michael stares into the window of Father Lucas’ home, enter Anthony Hopkins. They introduce each other, and after some witty banter between the two of them, we see that Father Lucas exerts an undeniable sense of control, even over the normal situations of every day life. He tells Michael to do something, and he does it without knowing why or questioning.
Father Lucas mentions that Father Xavier spoke to him about the situation, specifically Michael’s battle with faith. Father Lucas mentions that he has arranged for Michael to meet with someone, and no sooner have the words left his mouth does a rapping come to the door. Showing his sense of humor, Father Lucas inserts this humor into the situation by acknowledging this rapping and saying “Speak of the Devil!”. Right at this point of the movie, the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up, because I knew exactly what was coming. Father Lucas opens the door, and begins to speak to a woman and her aunt in Italian. There are some pleasantries exchanged, and Father Lucas pulls Michael aside hurriedly, and states to him that if he wants to watch, then he has to help, but first he must be absolved. Absolution is the ritual where a Priest performs a prayer and blesses you, absolving you of all your sins. Father Lucas instructs Michael to place an object – any object – into a plastic bag. He then tells Rosalia, the possessed pregnant woman to go up to the room and wait for them. Father Lucas then instructs Michael NOT to address the girl directly, no matter what he does.
There is a reason for this. Assistants are ALWAYS used in an exorcism. The first thing you will notice is that the rooms used to perform exorcisms in are almost always bare. The will have a chair or a bed, and normally nothing else except a small table. On this table will rest a crucifix, with one candle on either side of it, holy/exorcized water, and a prayer book. There may or may not be a relic of a saint or another idol of a holy figure which represents something to the possessed person. There is almost always a priest conducting and leading the exorcism, and an assistant priest present as well. This assistant, the ‘junior’ priest will take charge of the ritual if the primary exorcist is weakened, physically or emotionally battered, flees, collapses, or even dies. All of which have been documented in the past. In these events, the junior exorcist will replace the primary exorcist. Assistants are to be a small group usually, though the movie did not show much of this. Within this group, there will be a medical doctor to observe strain, shock or injury. Sometimes, a psychologist may be present. The same can be said of a demonologist. But the one thing that is required of all assistants is that they be physically strong because a majority of the reason for their presence is to physically retrain the possessed person during violent outbursts and to prevent them from harming themselves or others. This possessed person may suffer from abnormal or inhuman surges of unnatural strength. The reason that the assistants are not to address the possessed person is because they are not prepared to handle the mental, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual onslaught in which will suddenly be directed at them. The Priest-Exorcist is. In fact, every Priest-Exorcist engages in something called “The Black Fast” for three days prior to an exorcism. He will begin fasting to cleanse himself before the process, to increase his strength and efficacy during the actual Ritual Romanum. In the book Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look At The Devil, Demonic Possession, And The Path To Deliveranc by Father Jose Antonio Fortea, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 105, question #93, he mentions why this fasting is necessary, and it is according to Jesus Himself, who explained this in reference to a difficult demon he had exorcized:
We can see that even in the Bible some exorcisms were more difficult-and lengthy-than others. In Mark 9:17 – 18, for example, we read how the apostles could not expel a demon from a young boy. When they later ask Jesus why they could not cast it out, Jesus responds, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mk 9:28, 29). In exorcism, as with any ministry, there is a distinction to be made between power and authority: “And [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons” (Lk 9:1). This distinction is seen in Jesus’ response to them in Mark 9:29 – the apostles had full authority but needed to increase their power over the demons by growing in holiness (i.e., through “prayer and fasting”).
The Priest-Exorcist is there to basically lead the group, and be the object of attack for the possessed person. People have been known to be followed home by these entities (this process is called “an attachment” in the paranormal world, and also applies to human spirits as well, not just the inhuman), and the very act of addressing it – of interacting with it at all – is viewed by the demonic entity as an invitation which will gladly be accepted. Just because they are there assisting the priests does not mean they are excluded from the horrible truth of the situation. As the famous quote goes, “When you stare into the darkness, you can only get away with it for so long until the darkness starts staring back at you.“ Back to the movie.
Father Lucas informs Michael that he should restrain Rosalia in a certain way, for her physical safety. Lucas absolves Michael of any sins he may have committed in the past. He instructs Michael to not look it in the eyes, or to address it, because that is his job. He firmly confirms that Michael understands, and they both enter the room. There they find a rather serene Rosalia sitting in the chair, and Father Lucas lights a match that he uses to light one of the candles. He briefly asks Rosalia how things have been, only to find out they have been the same – bad. She claims that even while she sleeps, it talks, constantly bothering and upsetting her. Now, quickly, he asks her if she sees the bag that he readily presents to her. He asks her what is inside, and she stubbornly refuses to answer, claiming that there in no way that she could know that. Father Lucas tells her to guess, at which she numerously refuses. This, frustrating Father Lucas, forces him to take a more direct approach, and he commands Rosalia to guess. Her response is “Un dollar Americano./One American dollar.” Father Lucas then explains that a knowledge of the unknown is a surefire way to identify demonic possession, much to the surprise of Michael that Rosalia guessed correctly. This is important, and is what is referred to as a “knowledge of the unknown“, and is one of the requirements for the Vatican to consider “proof” that there is indeed diabolical influence at play. We discover through Father Lucas’ interview of Rosalia that the thing told her what was in the bag, and that it was telling her “disgusting things”. Father Lucas asks if she knows its name yet, and she physically begins perspiring and becoming fidgety. Father Lucas begins praying in Latin, as Rosalia convulses and is placed under extreme strain. There is also a reason for this. Many times during an exorcism, the lead exorcist will begin praying or asking questions in different languages – languages that the possessed person does or could not know. Since Latin is a near dead language, the reason the ritual is conducted in this language serves dual purposes: 1) Because this is how it was written ever since the 1,500′s, a ritual which has proven and tried power attached to it, and 2: when the priest addresses the demon in Latin or other languages – more specifically, a language the person does not understand – when the demon responds to the priest, it is a dead-sure sign that there is indeed a demonic presence which has taken hold of the vessel, the person. This is a way for the priests to “trick” the demon into giving their presence away – to showing themselves, if you will. You would be amazed at how frequently this works. While in the middle, Lucas answers his cellular phone (an iPhone! Go Hopkins!) and Michael is left face-to-face with the deviously smiling Rosalia. Out of nowhere, she begins coughing, and gagging, and dry-heaving. Then Rosalia shockingly addresses her gaze at Father Lucas, and tells him to shut his mouth with a bitter venom infused within her voice. She tells him not to touch her, and that he is disgusting, all the while with Father Lucas praying over her. In reality, the phrases and responses coming from a demonic possession will be significantly more vulgar, but since Warner Brothers had campaigned to have this movie released with a PG-13 rating, quite literally all of the realistic language and insults and verbal abuse which we would normally hear is absent. This is another reason why I cannot wait for an “Unrated” or “Director’s Cut” of this film to be released, if that will be intended. After further pleas to have the priest “Go away!”, Lucas commands her to stop talking. He places his hands on her, and she is physically weakened. She slumps forward, crying, and seemingly returns to normal. He asks her how he feels, and she kisses his hand and informs him that she does feel better.
Much to the shock of Michael, Father Lucas informs him that “that’s it” and they can go now. He also asks Michael what he was expecting, “spinning heads, or pea soup?” He then informs Michael that spiritual liberation can take months or even years, and that it is a process that is not a quick one, and is very intense for all those involved. This is absolutely true. I have read books by the Chief Vatican Exorcist in Rome, Father Gabriele Amorth, who has had cases in which people he has treated have been possessed for 20+ years. These cases are not uncommon, and usually involve other factors which I will not discuss in this article. Most movies make it seem like in one or two sessions, everything is right in the world, and that is not always the case. Some exorcisms can take as little as 15 minutes, and usually run on an “appointment” schedule. As mentioned above, some cases can take hundreds, if not thousands of sessions of exorcism, and every exorcist comes to terms with this fact rather quickly. There is no ‘quick fix‘ to remove the Devil. Father Lucas explains that a thief or burglar will not turn on the lights inside your house while he is robbing it, and that demons are very much the same. They will wreak havoc on a person’s life in every way that they can, while also doing everything that they can in order to stay hidden. After some more conversation between the two expressing Michael’s skepticism. At this time, on the way out, Father Lucas explains that he himself used to look for proof and certainty, but then asks “What on earth would we do if we found it?”.
We also discover that Father Lucas himself has also had his own bouts of atheism, where he was unsure of what to believe in and what his place was in everything. We also discover how humble Father Lucas is when he refers to himself as “only a man, a weak man”. This is also a requirement in an exorcist that the movie does not brush on. An exorcist is trained very early on that he is basically a useless sack of flesh. He can say all the prayers in the world, and conduct all of the rituals in the world, but the only “power” he commands is the power that Christ has given him and the power that the Church has authorized. The second that exorcist begins to believe that he is the one in control and with power, he has already lost the battle, and will pay dearly at the hands of the assaulting demon. The tagline of the movie is “You cannot beat it if you don’t believe.” That tagline is more accurate than you would think. Lucas continues mentioning that there is this nagging thing inside of him, that feels like God’s fingernail. And when he can no longer take the incessant pain, he is then shoved out of the darkness and into the light, where he belongs.
We see Michael walking through Rome, where he meets up with Angelina, and has a conversation with her over coffee. There, he learns that she is not a nun as he first suspected, but simply a reporter, who has access to this program because of her past. She apparently had a brother who was a victim of demonic possession, and because of that she made the right connections to be admitted into the course where she can shed some light on the realities of what goes on during an exorcism, and the training of an exorcist. She explains that there is a lot of interest and debate in those topics, and she then asks Michael to set up an interview with Father Lucas. She then asks Michael to keep her updated and informed only of his own experiences, citing the fact that she is only interested in the truth.
We cut back to the classroom, where Father Xavier the instructor explains that just as there are ranks in Heaven, there are ranks in Hell as well. To the best of the knowledge of the theological community, this is absolutely true. While the movie does not go in depth about the reasons here, demons are angels. I know you, reader, probably just said “What the fuck?!? Really?!?” and the answer is yes. When man was created, some angels in Heaven refused to bow to him, as God had wanted, and when Lucifer rebelled, he accumulated with him an army of likeminded angels. Now, in Heaven, angels have a hierarchy much like the military does. The rank is as follows, from lowest to highest ranking:
Now, despite the hierarchy, there is also a debate with how many demonic entities there are in existence. There are many demons in Christian demonology. Many of these demons were “added to the list” because theologians affirmed that all pagan deities/entities were to be considered demons as well.
Alfonso de Spina, in 1467 A.D., proposed that the number of fallen angels was 133,316,666. (133+ million) This was due to the passage in the exegesis, Book of Revelation 12:3 – 9 in which they mention that one-third of all the angels in Heaven were cast out.
In Pseudomonarchia Daemonum of 1583 A.D., a book written by Johann Weyer set forth a complex system of hierarchies and calculations, claimed to believe the number of demons inhabiting the earth was 44,435,622 (only 44+ million), divided specifically into 666 legions, each legion consisting of 6,666 demons, and each of them ruled with an iron fist by 66 diabolical dukes, princes, and kings. The Lesser Key of Solomon, authors obviously unknown, adopted the same division in legions from Pseudomonarchia Daemonum but added additional demons, and in effect creating additional legions. It is suggested that both Spina and Weyer used the number 666 and other numbers composed by more than one 6 to arrive at the conclusion that the number of demons was as they claimed.
Also worthy of noting, Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century, believed that these diabolical entities were both male and female demons, not hermaphroditic, and he supported the belief that these diabolical entities procreated with other entities as well as with human women. These were referred to as “The Nephilim” in both the Bible and the exiled Book of Enoch, with the first Fallen Angel to mate with a human woman (the “Grigori” or “Watchers“) being Azazel, and the first Nephilim, his son, being Mastema.
In the book Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look At The Devil, Demonic Possession, And The Path To Deliverance by Father Jose Antonio Fortea, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 9 & 10, question #2, he mentions that not all demons are of equal power, thus citing their role in the demonic hierarchy:
2. Are all demons the same?
No. We have already seen that each demon sinned in a certain way and with a determined intensity. While the angelic rebellion against God had its roots in pride, from this root other sins grew. This can be clearly seen during an exorcism, when the particular demons possessing the person display sins of anger, self-worship, and desperation, among others. Each demon has its own psychology and its own way of being. For example, some are talkative, others are mocking; some are proud, others are hateful. Even though they all turned away from God, some demons are more evil than others. As St. Paul and the tradition of the Church indicate, we need to remember that there are nine hierarchies of angels (from highest to lowest) : seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels. The superior hierarchies are more powerful, beautiful, and intelligent than the inferior ones. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, each angel is completely different from other angels. In sociological terms, there are no angelic “races”; rather, each one is its own species. As we have said, though, it is possible to group the angels into hierarchies. These hierarchies are also called choirs) since these groups form themselves into choirs that sing praises to God. Their praise is obviously not that of the voice, but rather a spiritual type of praise that comes from their will to know and love the Trinity. Because some angels from each of the nine hierarchies sinned and transformed themselves into demons, a demonic hierarchy exists. In other words, there are demons that are principalities, virtues, powers, etc. Even though they are demons, they retain their particular angelic power and intelligence.
And from the same book above, page 104, question #93:
93. Why do some exorcisms last so long?
Since not all the demons are from the same hierarchy, not all have the same power.
As a result, some demons are more difficult to expel than others. Those demons who have angelic natures belonging to the highest choirs are the most difficult to drive out of a body. Satan and Lucifer are the most difficult to exorcise. No matter how holy the exorcist, an exorcism of such a powerful demon takes time. We can see a parallel here in the world of medicine, where heart or brain surgery is more complex and takes longer than merely cosmetic surgery.
We can see that even in the Bible some exorcisms were more difficult-and lengthy-than others. In Mark 9:17 – 18, for example, we read how the apostles could not expel a demon from a young boy. When they later ask Jesus why they could not cast it out, Jesus responds,
“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mk 9:28, 29). In exorcism, as with any ministry, there is a distinction to be made between power and authority: “And [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons” (Lk 9:1). This distinction is seen in Jesus’ response to them in Mark 9:29-the apostles had full authority but needed to increase their power over the demons by growing in holiness (i.e., through “prayer and fasting”).
Conversely, in Mark 9:38, we read of a man who had power over the demons even though he had no apostolic authority: “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.”
In the book An Exorcist Tells His Story, by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-o–89870- 710-6, page 21, paragraph 3, he also mentions this hierarchy:
Satan was the brightest of the angels; he became the most evil of the devils and their chief. The demons remain bound to the same strict hierarchy that was given them when they were angels: principalities, thrones, don1inions, and so on (Col I: I 6). However, while the angels, whose chief is Michael, are bound by a hierarchy of love, the demons live under a rule of slavery.
Exorcisms have shown that superior demons can have power over inferior ones. What does this power consist of? This is something that is impossible for us to know because we cannot see how one demon forces another to do something, since there is no body to push or force. Nevertheless, a more powerful demon can prevent a less powerful one from leaving the body of a possessed person during an exorcism. Even though the weaker demon is suffering and wants to leave, the stronger one may impede it.
Now, as in Hell, as we mentioned above in depth, there is also a hierarchy there as well, very similar to that in Heaven, with certain ranks being more powerful than others. Father Xavier informs us that just as every angel has a name, so to do the demons. We briefly see a photo as he is scrolling through them of a demon he refers to as Ba’al. This is an important name, as this character becomes prevalent further throughout the movie. But for you, reader, I will go out of my way to explain to you who and what Ba’al is. First, let us take the easy way out, and view his entry on Wikipedia.
Now that that is out of the way, let me go into significantly further detail. While that entry was detailed, I have in my possession a rather interesting book which is chock full of rare and hard to find information. It has been researched extensively by the author, Michelle Belanger, and she has spent years researching this topic. She has access to documents which are many hundreds of years old, and my implicit trust in her ability to verify and confirm her sources. In a small sentence, this woman is damned good at hat she does. Now, from her book titled Names of the Damned: Dictionary of Demons, ISBN 978-0-7387-2306-8, page 55, she gives us a detailed description of Ba’al, and here it is:
The Canaanite word for “god” or “lord”. When the Israelites entered Canaan, the encountered the cult of Ba’al. Ba’al-worship was widespread in this ancient land, and each place had its own particular Ba’al. The Ba’als were the male deities, while the female counterparts were the Ashtaroths or Astaroths. The religion of Ba’al was, for a time, the direct competitor with the religion of Yahweh, and this competition gave rise to the endless polemics raised by the Patriarchs against Ba’al throughout the Old Testament. The incident with the golden calf was likely the result of Ba’al-worship, and in several places throughout the Old Testament, the children of Israel are directly forbidden from making sacrifices to “the Ba’als”. The ideological presented in the Old Testament between the worship of Ba’al and the worship of Yahweh paved the way for Ba’al to become demonized in later Jewish and Christian culture.
His title, “Prince Ba’al”, is mocked in 2 Kings 1:2, 3, and 16, where the name is rendered “Ba’al-zebub”, or “Lord of the Flies”. This name, as Beelzebub, eventually became equated with one of the major devils of Hell. Another Ba’al, “Ba’al-peor”, appears in Numbers 25:3 and Deuteronomy 4:3, eventually giving rise to the demon “Belphegor”. Ba’al and its plural form, “Baalim” can also be found echoed again and again in the infernal literature as one of the great demons of Hell. Bael, an alternate form of Ba’al, has even developed into a completely separate deity.
Now, as you can see, just because a demon has a name in the Bible, or other religious texts, that doesn’t mean it is the ONLY name it has. As you can see, Ba’al is known by many other names, such as Bael, Baal-peor, and Beelzebub. With that in mind, here is some more information on those names.
A variation on the spelling of the demon Ba’al, which has come to represent a demon in its own right. He is named as the very first demon in the Goetia. In his early-seventeenth century work A Treatise on Angel Magic, scholar Thomas Rudd connects Bael with the power of the east. According to Wierus’ Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, Bael (spelled both Baell and Baëll in this work) is the first king of the power of the east. Baell is said to speak with a hoarse voice. When he manifests, he takes a form with three heads: the head of a man, a cat, and a toad. He has sixty-six legions of spirits under his command and he can be charged to make men invisible. In the Goetia of Dr. Rudd, Vehujah is the name of the angel said to have power over him.
What is listed above would be just one variant of the name of Ba’al. As you can see, many in the theological community consider Ba’al to be the equivalent, if not the same entity as Beelzebub. And in case you were curious about Beelzebub, here is his “bio”, also taken from Names of the Damned: Dictionary of Demons.
The name of this demon first appears in the Bible in 2 Kings, where he is described as being the false god worshipped by the Philistine people at the city of Ekron. Rabbinical texts interpreted the name to mean Lord of the Dunghill, and hence, Lord of the Flies. Ba’al-zebub, as it appears in the Bible, probably means “Prince Baal”, but zebub is close enough in sound to zebul, meaning “to make dung”, that it allowed the name to be twisted by those ancients who opposed to the worship of this Middle-Eastern deity. While Beelzebub is certainly viewed as a false god in the Old Testament, it is not until the New Testament that he becomes styled as the very chief of demons. The passage in Matthew 12:24 described Beelzebub as the Prince of Demons, and this cinches Beelzebub’s place in the infernal hierarchy for years to come.
In the Mathers edition of the Grimoire of Armadel, Beelzebub under the name Belzebut, is said to join together, with Lucifer and Astaroth to teach the summoner about the rebellion and fall of the angels. In the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, Beelzebub is said to have the power to transform men into animals and animals into men. He is a sower of discord and helps to cast curses and cause harm. He is named one of the eight sub-princes who rule over all other demons. In the 1863 edition of Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, the demon Beelzebub is depicted directly as an infernal fly with a skull-and-crossbones motif on its wings. In the Grand Grimoire, Beelzebub, spelled Belzebuth, is listed as the prince of Hell. In an 1821 work by Frenchman Charles Berbiguier, Beelzebub supplants Satan as the ruler of Hell. He is given the very colorful title of Supreme Chief of the Infernal Empire and Founder of the Order of the Fly. In The True Keys of Solomon, Beelzebub is said to rule all spirits of the Americas together with the demon Astaroth.
Beelzebub also appears in The Testament of Solomon under the name Beelzeboul. Here, he claims primacy among the demons because he is not the child of an angel but an angel himself. He further claims to have been the First Angel of the First Heaven before his fall, a statement that ties him both Shemyaza and Azazel in the Watcher tradition and Lucifer in more standard views of demonology. As a result of his supposed angelic status, Beelzebub claims to answer only to one of the names of God.
As you can see, just by using the simple method of cross-referencing, there seems to be a rather vast amount of information involving this particular demon. That is because this entity is a major bad-ass. When you can rise through the ranks of Hell, and get to the very top to the point where you can be considered as one of the rulers of Hell, then you are obviously not someone to mess with.
In the book The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, ISBN-13: 978-0-8160-7314-6 and ISBN-10: 0-8160-7314-7, page 22, she described Ba’al as follows:
Baal (Bael, Baell)
An agricultural and fertility deity of Canaan turned into a FALLEN ANGEL and a DEMON. Many minor deities of ancient Syria and Persia carried the name Baal, which means “the lord.” The greatest Baal was the son of El, the High God of Canaan. He was the lord of life and ruled the death-rebirth cycle. He engaged in a battle with MOT (death) and was slain and sent to the underworld. The crops withered, until Baal’s sister, Anath, the maiden goddess of love, found his body and gave it proper burial. The Canaanites worshipped Baal by sacrificing children by burning. According to the Zohar, Baal is equal in rank to the archangel Raphael.
Baal is the first of the 72 SPIRITS OF SOLOMON. He is a king ruling in the east and governs 66 legions of DEMONs. He is triple-headed, with a cat’s head and a toad’s head on each side of his human head. He speaks hoarsely and imparts invisibility and wisdom.
I decided for this review/dissection that rather than just jump into the story of the movie, I would take the time to explain a few things about this particular portion of the field of demonology – demonic possession in particular. I will be giving definitions, quotes, and references as well as excerpts from quite a few different texts, of which were written by experts on the topic. It is important that you read this portion of the review with an open mind, and understand that while your beliefs may not encompass the possibilities of the demonic entity being a real-life thing, there are many people of intense religious belief who would bet their lives that these things do exist. In this review, I will not express my own personal beliefs in the interest of just keeping things simple and providing the facts as evidenced by experts on the field. In the end, as is the purpose of true journalism, the final decision is completely up to you. Unfortunately, there is much confusion about what a demon is, exactly. Since I have made the decision to dedicate a portion of my life to studying these things, I will not us my words, but the words of many men who have a better understanding than I.
Father Jose Antonio Fortea is a priest of the Diocese of Alcala de Henares (Madrid), Spain, and an expert in the field of demonology. This excerpt was taken from his book, Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5. All excerpts from this book are taken from the 2006 softcover first edition.
1. What is a demon?
A demon is a spiritual being of an angelic nature that has been condemned for eternity due to his rebellion against God. As pure spirits, demons are not made up of matter. Because they do not have bodies, demons are not inclined to any “sins of the flesh” (i.e., it is impossible for them to commit the sins of lust or gluttony). The sins of demons are exclusively spiritual. But they can tempt human beings to sin in matters of the flesh.
Demons were not created evil. (In fact, it is impossible for God, who is Goodness itself, to create anything evil.) Remember: demons are just “bad angels”. After God created the angels, He tested their fidelity to Him before admitting them to the Beatific Vision, the sight of His very essence. For purely spiritual beings, this “seeing” of God’s essence would be a purely intellectual vision. Some angels obeyed the divine test; others did not. Those who disobeyed were irreversibly transformed into demons and cast out of heaven.
There is much more on this topic, but I will limit it to that, because for the intents of this review, that particular author gives a rather decent mental image of what a demon is. He explains that they do not have a physical body so therefore they cannot physically interact with this world, which is why in order to make any affect, they must take control of a vessel. This is what we have come to know as “demonic possession”.
Further excerpts from this book go on to explain additional questions that one may have regarding exorcism, so I will continue in that vein.
11. Do demons know the future?
No. Demons do not have knowledge of future events. In addition, what belongs to human freedom is undetermined; they do not know in advance our free choices. However, since their intelligence is far superior to ours, they can often predict the future simply by observation and deduction. With their superior intelligence, they can see the effects of certain causes whereas we would perceive nothing. Thus, there are times when they can accurately predict what will happen, even though the most intelligent of human beings would not even suspect such a result, no matter how many factors are analyzed in the present. On other occasions, due to the complexities and variabilities of human action, even the most powerful angelic intellect can be mistaken in its predictions.
Now, the next question is a rather important one. Simply because it will put into light the fact that all demons are not created equally. Some are more powerful than others, but is their power and influence the same? Not at all.
14. Who are the most evil of all the demons?
One might logically assume that the most perverse demons would be those of the highest angelic choirs, but this is not the case. There is no relation between nature and sin. A demon of the lowest choir can be much more perverse than a superior demon. The evil that a free being can commit does not depend on the intelligence or the power that one possesses. An angel of the lowest hierarchy could exercise its virtues more than one of the more exalted hierarchies. In the same way, a humble, uneducated woman who devotes her entire life to doing God’s will can be holier than the archbishop or a pope.
So basically, any creature in the Infernal Hierarchy can potentially be the most wicked that Hell has to offer, regardless of official ‘rank’. Think of it this way: In the armed services, the military, the police forces, so on and so forth – everyone enters somewhere. But not all of them STAY in the position of the grunts, or footsoldiers. Some people are promoted through the ranks. So can be said through hell. While their NATURE will always have them limited to the specific title/choir of their hierarchy, they can still be the sickest and most twisted and depraved entities in Hell, so ultimately, the exorcist can never assume that he is dealing with a “weak” demon. With these entities, you simply never know.
This that being said, you now have a basic understanding of what they are and how they operate, as well as what their functions are. I will now go further into the details of the story as relates to the movie. We will pick up where we left off previously, at the 40-minute marker of the movie, of which Father Xavier is explaining the hierarchy of demons.
After the power outage, Father Xavier exits the classroom and on his way out approaches Michael and asks him how he is. Michael takes the opportunity to voice his concerns that Father Lucas is making a mistake by putting a pregnant girl at potential physical risk with his exorcisms, and that Michael believes that she is suffering from mental illness. Father Xavier reaffirms his belief that Father Lucas is completely competent and than he has been doing this for quite a long time. He then states to Michael that it is normal to become attached to the subject during one’s first exorcism, and that it is not the actual girl who is experiencing the pain, but the demon inside of her.
We now see in the next scene Michael entering his living quarters to find a small charm bracelet that seems offputtingly familiar to him. The scene skips ahead, to where Father Lucas opens his door and welcomes Michael in. Once inside, we see that Roaslia is already there, sitting in the chair inside the room designated for the exorcisms to take place in. Father Lucas asks her is she remembers Michael, the man who was sent by the Vatican. She nods in the affirmative and Father Lucas instructs her to answer his questions, to which she is fine with. After some pleasantries, Michael asks (And Father Lucas translates, since Rosalia doesn’t speak English, only Italian) if Rosalia remembers what goes on when the Devil takes control of her body. She says that it is as if she is living inside a dream or a nightmare. Michael approaches Rosalia, and holds the charm bracelet in front of her. As he does, she looks up with an expression filled with shock. Rosalia begins to appear apprehensive, and she becomes nervous as Michael asks her if the bracelet is hers. She looks up, and nods. Michael then asks if she knew how it got into his pocket, to which she claims no knowledge of. Father Lucas demands that she tells the truth, to which Rosalia’s only reply is that it “wasn’t her”. After multiple inquiries, Rosalia finally states that it was the devil who placed the bracelet where Michael could find it. This is a term known simply as “bilocation” in the paranormal community. It may also be called teleportation of items as well.
Michael, doubtingly questions the actions but Father Lucas asks him a simple question: “Why would she lie?”. At this point, Michael is grasping at anything he can to continue to hold on to his disbelief, so he claims that Rosalia is only sixteen years old and pregnant. Michael asks who the father of her child is. Father Lucas claims that she does not know, and asks her once again who gave her the bracelet. Looking down in what appears to be shame, Rosalia says that it was her father who gave her that bracelet. It is then revealed that her father abandoned the family a few months back. Michael kneels in front of Rosalia, and places the bracelet back on Rosalia’s wrist. He confirms once again that it was her father who gave her the bracelet. She confirms, and then he asks again, to which she lowers her head and eyes yet again, still sitting calmly and still in the chair. After a few seconds, she begins to scratch the back of her head forcefully, while suddenly looking up at Michael. At this moment, Father Lucas touches Rosalia’s eyelids, which have now closed. He lifts them up, to see that Rosalia’s pupils have rolled upwards into the top of her sockets, and Father Lucas immediately begins to pray in Latin. According to the book this movie is based on, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio, ISBN-10: 9780385522700 and ISBN-13: 978-0385522700, in the appendices via his interviews with Father Gabriele Amorth, this was revealed:
43: Lucifer and Satan are two distinct demons: There is no mention in the Bible of Satan being connected to Lucifer. In Satan: The Early Christian Tradition, Jeffrey Burton Russel notes that the association was most likely established by Origen when he linked the Prince of Tyre and the Dragon to Satan, pp. 131 – 33. According to Father Amorth, Lucifer is a very common name among demons, while Satan is rare. In Father Amorth’s opinion, during an exorcism, if the eyes of the victim roll upward, this signifies the presence of Lucifer or [demons from] his army, while if they roll down it means that the person has been possessed by Satan or members of his army.
Once again, below is a quote from Interview With an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 81, question #70, on the importance of speaking languages unknown to the person possessed:
…The exorcist always speaks to the demon with the authority of Christ. Rather than asking the demon anything, the priest orders or commands him in the name of Jesus. Speaking in Latin is helpful because the person does not know when the exorcist is addressing the demon. If the person shows no signs of a trance or that a second personality is emerging, then he is not possessed. In ninety-five percent of possession cases, the demon shows himself after a few seconds of prayer. But, as we have already discussed, there are certain demons that can remain hidden for a long time and resist the prayer with all their strength. In such cases, the priest needs to pray with little more insistence. Normally, only a few additional minutes of prayer are necessary to get the demon to reveal himself.
In another work, An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, the Chief Exorcist for the Vatican, Ignatius Press of San Francisco, 1994 softcover Twelfth Edition, page #77:
With these “patients”, it is profitable to use a euphemistic language. Therefore, we always call the exorcisms “blessings”. The presence of the evil one, once it is ascertained, is referred to “negativity”. It is also advantageous that the prayers be in Latin. All this is to avoid using words that alarm and thus obtain the opposite of what is desired. There are people who have the fixation of being possessed; in these cases, we can be almost certain they are not. To someone in a confused state of mind, the fact of receiving an exorcism may become proof positive of possession, and nobody will ever be able to convince them him differently. When I still do not know the person well, I insist on saying that I am blessing him, even if I am performing an exorcism; at times, I simply give The Ritual’s blessing for the sick.
Now, above I mentioned why the exorcist prefers to speak in Latin or in other languages unknown to the possessed, but in this split second, the film makers attention to detail actually astounds me, because in one simple action, they showed exactly how much attention to detail they were prepared to show us through their studies and accuracy. The next section is pretty important, because in the quarter of a second that they showed us, when Father Lucas lifted up Rosalia’s eyelids to see which directions her pupils had rolled, he was attempting to determine what type of demon was inhabiting her, one of Lucifer’s army or one of Satan’s. According to various sources, some mentioned above, the direction of which the pupils roll is a deciding factor and helps to identify the exact type of demon which the exorcist is dealing with and thus helps him decide how to proceed.
According to Father Fortea, in his book Interview with an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 76, paragraphs 2-4, and page 77, paragraphs 1, he explains the types of demons:
68. How can a demon hide his presence in the possessed?
This is a major theme in cases of possession, and the following answer should be read very carefully by priests who are going to be dedicated to the ministry of exorcism. It is vitally important because many demons will try to trick exorcists, leading them to believe that someone is not possessed.
There are different tricks a demon can use to remain undetected, depending on whether he is a clausus (Latin for “shut, closed”) or apertus (“open”). If the demon is clausus, he will first try to hide and not show himself. Some can resist showing themselves for five minutes or more. That is why it is important to speak to the supposedly possessed person before blessing him to determine whether it is a credible case of possession. If the possessed seems credible, the exorcist has to insist in the prayer of blessings for more time. The clausus demon, when he can no longer resist the power of the prayer, will cause the possessed person to enter into a trance in which he will then close his eyes and roll them back under the eyelids. But he will not move or seek attention. If the priest stops the blessing and does not lift up the eyelids, the possessed person will immediately return to normal, without remembering anything, and the priest will be tricked into believing that the person is not possessed.
If the demon is apertus, he will do exactly the opposite from what has been explained about the clausus. The apertus will open the person’s eyes and say that what the possessed is suffering is merely psychological. He will laugh at the exorcist as he prays and will ask him what sort of foolish things he is reciting. The demon will challenge whether he is trying to convince himself that the person is possessed. Curiously, when the possessed regains consciousness and the exorcist asks him why he said such and such thing, he will say that he remembers nothing.
There is also some more in depth explanations of these definitions in the same book as mentioned above, page 88, paragraphs 2 & 3 including diagram, and page 89, paragraphs 1.
77. What types of demons appear in possessions?
As we have said previously, there are two types of principal demons that cause two distinct types of possession: the clausi and the aperti. A clausus demon causes the possessed to close his eyes (with them rolled back) when entering into a trance. An apertus demon causes the possessed to keep his eyes open while in a trance, giving looks of anger and rage, and speaking a great deal. The aperti are loquacious and violent, and the possessed person often needs to be held down during the exorcism; some clausi will speak after some time of prayer, always without opening their eyes, but others are completely mute.
We can diagram the two types in the following manner:
Even though one is dealing with different types of demons, an exorcism begins in the same manner. Afterwards, the exorcist will notice what torments each one in a particular way and one will focus on that.
The abditi demons spoken of previously are not, in reality, a distinct type of demon; they are simply demons who hide themselves within the person. Once they have been forced to reveal themselves, they will act like the clausi or aperti.
And, once again, another section of An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, page 79, paragraph 2 & 3.
The position of the pupils indicates the type of demons and troubles that are present. During questioning, we could always classify the types of demons according to distinction inspired by chapter 9 of the book of Revelation.
The demons are very wary of talking; they must be forced to speak, and do so only in the most severe of cases, those of true and complete possession. When demons are voluntarily chatty it is a trick to distract the exorcist from his concentration and to avoid answering useful questions when they are interrogated.
As Lucas continues praying, Rosalia drops forward, off the chair and onto her hands and knees. As she steadies herself, her breathing increases to a rasp, and suddenly, she holds out her arm, forcing the wrist wearing the bracelet upwards, almost touching Michael, who seems shocked and taken aback by the sudden movement. Then, in a voice that seems to be half male and half female, she asks Michael a question: “You remember the fat little bitch who killed herself? She says hello. Hell…o!” in perfect English, while her eyes wide, stare up at Michael. She then jingles the bracelet as if to taunt him. Michael stands up and quickly steps back as Father Lucas steps in, still continuing to pray. As Father Lucas orders the demon to identify itself, Rosalia slowly turns her head to look at Lucas, all the while whistling a slow version of the tune to “Ring Around The Rosie”.
“By the authority of Jesus Christ, I command you to declare yourself!”, Father Lucas asserts. Rosalia wretches and wails at the mention of Christs’s name, and turns her head from Lucas. Here, she straightens her fingers on the floor, and seems as if she is holding her body in place simply by putting all of her weight on the tips of her fingernails. She screams to Lucas in that hybrid voice, now speaking Latin – “We are the fruit of her womb”. Father Lucas continues to aggressively pray over her, commanding her in the name of the cross of Christ to identify herself. She straightens her back, and while on her knees, arches backwards, with arms outstretch and bellows in the voice of the demon her only response, interrupting Lucas mid-speech: “In the name of Judas Cross!” in a loud, forceful and slow pronunciation of the words, dragging out the name Judas and inserting an offensive venom into her words.
She stays there, arms outstretched in the pose of a person crucified for a moment of two, and then contorts herself backwards and to the side in an impossible position as Father Lucas continually demands the demon to give him it’s name. A terrible gargling escapes Rosalia’s lips, and she stays, frozen in this position for a few moments. While in this position, Father Lucas presses his crucifix upon Rosalia’s forehead, and she instantly releases her position, falling to the floor flat on her back. She then almost instantly begins to gyrate, and forcefully thrust her pelvis upwards to the priest. Michael rushes forward and begins to see that Rosalia is ok, all the while lightly restraining her by lightly pressing her two shoulders to the floor while Father Lucas continually prays over her.
Seemingly exhausted, Rosalia’s movements slow. Father Lucas begins to throw and sprinkle Holy Water on Rosalia, and she shockingly crawls across the wooden floor at an astounding pace. With each drop that hits her, she winces as if being punched. As a last resort, she quickly threatens Lucas in a completely male voice laced with hatred and malice.
Also taken from An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, here is a quick excerpt which details the effect that multiple exorcisms have upon a particular demon, or sets of demons. These observations were gathered by Father Amorth’s mentor, Father Candito Amantini, through his conversations with the actual demons during these exorcisms. This excerpt can be found on page 97, second paragraph:
…At the beginning he would say that he would never leave, because he was perfectly happy in a particular body; now he claims he feels ill and wants to leave. It is a fact that every exorcism is like hitting the demon with a bat. He suffers greatly; at the same time he also causes pain and weakness to the person he possesses. He even admits that he is better off in hell than during an exorcism. One time, while Father Candito was exorcising one person close to liberation, the demon openly told him, “Do you think that I would leave if this were not worse than the sufferings of hell?” Exorcism had become truly unbearable to him.
At this point, Rosalia slowly crawls forward, a look of intent crossing her face, her tongue darting out to wet her lips as she inches forward, closer and closer to Michael. She leans forward, only a few centimeters from Michael’s face, and whispers into his ear: “Rape me!”. As a look of sheer horror crosses Michael’s face, Rosalia throws her head back and laughs. When she recovers, she looks Michael in the eye, and while using her tongue to wet her lips again, she stares into his eyes and with a perfect English accent says “Lickety split!”, and smiles. Michael shoots backwards, because as we recall, not only does Rosalia not speak English, but that is the exact same wording that the waitress used while she was flirting with Michael the week before he joined the seminary school. Father Lucas begins to intensify his prayers, and places his crucifix once again upon Rosalia’s forehead, then the left side of her throat, and finally the right side as well.
Here, Rosalia begins to beg Father Lucas to make sure that the demon does not hurt her baby. As Lucas continues praying, she lifts her shirt and exposes her pregnant belly and once again begins to writhe and wriggle on the floor, screaming obscenities like “Cut it out of me!”. As if sensing this moment of weakness, Father Lucas begins to fervently splash holy water in wide and broad strokes back and forth all over Rosalia as she screams in pain. Then, with the grace of a gymnast and the agility of a cat, she limberly hops off of her back forward, into a position of her being bent on one knee with her hands steadying her on either side. Michael looks on, unsure of what to make of the entire situation. Rosalia then raises her head, and ominously gazes at Michael as she slowly rises from the floor and steps forward, close to Michael. Father Lucas, crucifix raised, continues the ritual behind Rosalia, following her forward as she advances. In a moment of serenity, she begs Michael to help her. As he visibly senses a change, an expression of empathy takes hold of him, but no sooner does that expression surface does it fade as Rosalia lunges forward with both arms, grasping his throat, attempting to choke him.
While gripping him tightly, Rosalia hisses “Go to Hell, priest!”, a which point she begins to violently and strongly cough and convulse. She falls backwards, once again, this time while in Michael’s arms as he attempts to make sure that she doesn’t injure herself during the fall. She rolls over onto her hands and knees, still coughing, all the while Father Lucas is yelling the ritual prayers behind her. In a very revealing moment of the movie, not one or two, but three iron nails fall, one by one from Rosalia’s mouth, entrenched in a small pool of blood.
This is extremely important. According to many of the authors which I have read, all of the ones actually involved in the field of demonology or exorcism claim that by far, the most common cause of possession is due to sorcery or magic. Yes, you read that correctly. While I do personally know people who have practiced Santeria, in my youth I personally knew Satanists who dabbled in Solomonic magic, and I was also aware of people who practiced Wiccan rituals. I had a very colorful youth, so I have also known people who worshipped the Pagan gods as well, and would often conduct rituals in their honor, many of which involving sacrifices. That is the topic for a whole other post. My point is that these were all seemingly normal people who happened to have a direct line with the preternatural. They looked like the rest of us, they didn’t go around wearing black robes and pointed top hats or riding brooms. But I knew of at least one person who had put a hex on someone he did not like. I also knew of women who would attempt to engage a potential lover by placing an affection spell on this person. As explained by Father Amorth, there is no such thing as “white” magic. All magic is negative because it involves attempting to control these beings, these demons, so that they can perform things for us. This is also an entirely different post. But to further explain my point, Rosalia coughing up those nails was a dead give away that someone had used a form of magic to place a hex/curse on her. The movie does not go into detail about this, but here is an excerpt from An Exorcist Tells His Story, by Father Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, page 118, paragraphs 1 & 2, and page 119, paragraphs 1. He is discussing which blessed sacramental to use for certain situations, and the one involved in this procedure is the sacrament of exorcised oil.
…There is one property that is particular to exorcised oil: that of separating impurities from the body. Many times I have blessed people who were subject to spells cast as a result of eating or drinking something cursed. It is easy to find out if this is the case because the stomachache that follows is very characteristic. At times the symptoms of this spell include peculiar burps, explosive hiccups, or growls, especially during religious practices such as going to church, during prayer time, and, most frequently, during exorcisms. In these circumstances the body must expel whatever evil substances it has taken. Exorcised oil is very helpful in separating the body from these impurities. Drinking blessed water can also be used.
At this point, anyone who is not familiar with or has never seen these objects will find it hard to believe what I just said; therefore I must be more specific. What are we expelling? At times it is a dense and foamy saliva or a sort of white and grainy pap. Other times we find the strangest objects, such as nails, pieces of glass, small wooden dolls, knotted strings, rolled wire, cotton thread of different colors, or blood clots. These objects may be expelled naturally, often by vomiting. I want to point out that the body is never harmed, even by sharp glass; on the contrary, it receives great benefit. Father Candito used to keep a basket of such objects that were expelled from different people. Sometimes the means of expulsion remain a mystery. For example, the victim feels a stomach pain as if caused by a nail; the he finds a nail on the floor near him, and the pain disappears. What is most strange is that these objects materialize the very instant in which they are expelled.
Returning to the movie, the next scene is a short while ahead, where we see Rosalia lying down in a spare bed that Father Lucas had available, being cradled in her aunt’s arms. Father Lucas is checking up on her, and we see Michael sitting in a chair at a table. On this table, in a small shot glass are the three nails that Rosalia coughed up, and Michael takes one out of the glass, and holds it in his hand, examining it. Father Lucas returns, updating Michael on Rosalia’s status. Michael immediately gets to the point, and asks Father Lucas why a doctor was not there, because as far as he knew, a doctor was required to be present.
In a surprising turn of events, we learn that Father Lucas is actually in fact a doctor himself, so no additional medical supervision was required. Michael then asks if she was seeing a psychiatrist and discovers that Rosalia was, but that she was not responding to treatments. We also find out that Rosalia was not on any anti-depressants, because she is pregnant. Lucas explains that it is very difficult to predict how any of these thing will turn out, and at this time Michael asks if Father Lucas has ever lost a patient. We find out that he has indeed, and that at this time, when his patient had committed suicide, we hear about how Lucas thought that the devil had taken hold of him, and expresses that it was a dark time for him. He started to doubt everything he believed in. He felt defeated. Michael expressed that he believes Rosalia should see another psychiatrist, and exclaims that her father raped her and left. He feels that she is internalizing her guilt. Lucas then states that regardless of that, it still doesn’t explain her knowledge of the unknown, or her ability to speak sudden, perfect English.
At this point, Michael is beginning to piss me off because things that can be seen and felt with your own senses are usually enough to convince even the most difficult of skeptics. However, I guess the movie makers felt that Michael needed to be turned into a bit of a whiney little bitch, because here he still confronts Father Lucas, opposing his statements by suggesting that Rosalia is just a teen, and that she could have heard and learned English by listening to music on the radio. Lucas asks what Michael thinks about the nails, and as usual, he has an explanation for that as well: he believes that Rosalia swallowed the nails to possibly hurt the baby because she doesn’t want it. As a retort, Father Lucas asks about the voice that was emanating from Rosalia, the hybrid, half-male and half-female voice that Michael heard. Surely, that wasn’t something that could be explained, and as expected, Michael had nothing to say about that. Seeing this, Father Lucas warns Michael, and requests that he be careful, offering perhaps the best quote in the movie: “Choosing not to believe in the devil won’t protect you from him.”
We skip ahead just a bit, to see Michael travelling around Rome. He is having a flashback, of where his father is once again dressing the body of Michael’s mother. He is working on her nails, and he requests that Michael come closer, because he is not a “coward”. He wants to make sure that they do a good job, the best they can, for their loved one. He also requests that Michael pray over her with him. They recite the “Hail Mary”, and in an excessively disturbing scene, we see exactly how close Michael’s father gets with these corpses, as he kisses the forehead of Michael’s deceased mother. This is obviously something weighing heavily on Michael’s mind. We see, in the next scene, Michael approach Father Lucas’ home only to find Lucas leaving. He instructs Michael that they will be conducting house calls on that day, and informs Michael that it is about to rain.
As rain pours down in the next scene, we see Lucas asking a young boy in Italian about what happens in his dream. The boy claims that “it hurts me”, and at further requests to find out what it is that hurts him, the boy responds that the creature is a mule. A mule with red eyes. He says that it kicks and bites him. Lucas asks if he runs, but the boy says no. He says that the mule tells him that it is his father, and that the boy must obey. Lucas seems to understand this, and asks the boy what else the mule tells him. We find out that through the power of dreams, the mule is telling this young boy to kill himself and end his own life. The boys mother, becoming visibly upset, tells the boy to show Father Lucas. We see as she lifts the boy off the couch, that as she raises his shirt, exposing his lower back and stomach that there are large bruises and what look to be bite marks. She claims that the boy woke up with those marks. Michael is also visibly bothered by this. Father Lucas confirms with the boy that the wounds came from the mule in the dream, and not the mother in a case of domestic abuse. He firmly questions both the mother and the boy until he is satisfied with their answer. He approaches the boy, and asks him to open his mouth so that he can examine inside, which he does. He then instructs the boy to bring him the pillow. While the boy fetches it, Lucas begins to pray.
The boy returns with the pillow, at which time Father Lucas, rather comically and in English threatens the pillow. He commands that all of the forces of evil leave that pillow and be destroyed. Michael, rightfully, looks at Lucas as if he is retarded, and continues down his road of skepticism. Father Lucas tears open the pillow, and sticks his hand in. After a few seconds of rummaging around, he exclaims that he has more or less found something. He pulls out his hand, and cries “Diablo!”, and thrusts his hands in front of the boys face. In Lucas’ hand there is a live newt.
This scene was shot rather quickly, and I felt as if it were slightly useless, and took away from the major plotline of the story involving Rosalia, but I see where the film makers were going with this. It showed that they had knowledge of the topic, and that this in itself was something that I respected and actually wound up appreciating. And here is why:
Taken from An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, page 71, paragraph 2, once again on the topic of sorcery:
It is possible that, at the suggestion of some friend or acquaintances, the pillow or mattress of the afflicted person was opened, and there were found the most interesting objects, such as colored threads, tufts of hair, tresses, wooden or iron slivers, rosaries or ribbons tied with the tightest of knots, puppets, animal shapes, blood clots, or pebbles; these are certain proof of sorcery.
And from the same book, page 134, paragraph 3, and page 135, paragraph 1:
It also often happens that the proof of a hex shows up in pillows and mattresses in the form of strange objects. If I were to tell of the bizarre, unbelievable facts that I have witnessed, I could go on forever. I have found just about everything, from colored and tied ribbons to chunks of hair tightly knotted; knot-filled string and wool that was thickly braided by superhuman strength in the shape of crowns; animals – especially mice – or geometric shapes; and blood clots. I have seen chunks of wood or iron, twisted wire, and dolls full of piercings and marks and I have witnessed the sudden appearance of very thick braids of children or women’s hair. All these things are inexplicable without the intervention of an invisible hand. Sometimes these strange objects are not visible when the pillow or mattress is first opened, but after aspersion with exorcised water, or if a blessed image is put on them – especially a crucifix or an image of Mary – the most bizarre objects materialize.
The most important thing that the movie shows is that Father Lucas immediately throws the newt into a furnace, burning it alive. He performs a ritual as it burns, and this is important. It may look silly, but there is a reason for this: Not adhering to ritual can yield very painful consequences. Also from An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, page 139, entire page, is a small story of how Father Candito made the mistake of ignorantly neglecting the proper rituals.
Father Candito and another Passionist priest, both authorized by the bishop, were exorcising a girl. While questioning the demon, they discovered that the girl was under a malefice. They asked for its form, and they were told that it was a wooden box, the size of a hand. They asked for its precise location and were told that it was buried three yards deep, near a certain tree. Full of zeal and armed with a spade and a hoe, they went digging on the spot. They found the box, just as they had been told, opened it, and found an obscene figurine among a lot of junk. They sprinkled everything with alcohol and immediately burned everything carefully, until only a pile of ashes remained. But they did not bless the objects before burning them, and they forgot to pray throughout the process, invoking the protection of the Blood of Christ. They had repeatedly touched those objects without immediately washing their hands with holy water. The end of this story is this: Father Candito was in bed for three months with a severe stomachache; these pains continued for ten years with less intensity, and they returned periodically afterwards. This was a tough lesson, but it was useful to me and to anyone who may be in the same situation.
I also asked Father Candito if, after all that suffering and hardship, the young woman was liberated. The answer was negative; she felt no benefit. This teaches us that, at times hexes do all their damage when they are first put into place; finding the objects and destroying them later is useless. I dealt with several similar cases in which between the time of casting of the malefice and that of finding the objects many years had gone by. The hex had already accomplished all its evil work, and no benefits were felt when the object was found and destroyed. What helped, later on, were exorcisms, prayers, and the sacraments.
We go back to the movie, to see the boy staring eerily at Michael. He calls his mother over, and whispers something unknown to us in her ear. The mother whispers to her son that no one is going to die, and that’s enough. Michael leaves the afflicted boy’s apartment, and accompanies Father Lucas to his home. Outside of Lucas’ house, they once again exchange banter which more or less exhibits that Lucas is a believer and Michael is not. As Lucas enters his home, Michael helps him with his bag. As he lifts it, he sees that there are more newts, all over the place – in Lucas’ bag, in his fountain, on the floor and in the grass around the home, and this visibly upsets Michael. As he enters Lucas’ home, he discovers that they are leaving yet again because Rosalia had just attempted suicide by drowning.
The next scene shows them entering the hospital where Rosalia is being held. An awful scream fills the air with violence and hatred in that hybrid voice. The doctors inform Father Lucas that they have given Rosalia multiple drugs, but she still won’t calm down.
Once again, from An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabriele Amorth, ISBN 978-0-89870-710-6, , page 79, paragraph 2:
We can state that “one of the determining factors in the recognition of a dioabolical possession is the inefficacy of medicines”, while blessings prove very efficacious. I exorcised Mark, a young man who was the victim of a severe possession. He had been confined a long time and been tormented by psychiatric remedies, especially electroshock, without the slightest reaction. When the doctor prescribed sleep therapy, for an entire week they gave him enough sleeping pills to sedate an elephant; he never fell asleep, either during the day or during the night. He wandered around the hospital in a stupor, with wide-open eyes. Finally he landed at my doorstep, with immediate positive results.
Father Lucas also discovers that legally, the doctor’s can’t give her any more medication then they already have. They arrive in Rosalia’s room to find her being physically restrained by three adult women who can’t seem to get the job done. Rosalia is siting straight up in the bed, facing Lucas and Michael, screaming things such as “Look what I’ve done to her, priest!” and “I’m not finished yet!”. The scene skips ahead to Michael sitting outside in the hallway as Lucas prays in Latin over a restrained Rosalia. She is slowly and seductively writhing around in the bed, looking wickedly at the window. She spits across the room, and the saliva smacks up against the window. It lands in precisely the spot where you can see a rather large cathedral, visible through that same window. Michael goes to close the curtains, but Father Lucas crassly instructs him to “Leave it! Let her see it.” Rosalia, head hanging off of the side of the bed, smiles sadistically. Below is the actual conversations had in the room, word-for-word, so you can wrap your head around this.
Lucas addresses her. “Demon!” he says. “Speak your name.”
At this time, Rosalia arches her back again.
Lucas asks the demon “Why are you living inside her?”.
Rosalia lowers her voice and hisses at him in response. “Because, it’s so sweet!” is her reply. I believe this was in reference to the demonic entity enjoying the ability to use Rosalia’s five senses, something which a being made of pure intellect and spirit cannot normally do in it’s own existence.
“What are you going to do?” Lucas inquires.
“Eat the flies from her rotting flesh!” is what Rosalia replies.
“How did you enter her?”, Lucas then continues.
“With her father’s seed.” Rosalia says, as she licks Lucas’ hand. This is indeed an important moment. Some of the worst cases of possession in recorded history involved forced incest between a father and daughter. The case I am referring to is the case of Anna Ecklund, basis for the book Begone Satan! by Farther Carl Vogl, translated by Rev. Celestine Capsner. The entire case history details can be found in another article on this site.
Michael chimes in, saying “So now you remember being raped!”.
“Don’t address it directly.” Father Lucas scolds.
Rosalia, blankly looking up at the ceiling, begins speaking in Greek. She says, in that suddenly masculine voice from before, “When the Devil has nothing better to do he rapes his children.”
Michael states that he doesn’t understand, and Rosalia turns her head and laughs wickedly. Michael, apparently feeling slighted becomes somewhat confrontational, states that she suddenly knows how to speak another language.
Once again, in the masculine voice, Rosalia in Greek says “Therefore let us go down and confound their tongue that they may not understand one another’s speech.” This is from Genesis, 11:7. This is describing Babel, when man defied God and His will at every possible turn.
“You know the Bible well.” Says Michael.
In a horrible, violent and only masculine voice, Rosalia replies with “We know it very well.”
She takes her nails, extends her hands and scratches along the tile wall, emanating a terrible screeching.
“Don’t patronize me, Doubter. It is I who chose you!” the demon explodes.
“Why do you call my ‘doubter’”? Michael asks.
“A liar knows a liar.”, Rosalia says, with a quirky smile.
“Are you a liar, Rosalia?” Michael asks.
At this point, we see that Father Lucas is no longer attempting to get Michael to stop addressing the demon. I believe this is because at some point, every exorcist must learn for himself not to make mistakes. We see Father Lucas simply observing at this point.
“What is it you want me to believe?” Michael asks Rosalia.
“There is nothing to believe in.” she hisses at him.
“Hmm. And there’s no doubt when you’re not possessed?” he mockingly asks her.
“You fear me, mortal!” the demon shouts.
“How can I fear you if you don’t exist?” he asks.
Rosalia glares at Michael, and the scene cuts to the hallway.
I thought this was an incredible scene because it conveyed that while Rosalia was in restraints, she was not a threat to herself or to the men of the clergy. There was an odd sense of peace because deep down, you, the viewer, knew that she couldn’t do anything to shock you or to hurt the others in the room. In the hallway, Father Lucas is taking a break, sitting on a small bench. Michael approaches him, and drops his bag at Lucas’ foot. Once again Michael claims that she is not possessed, but simply sick, and that she needs additional and extensive psychiatric help. “He still has you fooled, doesn’t he?” asks Father Lucas, implying that Michael doesn’t believe because the Devil has tricked him. In response, Michael nudged the bag closer to Lucas, and tells him that he forgot his ‘bag of tricks’. The scene cuts away at this point to later on in that night, while Rosalia is alone in the room.
Rosalia, still restrained, is contorting her body into painful looking situations, showing us that something is ominously going to happen. We see her blood pressure and heartrate rising quickly through the vital monitors connected to her in the room. It seems as if the now sleeping Rosalia is having intense nightmares. She is restless and in pain. She seems to want to cry out, but some unseen force seems to be preventing her from doing so. We hear her low whimpers, and see a growing bloodstain in the sheets bunched up between her legs. Father Lucas wakes up from his nap on the bench in the hospital hallway to the rushing hospital staff attempting to save Rosalia. As Lucas watches on, we see that Rosalia did not survive, nor did her unborn child.
As Michael walks down the hall, the director cleverly fills us in by way of observing the conversations the police are having with the hospital staff. “There was internal bleeding and massive hemorrhaging.” says a staffer as Michael passes by. “We did everything in our power but unfortunately, we couldn’t save her or the baby.” was another strategically placed conversation that Michael passes by.
He sees the blood stained bed, and a dangling rosary. We see a broken Lucas outside, and they have a saddening conversation about how the demon won. Michael inquires if Lucas is ok, and we learn that he is not. He feels as if he has failed her, and that he is right back where he was before when he lost the other patient to suicide. He feels beaten. As Michael parts, Father Lucas advises him to protect his soul, cherish it and defend it. He would have said more, but he breaks down in an emotional outburst.
Michael, in the rain, is in a coffee shop with Angeline, whom he has asked to show up. He tells her that he will be open to helping her with her article. They discuss Rosalia’s case after agreeing to keep her anonymous, and he admits that he doesn’t understand how Rosalia could have harmed the baby or herself, which was ultimately the cause of her death. Since her hands were bound, he sees no logical way how it could have happened, and he simply states that the event is “confounding” to him. At this point, I believe that we see that he is beginning to have trouble explaining away all of these events.
She asks what changed his mind, and he responds by saying that he just needed to tell someone. Then, he goes on to explain his life to her, and he offers details about why he ran away from home and joined the priesthood. He claims that he never felt a particular calling. At the time, they seem to be caught in some type of heavy traffic congestion, so as a means to get to know one another and waste some time, they begin to tell each other their stories.
Then, Angeline begins to tell Michael about how her brother was committed to an asylum at age nineteen. He was severely tormented and heard voices telling him to do things that scared both Angeline and her family. He thought it was the devil telling him to do these things, and he voiced this opinion to his family. What scared Angeline the most was that sometimes he would tell her what the devil said. And at times the things the “devil” said would come true.
She was frightened. She admits that it feels easier when she doesn’t think about him. As she says this, the tone of the conversation drops down to almost nothing, and they pass an automobile accident. Michael passes the corpse on the floor, which seems to be staring right at him.
We then cut ahead to Michael having a dream about when his father embalmed their mother. We see a dark, shadowy figure coming down the hall which we assume is his father. It walks differently than a normal person would. It’s shoulders are hunched forward, and everything about this beings body seems rigid. The figure then lifts its hands to Michael, and we see the severely long fingernails/talons of the figure, and at the wrist, it is wearing Rosalia’s charm bracelet, Michael blows on the creature’s fingernails, as his father did to his mother’s corpse as he tended to her fingernails, and then suddenly, the hand reaches forward and grabs Michael by the throat, choking him in an iron grip. Michael’s eyes roll up in the back of his head much like those possessed, and then we see Michael shoot up in bed, apparently scared or startled straight out of sleep.
There was apparently a knock at his door, and we see Father Xavier, who apologizes for knocking, with a solemn expression on his face. He then delivers the bad news that Michael’s father had been the victim of a stroke. Michael calls the hospital and speaks to the doctors who inform him that his condition is unknown and unstable, but that Michel should call anyway to continue keeping current with the updates.
Father Xavier offers to bring Michael home, at which Michael says he is thankful and accepts the invitation. The movie then cuts to a new scene where we see Father Lucas shaving in a mirror. Now, it is my personal belief that mirrors are gateways, is used as such, to a different plane of existence. There are many types of fears and phobias of mirrors, some of which can be delved into more deeply by viewing additional articles on this very site in regards to the mirror’s role in superstition. While Father Lucas is in the process of shaving, there is a point where he cuts himself shaving, but that does not matter to him because it seems that he has fallen into some form of a trance, apparently mesmerized by his own reflection.
New scene shows Michael entering his living quarters only to find one of the frogs from Lucas’ home sitting outside his door. He enters the room slowly, to find dozens and dozens of frogs on his floor and bed. This seems to disturb him, because from what I gathered about the story, Michael seemed to think that Father Lucas was breeding these reptiles on his land and then bringing them with him to perform his ‘tricks’. This seems to dispute that, in actuality confirming a thought that never occurred to Michael – that the reptiles went to Father Lucas, and not the other way around.
The next scene includes news footage of the Icelandic volcano event, mentioning that all air travel has been suspended indefinitely. Michel then checks into a hotel, and once arrived, he calls the hospital where his father is staying. His father is connected, at which time they have a brief conversation in which we hear that his father claims that he is scared, and that he knows something happened. He asks where Michael is and states that he wishes he were there. He asks where he himself is, as if disorientated, and Michael tells him that he is in the hospital, and what had happened to him. After an uncomfortable silence, the tone o the entire conversation changed for the darker when his father says “They’re hurting me” and is abruptly disconnected.
Only milliseconds pass, but the doctor gets on the phone and informs him that his father passed away that afternoon, a full six hours earlier. Michael thinks it is a mistake because he was speaking to his father only moments ago. The doctor says that his father was declared dead, and that he himself was a witness, so there was no way that it could have been a mistake, as he was present.
Michael begins to cry, not understanding what is going on, and then we cut to another scene. This time, it is of his mother’s funeral. It is snowing, and the priest is saying the prayers. Michael, significantly younger and as a child stares angrily at the coffin being lowered into the ground. We then see Michael staring at a holy card his mother has given him at some point before she died, and he turns it over to read the personalized inscription she left him, but the scene cuts away too fast leaving the rest to the imagination.
Michael for some unknown reason then turns to the window, where he sees that it has also been snowing outside his hotel as well. In the snow, he sees the footprints – technically tracks – of an animal. As the suspense builds, we hear a child’s laughter which makes Michael shoot around and look for the voluminous, sinister laughter. He walks to the door and opens it swiftly, staring out into his hotel’s hallway, hoping to catch whatever it is that is making the noise. As he stands there, we hear the laughter again, this time more adult-like and sinister, with a deeper baritone aspect to it. He turns his head to address a new noise he hears, some type of jingling, and sees Rosalia’s charm bracelet hanging from the light fixture attached to the wall. Then, we hear the whispers, which seem to be saying “A liar knows a liar.”, which Rosalia stated to Michael just before her death, and even more laughter. We then hear his father, saying “They’re hurting me.” and “I’m scared“. He sees the figure of a man outside, which he assumes is his father, and we see that it is. This man is walking aimlessly, clenching and unclenching his fists. He obviously has something wrong with him and he looks very distraught.
Michael exits the hotel room, and his father falls to the ground in a heap, lifeless. Michael then hears the whisper say “There’s nothing to believe in.” At this very moment, he hears a snort, what could only be described as the deep exhale of a horse or a mule, and lo’ and behold, as he turns to see what the sound was, he comes face-to-face with a pitch black mule, with glaring red eyes. As he has a momentary stare-off with the animal, the sound of a church bell can be heard in the distance, to which Michael looks off to. As he tries to pinpoint the sound, he returns to reality, only to find out that it was a dream. There isn’t even snow on the ground as he stood outside, and the mule obviously wasn’t their either; same goes for his father. According to Father Fortea, in his book Interview with an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, pages 34 & 35, question 27, he goes on to answer the questions present about diabolical entities beng the cause of such nightmares:
27. Can demons cause nightmares?
Yes, even though there is no way of knowing when a nightmare has a natural cause or a demonic one. We can only suspect that it has a demonic cause when there are other indications that point to this. There are cases where no psychiatrist has been able to find a reasonable explanation, either conscious or subconscious, for a normal person to suffer every night for a month or more with terrible nightmares that cause him or her to awake screaming and covered in sweat. These periods of very intense nightmares are sometimes connected to things such as having taken part in an occult rite or having begun a more intense spiritual life. The best advice one can give someone in this situation is to use holy water and ask God for protection and deliverance from any demonic influence during the night before he goes to sleep. If such actions cause the nightmares to stop, this would confirm that they were demonic in origin.
Michael believes that he is hearing and seeing things, what he considers to be a hallucination. He is on the phone with Angelina, and he mentions that he doesn’t even know what he is doing there. He asks her for her help, and to meet him, because he feels like he is going insane.
The scene changes and we see that Michael is now at the house of Vincent, the young boy with the frog in his pillow who we had seen previously. Angeline is there as well, questioning the mother. The mother inquires if Father Lucas has sent them, to which Angeline replies in the positive, obviously lying. Her role there is to act as a translator between Michael and the boy. Michael says that the other day, he saw the woman’s son whisper something to her, and that he wants to know what Vincent said. That he NEEDS to know what it was. Vincent’s mother replies by stating that her son is only a baby, and that he doesn’t know what he is saying, but that answer is not good enough and Angeline presses harder. We then learn that Vincent told his mother that Michael’s father was going to die. Michael closes his eyes, and fights back the tears. He asks who told him that, to which Vincent replies “You know. The mule. You’ve seen it too.“, referring to the demonic mule.
Michael, as he rushes out of Vincent’s home and onto the street, admits to Angeline that his father did indeed die the night before, and after she consoles him, Michael wants to know how the child knew. He claims that he wants and needs to talk to Father Lucas, but little does he know, things are very, very different than they once were with the elder priest.
We cut to Father Lucas, who we see staring over a small balcony into the distance. Church bells once again are sounding off, and we hear Father Lucas groan. At this moment, a small child behind him approaches him, and stands beside him. We see that his right arm and hand are trembling uncontrollably, and the little girl asks the priest to bless her doll. He looks down at her, acknowledges her as Karina, a little girl he knows. Then, she notices that he is not wearing shoes, socks, or pants. He look down at her, and then abruptly backhand slaps her before he walks off to the sound of her crying on the floor in the background. As he walks off, he makes a mockery of making the sign of the cross to everyone who approaches the girl, with everyone there wondering why he just reached out and violently slapped the common sense out of her.
Michael is seen getting out of a car in the rain, and running to Father Lucas’ home. He finds Father Lucas sitting on the stoop in the rain, seemingly unphased and in deep thought. Michael begins to usher Lucas into the home, and he begins to hum as they walk. Angeline hangs back in the alley and watches until they both enter, at which point she follows them inside Father Lucas’ home.
Once inside, Michael begins to question Lucas, and then we find that Lucas does not remember what he had been doing. He then states that he can’t seem to pray any longer, he feels that he is no longer in a state of grace, and that he knows prayer is his only salvation, but that doesn’t matter or help, because he still cannot pray. He then tells Michael to remember that prayer is his only salvation, and that it knows him – it knows all of his sins. He is obviously referring to the demon that he feels has taken control of him, and in his attempts to warn Michael, it seems as if he scared him more than anything else. During this explanation, we see Father Lucas while in the presence of an icon crafted onto stained glass. He is staring up at a window, and he begins to cough violently. He instructs Michael to go, find Father Xavier, and to lock him (Lucas) up. He says that whatever is inside of him is indeed strong, that it is powerful. They flash back to the memory of Lucas standing before the glass window, and during his cough, he pulls an iron nail out of his mouth, reminiscent of Rosalia’s case. He then instructs Michael that the terror is real, and that he will only defeat it once he believes. This is indeed one of, if not the only actual problem I had with the movie. According to Father Gabriele Amorth, the only time objects are produced via coughing or vomiting is during the actual process of exorcism. A possessed person wouldn’t be walking down the street and coughing up iron nails unless a Priest-Exorcist was running behind him performing the Ritual Romanum.
We then see Michael attempting to locate Father Xavier, and we also see that he is unavailable and cannot seem to be found. They obtain his cellular phone number, but it seems to only continue going to voicemail. In the book The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren, by Gerald Brittle, ISBN 0-595-24618-4, there are multiple entries in which Ed Warren, famed Religious Demonologist describes how often times, even days in advance of a demonic case, they are plagued by issues and problems that would otherwise prevent the average person from making contact with those in need.
On page 116, this is what he said:
“In April1978, we received a call from an articulate, well educated woman of about thirty-five who was beside herself with fright. This woman, Barbara Cotter, was under oppression, but she didn’t know what was happening to her. She had extreme difficulty getting hold of us, while Ed and I had just as much trouble getting up to see her. Barbara and her friend had bought themselves a bona fide haunted house in New England. Although the events of the case are interesting, what is significant here is how demoniacal strategy figured so prominently in their purchase.
And on page 69, he continues with the following:
When the Warrens returned from church, Lorraine immediately telephoned the Hillman family. Mrs. Hillman answered the phone on the second ring. Lorraine told her the difficulty that she had reaching them the night before. “The phone was in working order,” the woman replied, “but it didn’t ring after midnight. I know, because I was waiting for you to call.” The problem with the telephone upset the woman even further, and so Lorraine made an appointment to visit the family that afternoon.
And even further, on pages 93 & 94:
Because of the extraordinary nature of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s work,’ the strategy of the demonic often envelops them too. Indeed, it begins even before they are requested to enter an investigation, or follow up a call for help. Ed explains recent vandalism that occurred in his office:
“This happens a couple of times a year, usually after sunset. The last time, though, it happened in broad daylight. Lorraine and I were in the kitchen after lunch. First the phone rang. Lorraine picked up the receiver, but since there was no one on the line, she hung up. About a minute later, the phone rang again-but instead of the normal, intermittent rings, it rang continuously. When Lorraine picked up the receiver, a deep-throated, animal growl came across the line.
“She became upset and handed the phone to me, and I listened to the growling too. No sooner did we hang up than our German shepherd began barking savagely outside. At that point, what sounded like a violent brawl started up in my office. You could hear furniture being thrown around, with crashing and breaking sounds going on for a good ten minutes. Most people’s inclination would have been to run down and find out what’s happening, of course, except you wouldn’t want to have seen what was going on down there!
“An hour later, we went into the office. It was a complete wreck. Pictures were torn off the walls, files were dumped over. Books, papers, chairs, lamps, tables all were thrown into a pile in the center of the room. We know from experience this was not the work of human beings. This is the demonic.
After the locational issues with Father Xavier, we now see Father Lucas awaken. He stares ominously out his window, at the stained glass window. He closes the curtains, and we see that all of the stray cats who had previously ‘moved in’ to Father Lucas’ home are hauling ass away from the property, one after another after another. Progressing rather quickly along, we are then taken into Father Lucas’ home, and we see all of his holy artifacts have been broken, damaged, or completely destroyed. The figure of Christ has been ripped off of every crucifix, and all crucifixes have been turned upside down. All of the holy water lies in puddles on the floor, and we see writing scratched into the wall which a voice translates for us to mean “He belongs to me now.”
Michael and Angeline enter Lucas’ home and see the destruction to all of the holy relics. They apprehensively walk throughout the house, and begin to ascend up the stairs. Angeline hears a noise, and they both turn. While they are facing that direction, we see Lucas standing behind Michael, but by the time they turn again, he is gone. As they enter the room where they locked Lucas, he is humming and reading from a small pamphlet. Michael addressed Lucas by calling his name, and the response is chilling to say the least. Lucas looks Michael in the eyes, and says very matter-of-factly: “I’m sorry, he’s out.” and welcomes Michael back into the room. Slyly, Michael attempts to ask who he is, trying to get a name, but the entity is far smarter than that, and identifies himself as an old friend.
Michael tries to push forward, and begins to close the door, leaving Angeline outside. Michael claims to not follow what the entity is saying, to which it responds that yes, Michael does follow him, and always has. The entity asks Michael if he enjoyed his “gift“, the one he hung on the door, referring to Rosalia’s charm bracelet in Michael’s dream. Then it asks if Michael is following him now, obnoxiously. It is also at this point where the diabolical confusion begins to set in. This is actually where the name of this very blog comes from, “Diabolical Confusion”. Father Malachi Martin, in his book Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans, ISBN 978-0-06-065337-8, pages 19 & 20, describes this phenomena as follows:
A new hallmark of the proceedings enters as the Breakpoint nears, and ushers in one of the more subtle sufferings the exorcist must undergo: confusion. Complete and dreadful confusion. Rare is the exorcist who does not falter here for at least a moment, enmeshed in the peculiar pain of apparent contradictions of all sense.
His ears seem to smell foul words. His eyes seem to hear offensive sounds and obscene screams. His nose seems to taste a high-decibel cacophony. Each sense seems to be recording what another sense should be recording. Each nerve and sinew of onlookers and participants becomes rigid as they strive for control. Panic – the fear of being dissolved into insanity – runs in quick jabs through everyone there. All present experience this increasingly violent and confusing assault.
The entity asks Michael to close the door so they can avoid being disturbed, but it seems as if it is more of a rhetorical question, because that very second, the door closes by itself. A deep growling is heard within the room. The entity tells Michael that his father says to say hello, by the way, and once again, we hear the slow, drawn out speech. “Hell….o!“, with a sinister growling at the end of the “o”. Michael attempts to dismiss this, but the entity rebukes by stating that Michael’s father enjoyed his final little chat with him. To further taunt him, the entity then mocks Michael by stating that he doesn’t think Michael enjoyed it quite as much.
Michael calls the entity a liar. In a rather amusing retort, the entity responds by saying “Yes, that’s what they all tell me.” It then goes on to tell Michael the exact time his father died, in which hospital, and that his father’s last moments were spent alone, terrified and in fright as well as completely alone in “that house of death“, with no loved ones to kiss him goodbye or to hold his hand as he passed on. It then goes on to claim that Michael deserted his father, and that this caused him great pain, and after all was said and done, Michael hurt him the most.
Michael then asks if the entity is reading his mind, and it laughs in response. It responds with a “Yes. No. Maybe.” all at once. Michael asks him for further proof, seeming to agitate the entity. It calls him a little piece of mouse shit, and states that he absolutely isn’t afraid of Michael. At this point, Michael begins to panic and it is obvious. As the entity advances towards Michael, Michael tells it to “stand back“. Further enraging the entity, it exclaims “You don’t command me!” condescendingly. Michael then responds by claiming that he does not, but that God does. The entity mocks this response. He tells Michael that he is nothing, and that he knows nothing. In his book Interview with an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance, by Father Jose Antonio Fortea, ISBN 978-1-932645-96-5, page 34, question 28, he elaborates on the demon’s ability to read minds:
28. Can demons read our thoughts?
No. Though demons can tempt us, they cannot read our thoughts. With their great intelligence, they can guess what we are thinking-but they can never be absolutely certain. As spiritual beings, they are much more intelligent than we are, and as such, they can deduce things with greater accuracy and with fewer external signs than we can. But we always have to remember that demons are outside our souls; only God can truly read the soul. This being said, if one directs his mind and will to a saint, an angel, or a demon, they can hear us. So it does not matter whether our prayer is verbal or merely mental. In certain cases of possession I have observed that the demon obeys orders that have been given mentally.
As Angeline listens with her ear pressed against the door, the entity then takes on a new approach. Michael has his back to the wall, with Father Lucas’ vessel in his face, eye to eye, nose to nose, taunting him by quoting words that Michael’s mother said to him as a child before she died, about how she would never leave him. It then ends the rant by declaring: “God is not here, priest!“.
In a confusing series of events, the entity then looks at Michael, and backs away immediately. It takes a few steps backwards, and suddenly, his arms are spread wide, its head rolled back, resting on his shoulders in the position of the crucifixion. Rumbling, low growls can be heard as the entities arms are pulled back to an impossible position, seemingly about to break from the strain. In a moment of apparent lucidity, Father Lucas cries out, begging for God to help him.
On the outside of the door, that is not what Angeline hears, she hears the rumbling and yelling from the demonic voices inside the room. While in the room, Father Lucas is still begging for God to help him, over and over again.
Now that our little mini-investigations, definitions, and explanations are running in full effect, that will conclude part 1 of the current movie review. Even though we still have approximately 40 minutes left to review of the movie, I feel that I have supplied you with enough basic knowledge about the rituals of exorcism and deliverance to have a good working concept of what goes on. As you can see, this movie goes to extreme lengths to get the details right so far, and at the current time, I personally feel that this is the most accurate exorcism movie ever made. In part 2, we will include at length and go further into detail as well as delve deeper into the story itself. I decided to pause here because after this point, things start to get intense and there will be a good amount of “small” details I will take the time to point out and explain. Pretty much, from this point on, after a small lead up, the shit really hits the fan. I will keep you posted, and a link to part 2 will be posted here in an update. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Any and all debates are welcome, as long as they are intelligent and well thought out. Plus, if you are making a point or trying to discredit the things I have said, that is fine too, just please provide proof and/or references so that I may confirm those points on my own.