Thursday, September 19, 2013

Demon Possession is So Overrated

The Conjuring is a witch's brew of all the standard suspense film gimmicks. Yet, it may be the best of this hokey genre. There is much directorial restraint keeping the screams and apparitions fleeting and bearable. There is an earnestness about the supernatural without insisting that viewers embrace the predominantly-silly ghostbusting profession. Alfred Hitchcock might even be impressed with this creepy, gripping and well-crafted movie.

The story is quite routine. A 1970s family moves into a big isolated house with clanging pipes, creaking wood, hidden spaces and a forgotten past. Does that sound familiar? Tales of unfamiliar noises in the most familiar of places (our homes) in the darkest of hours stimulate serious primal fears. After all, humanity's first efforts to find sanctuary were keeping the fire burning all night or escaping the outdoors to a cozy cave. To where do we flee when darkness and the predator invade the inner sanctum of our houses or even our bodies?

The popularity of demon possession films always gives me mixed emotions. I consider a belief in good and evil to be a more accurate view of reality than the progressive fantasy that we're just a few educational or governmental programs away from utopia. (Of course, we should strive for a better world, whether we attain it or not.) However, the-devil-made-me-do-it scenarios can seem a little like washing our hands of responsibility. Most of the malevolence I've seen in my global wanderings was of human origin.

Frankly, I have little fear of demons, since I have so proven my ability to screw up my life mightily without supernatural assistance. Demonic entities reading this post who think they can do a better ... I mean a worse job are challenged to give it their best shot. I cannot even blame them for the many hellacious jokes on this site. Nor can I take credit for my courage in the face of the hounds of hell. I once had a woman living in my house who would make a poltergeist seem like a most considerate guest. She drove me to drink, and I didn't even have the decency to thank her.

Here in Mexico, we're preparing for Day of the Dead. This is a time when Mexicans attempt to look the abyss squarely in the eyes without flinching and with a little humor. Chocolate skulls and sugar skeletons are for sale on the streets. Altars are constructed in homes. Mine displays fruit, tequila, marigolds and black-and-white photos of my grandparents, who worked hard all of their lives at meaningless, disreputable jobs like cooking, farming, ranching and military service, so that I could be a prestigious university professor and literary bullshitter. Grandpa and Grandma, you'll never be forgotten or unappreciated.

As for the living, we would no doubt have declined to relinquish our warm, cozy amniotic sacs for the cold, scary unknown world, had we been given a choice. Similarly, there's no good reason to assume that our inevitable trip into the next life will not also turn out to be a positive transition engineered by a caring force. I think we really start living when we lose our fear of dying. Scary things that go bump in the night: bring it on! Pretty things that go hump in the night: call me!

1 comment:

  1. I've always found the notion of the Day Of The Dead to be an interesting one. Perhaps more in tune with the way things are.