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Demonic possession enjoys a uniquely unsettling reputation in the world of horror movies. Like the Body Horror movies of the 1980s, they play upon our fear of having no absolutely no control over our own lives. We deteriorate mentally and physically (often in extremely unpleasant ways) and there is nothing we can do about it, since ‘We’, strictly speaking, have left the building. Possession movies have an added metaphysical edge since it is our very souls that are in jeopardy.

Even agnostic characters (and audiences) are forced to confront the sudden insistence of a spiritual realm at the exact point where it is in danger of being taken away from them forever. As such, possession movies tend to crawl under your skin and stay there festering longer than exploitative gore-fests.

The latest in a long line of satanic possessions, Jeff Chan’s Grace: The Possession is released today, and if that whets your appetite for malevolent preternatural personality take-overs, you could do a lot worse than seeking out these six classics. The power of Christ compels you.

The Shining Still 1

The Shining (1980)

Its terrifying reputation may have been dented by the hilarious scene in 22 Jump Street where jailed, recently castrated and gender-reassigned drug dealer (Rob Riggle) describes his newly-acquired menstrual flow as being “like the elevator door opening in ‘The Shining,’” but Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s ghost story still retains its oppressive grip, 35 years later

Ex-alcoholic teacher cum writer (an occasional caretaker) Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is slowly possessed by the dark spirits that dwell within the very brickwork of the isolated Overlook Hotel. His descent into deranged, axe-swinging mania is slow-burning. The walls seem to close in on him, crushing him and yet his bizarre visions and pleasant conversations with ghostly barkeeps might all just be in his head. In light of that, the most heart-stopping moment in the film is the drop of the door-handle, releasing an imprisoned Jack from a walk-in fridge. In that two-second moment it becomes terrifyingly clear that there is nothing imaginary about Jack’s new friends.

See also: The Amityville Horror (1979) and Burnt Offerings (1976)

grace the possession

Grace: The Possession is out on DVD today – win your copy here.

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If your pub team is short of an encyclopedic Bond or Hammer fan (the horror people, not the early-90s, billow-trousered rap icon) - then he's our man. Given that these are rather popular areas of critical expertise, he is happy to concentrate on the remaining cinematic subjects. He loves everything from Michael Powell to David Lean, via 70s New Hollywood up to David Fincher and Wes Anderson; from Bergman and Kubrick to Roger Corman and Herschell Gordon Lewis. If he could only take one DVD to the island it would be Jaws, but that's as specific as it gets. You have a lovely day now. Follow him at your own risk at https://mobile.twitter.com/CaiRoss21