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Video, color, sound, 4:57, 2023

In the American horror film,The Exorcist (1973), a young, white female protagonist from an affluent family is said to be possessed by the Devil himself. The possessing entity is revealed as Pazuzu, an apotropaic deity whose likeness was used as defense charms to safeguard homes in ancient Mesopotamia. Making otherizing references to the Middle East and Africa as the spatial origins of demonic possession, the film proceeds to its infamous climax where the possessed girl is bound to her bed and sadistically exorcised by two male priests.


The true terror of the film lies in the perceived unlikeliness of possession for an upper-middle class, white individual in Georgetown in modern America. Kevin Wetmore Jr. points out that "[the] horror of exorcism films is that an African or Middle Eastern entity has ownership and control over the body of a Western individual," which inversely mirrors the horror of colonialism where "the imperialist state has ownership and control over the bodies of all of the indigenous peoples."


In this video, both the possessing and possessed entities are removed from the film's concluding scenes that are temporally reversed. Without the presence of supposedly absolute evil, the priests appear disoriented and withdraw themselves from the scenes of sadistic purgation.


As they are pulled back into a mirrored loop of retreat, a ritual song from Jindo Ssitgimgut 진도 씻김굿 (the shamanic purification ritual of Jindo in South Korea) adds another layer of reference to the American missionaries who came to Korea in the late 19th century and wrongly framed Korean shamanism as a devil-worshipping practice and tried to exorcise supposed demons out of Korean shamans. This troubled relationship between Christianity and Korean shamanism still persists in contemporary South Korea, as the Judeo-Christian beliefs in absolute good versus evil continue demonizing other religious and spiritual traditions that do not subscribe to such binaries. 

1. Kevin J. Wetmore Jr., "Colonial Possessions: A Fanonian Reading of The Exorcist and Its Sequels,"Social Research: An International Quarterly, Volume 81, Number 4, Winter 2014, pp. 883-896.

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