The world's foremost expert on supernatural phenomena insures audiences that this is the most authentic Exorcism film ever made
The Reverend Bob Larson claims to be the world's leading exorcist, and the foremost expert on cults, the occult, and supernatural phenomena. Which opens the man up to speculation and condemnation amongst the non-believers of the world. Some call him fraud, others call him Savior. Believe in his powers or not, he will beat down a demon like Mike Tyson, and he has saved the lives of many, helping to push the word of God through numerous TV appearances, self-published books, and live sermons for more than twenty years.
At first glance, this might sound like a gimmick. A viral nod at getting attention for the movie, but The Reverend Bob Larson is a real man, his super powers in the world of the damned have proven to be true, and he is not a fraud or a marketing trick. He was brought onto the upcoming horror film The Devil Inside to authenticate the demonic possessions held within its framework. He claims this movie stands as the truest fictionalized account of a real exorcism seen to date.
Though he has a few problems with the movie, he believes it is an important work that serves as a warning sign in these dark and desperate times, as that hand counts down the clock on our impending apocalypse.
As The Devil Inside opens across the country this Friday, January 6th, we caught up with Bob to chat about the authenticity of the movie. This led to a conversation about possessed pets, actors being susceptible to demons when they take on the role of a possessed soul, and the touchy subject of Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight, of which Bob believes the actor was possessed by an evil spirit.
Here is our conversation. It's a weird one.
Can you explain your involvement with The Devil Inside? Why are you out promoting this film?
Bob Larson: I was not involved with The Devil Inside during the production of the movie itself. I was brought on afterwards to address the authenticity of the movie. How accurate it is. Is it closer than any of the other movies have been, in terms of factuality? That is one of the reasons I was happy to do this. Because it is the best I have seen so far when it comes to exorcism horror style movies.
The biggest of which would have to be The Exorcist. Though, in the last couple of years, we've seen more and more exorcism themed movies being produced. The Last Exorcism of Emily Rose. Last year's The Last Exorcism...What, in your opinion, makes The Devil Inside more authentic than what has come before it?
Bob Larson: Don't forget The Rite, with Anthony Hopkins. Which was a pretty good movie. This one? There are a couple of things I like. The juxtaposition of the psychological factors versus the spiritual metaphysical factors. You have the experts, who decided that this woman in The Devil Inside was a mental case. That is why she killed a priest and two other people during an exorcism. She's just crazy. Then you've got these young priests, who, by stealth, are doing these exorcisms on the side, without the approval of the church saying, "No! We think something else is going on here. Because, we've seen other exorcisms." And...The fact that they are trying to scientifically verify the process. Which is something I find very interesting. The other thing is this theme that is played out...Have you seen the movie yet?
No, I have not. They haven't screened it for me yet.
Bob Larson: Okay...I don't want to give away the parts that are obviously of shock and surprise value. But they do play out this theme of demonic transference. If you have seen some of the trailers, there is a scene that has been released, where you see a priest baptizing a baby. Suddenly, he is drowning this baby. Something has overtaken him. The idea that, if you don't know what you are doing, what you are trying to get can get you. That is a very serious possibility when doing an exorcism.
In talking about demonic transference, how susceptible are animals to being possessed if there is one in the room? Are they able to take on the demon? Have you ever seen an instance where an animal steps up and takes the demon to save its owner?
Bob Larson: That's interesting. The movie doesn't delve into that. I have seen that. It is fairly rare. We do know from Scripture that Christ cast out demons, from this man who had a legion of demons, and they went into a herd of pigs. I have actually dealt with that happening. One of the cautions of doing an exorcism, though, is to make sure the demons are subject to the authority of God and The Exorcist. That they go where you tell them to go. Because they will try to enter into an animal. I did a situation recently where a woman had a cat that was possessed. She was too.
I've seen this happen with my own eyes. I was staying in an apartment that was plagued by at least one demon. And there may have been others inside. One night, we brought a cat into the apartment. This cat stood watch over one corner of the room throughout the night. It was in battle with this demon. And the demon took the cat over.
Bob Larson: Yes. I have seen that exact sort of thing. I have also seen where people have animal demons. People take on the form of animals, and they act like animals. They even make animal sounds. That is not terribly uncommon.
What do you do with an animal that has been possessed? Are you able to exercise a demon from an animal?
Bob Larson: The possession of a dwelling or a residence...A haunting so to speak...And the possession of an animal...They are both different from the possession of a human. Because humans have will. In an exorcism with a human, you are dealing with the human will, and whether that will is sufficiently resolved in terms of what allowed it to be manipulated. The will must have done something to surrender to the presence of the demon. You have to, if you will, resurrect the moral authority of the person's will. That is not the case with an animal. There is an issue of ownership here. If the owner of the animal has the desire, the faith in God, and the purpose of the will that there animal not be possessed...Then they would be the authority over that animal. It all comes back to authority. Satan is always looking for legal right and authority to torment and attack people. Whatever he has the right to do, the devil will do.
Like The Devil Inside, the more recent exorcism movies have been these faux-documentary, found-footage type thrillers. The actors are never well known. When we are watching this movie, and we see these people who are possessed on screen, acting out this demonic reckoning, and they get lost in what is a very scary, very real performance...Does that make them more susceptible to actually being possessed by a real demon? Are they opening themselves up in an unhealthy way? Especially when these actors are not on a contained movie set. But, like we see here, they are in a real location for the purpose of authenticity in the making of the film?
Bob Larson: Well...I'd be more worried about a Heath Ledger and a Joker character. We all know where that ended up. As legend has it, even Jack Nicholson warned him not to do that movie, because of the nature of that role. There is always a danger in loosing that line of distinction. But I don't see that happening in this particular film. Because I think they take a realistic, factual approach to it. At the beginning of the film, which I like, there is a lot of interaction and discussion about what exorcism is. How it operates. Through the dialogue, the questions of these young seminarians that are in this exorcism school give very authentic answers. There was very little that I could disagree with there. At least there is the semblance of factuality here, which is very strong...Which is very different from something like Paranormal Activity, which is just about looking for things that go bump in the night.
Let's go back to Heath Ledger. Its your professional opinion, as the world's most renown exorcist, that Heath Ledger was, in fact, possessed by a demon during the making of The Dark Knight. That's what propelled his performance as The Joker...
Bob Larson: I would say...something overtook that man. There is a strong possibility that somehow, he just took on too much of the evil of this character. After all, whether it was psychological or spiritual, he could not draw that distinction anymore. That is not the first time I've had an actor tell that sort of thing to me. When they are called onto portray that role. With this movie here, though, I don't see that happening.
Have you actually had professional actors come to you after portraying a certain character? Or something that is evil in a film? Do you find actors coming to you for character exorcisms?
Bob Larson: I have. There have been instances of that. Obviously, I deal with political figures, business people, as well as ordinary people...A lot of people in the entertainment industry. But I am sworn to secrecy on that. Clergy confidentiality doesn't allow me to discuss anything about that. But...There is that danger. I wouldn't say that it is a common danger. But it certainly is at work out there.
We know that demons are very smart, and very cunning. Basically, what you are telling me is, demons know, and are more apt to stay away from something like The Devil Inside. Because that is cliché. They are more apt to go where they won't be detected...
Bob Larson: I think that is fairly accurate. However, with what they are portraying in this film...The caution is..."Do not try this at home." Know what you are doing. When we train people to go through exorcisms, they go through an extended apprenticeship program. Hours of training. Hours of sitting alongside others who are performing exorcisms...Before they ever step out on their own. To take this on single-handedly, so to speak. There is always danger there. There is physical danger. There is the danger of physical violence. There is the danger of harm to the other person. I have been through some pretty scary situations in the years that I have been doing this. Its something you approach with a great deal of caution. What I do like about this movie is that they are interested in the scientific aspect of it. Can you psycho-neurologically determine and identify possession. In fact, I think you can.
Which brings up my next question. Here we have actors in a movie, who are believable on screen as a person who has been possessed. If we put that same performer in front of you, will you be able to tell the difference between someone who is acting the part of a soul possessed and someone who is actually soul possessed?
Bob Larson: Look, there are no special effects in a real exorcism. Whatever is happening, is really happening. If the eyes are dilating, they are really dilating. If the body is contorting in a way that is seemingly impossible for a person, from a muscular skeletal manner, to do...It is really happening. There are no smoke and mirrors in an actual exorcism. This is for real.
So there is no way an actor could fool you?
Bob Larson: I would know in a short period of time. I've had people try to fool me. For sick reasons, or just for curiosity, to see if they could. First of all, I am not going to do this in most cases unless I have profiled the person's history, and I have checked into their background. We don't take random people off the streets. And say, "Oh, we're going to do an exorcism." There is some factuality there. Secondly, you spend a fair amount of time on an exorcism. You don't just jump in, throwing around a bunch of holy water. And waving a cross. You ask a lot of questions. Anyone who is pretending wouldn't get very far, after a couple of hours of questioning.
What about the kids who go see something like The Devil Inside and decide that this is cool? That they want to be possessed by a demon? Do you worry that the film my advocate devil worship and body sharing? Do you see a danger in that with a film like this?
Bob Larson: Yes. I do see a danger in that. It's not cool. It's horrific. It's terrifying. They definitely don't want one of these demons inside. I would hope that they'd see this movie as a warning, about how real this is, and how authentic it is, and that it can lead to real crime, real murder, real terrible things happening...Don't mess with this stuff. Stay as far away as you can. I am hoping that will be the take away. Obviously not everyone is emotionally sound, to take away the same positive result. There will probably be some people that take away the negative. I am hopeful that people will take the best of what they've seen out of this.
Do you ever feel that some movies are coming from a truly evil place?
Bob Larson: Oh, yes. All the time. I do see movies like that. I encourage people not to see them. I prefer not to pick something just off the top of my head. But I think there are some movies that are legitimately gratuitous. They are not healthy for people to see. There are certain things in The Devil Inside that I am not comfortable with. But I understand why they are there. Because it is a really real result of what is discussed in the movie. I am hoping it will be received as a warning, as opposed to something that is just terrifying.