We sit down with the consultant on the film to talk about the latest possesion flick on DVD.
MovieWeb/SplatterFilms.com recently had the opportunity to sit down with Bishop Jason Spadafore who consulted on the recent straight-to-video release of Blackwater Valley Exorcism. The man, who has performed several real-life exorcisms, talks about his own experiences and the state of exorcism movies as a whole.
How did you get involved with Blackwater Valley Exorcism?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: Long story short, Barnholtz Entertainment contacted me and said, "Hey, Jason, wanna help make a movie?" Roughly three days before I was consecrated a bishop, they found my Resource website (http://www.geocities.com/athaumaturgus/resource.htm) while searching for the text for the Ritual of Exorcism, I received an E-mail, then we talked on the phone, and that's what set everything into motion.
As a consultant on the film, did you do any work on the story or the script?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: I did do some work, such as giving the name to the demon ("Perloquus," which is a contraction of "per loqui," Latin for "to speak through"), and advising on some technical points, such as whether or not certain things in the script were square with reality. But other than these two things, the real credit goes to Ethan and Ellary.
Bishop Jason Spadafore: I'm afraid I have to admit to never having been much of a fan for exorcism movies, and have yet to see Emily Rose, so I won't comment on that particular movie. But, from what I have seen, there seems to be a tendency to borrow ideas and events from an early twentieth-century pamphlet titled "Begone, Satan," which pamphlet is generally well-known in Traditional Catholic circles and which I mentioned briefly in Low-Budget Demonology. The pamphlet does in fact describe a true story, but is very sensationalized and places an emphasis on the special effects of possession, the harm that can be caused to those around the possessed and even to the exorcist himself. In these things, though, the movies are spot on. But when it comes to the "pea soup and spinning heads" (my generic reference to all the special effects), that's something I've yet to see, and hope never to see.
How did you get into performing exorcisms?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: Though exorcism isn't my primary calling, I've done outreach and ministerial work with people involved in the occult in the past. In this kind of work, you tend to run into a lot of people who may have read a book or perused a page on the internet, and then suddenly think themselves capable of calling on all the hosts of Heaven, Hell, Olympus, Valhalla, or what have you. When you deal with people who call on entities and spirits --- generally with such poor knowledge of what they're getting into --- then such people run the risk of calling on the wrong entity or spirit, or of having the call answered by a malevolent entity or spirit which pretends to be the one they had originally invoked. Thus, exorcism goes along with the territory.
Before you became a bishop were you skeptical about whether one could be done?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: Well, I'd like to point out that I was a priest for some time before I became a bishop (the Church is not in the habit of making people into bishops automatically, except in certain underground circles of questionable validity and little or no repute). Yet before I was ordained to the priesthood or even the Minor Orders, I was and remain to be skeptical of all the people who claim to be possessed --- as a lot of them are merely looking to get attention --- but have encountered evil a few times to many to be skeptical about the viability of exorcism as a whole.
What's it like to live in the "normal" world but also deal with spirits in the paranormal world?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: I must say, this is probably the first time I've ever heard someone refer to the ecclesiastical world as "normal." To to be a Catholic of any stripe, rank, or character --- be it a layman in the Midwest or the Pope at St. Peter's --- to be a Catholic is to be born and raised into a world where the paranormal surrounds us at all times. The Saints watch over us and represent us in God's court, the Blessed Virgin gives us powerful helps in times of need or distress, and God Himself becomes present to us, changing bread and wine into His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Sacrament of the Altar. Thus, to live in the "normal" world but to deal with spirits in the paranormal world is simply a part of being a practicing Catholic.
What was it like when you performed your first exorcism?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: I was scared out of my wits. I mean, you can hear other clerics talk about it, you can read about it, but it's a totally different ball game when you're actually the one in the driver's seat and doing it. But the demon plays upon that fear and did everything he could in order to use it against me. When I realized that was what was going on, it was then I was able to conquer it and become effective against the demon. After the fact, the feeling I had can probably best be described as an adrenalin rush, something like "Wow! I can't believe I actually did that!"
Have any of the people you've helped been repossessed? Is that possible?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: Of the three exorcisms I've performed, so far none have been repossessed or even re-obssessed, though I've lost contact with the first two, and am keeping an eye on the third. However, it is possible, and in Scripture, Jesus Himself remarks about a spirit who is driven out and then finds seven even worse then himself who come and re-enter the victim, thus making the victim's condition even worse than before (Luke 11:24-26/DRV). The rite of exorcism itself also counsels the victim, once liberated, to moderate his or her life so as to live uprightly, as a precaution against the event of repossession.
How do you determine if someone is legitimately possessed?
Bishop Jason Spadafore: Officially, the prospective energumen (i.e. possessed person) is to be examined not only by a priest, but also a medical doctor and a psychologist in order to make sure the signs being exhibited are not the result of some natural cause, some mental disorder, and also to make sure the person in question is not just trying to get attention. To make a long story short, the priest is to remain a "hard-boiled skeptic" until there is absolutely no other way to explain what is happening.
Another part of the investigation may or may not also involve a "provocation." In the movie, this is the part where Miguel locked himself in the room with Isabelle, sprinkled Holy Water on her, and said the Our Father. In practice, other prayers can be said (in my own work, I've used the Praecipio tibi from the rite of exorcism proper), as the object here is to find out whether there is a demon present by forcing it to show itself. According to Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the world's leading exorcist, this is sometimes the only way to find out whether there is really a case of possession. (Source: 30 Days Magazine, June 2000 interview).
At the bottom line, however, the way to determine whether a peron is legitimately possessed is purely deductive. When you can eliminate the medical, when you can eliminate the psychological, when you can eliminate the emotional and every other possible cause one-by-one, and no other possibility remains except possession, it is then that a person can be considered to be possessed.
Blackwater Valley Exorcism is on DVD shelves right now!