Legion: Or, the Exorcism Movie that Makes Me Sad for Roddy Piper

I recently came to be interested in professional wrestling. For awhile there — as in most of my life — I thought wrestling to be beneath me, an entertainment that degrades those who do it and those who watch it. I was wrong: there are many layers to this sports entertainment, and it is quite fascinate to experience and observe.

My coming around to professional wrestling means I am learning more about the history of the business and the players in the drama. While I am still not a fan of Hulk Hogan, I have come to like more of the old timers and the greats, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin or Goldberg or Bret Hart or the ladies of G.L.O.W. And I really like Rowdy Roddy Piper; any man with a Celtic slant, such as Piper’s kilt, is going to go over well with me (I am a fan of current Celtic Warrior, Sheamus).

rowdy-roddy-piper-over-hulk-hogan-autographed-photograph-3370771Piper tried to break into Hollywood as an actor as his fellow wrestlers had done, such as Hulk Hogan, or would do, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dave Bautista. Piper did not have as much success, although he did star in a John Carpenter movie. The 1988 film They Live was not a blockbuster upon its release, but it has become a cult classic. The film’s theme about consumerism’s impact on our freewill and our society seems to become more relevant as the years pass. In the film, Piper played a “Man with No Name” character, who stumbles into a conspiracy and becomes the only man who can save humanity. Piper was perfectly cast as the strong and silent type of a sly sense of humor.

Unfortunately, his career never took off. Perhaps he was too late, as Hollywood’s leading men changed as masculinity changed in the 1990s. He’s had roles here and there, including voice work, but mostly his acting credits are associated with his wrestling career, such as his appearances on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as indie circuit wrestler Da’ Maniac.

All of which is a shame, because he has a charm on the screen.

And all of this is to bring me to this entry in our exorcism cinema project: Legion: The Final Exorcism aka Costa Chica: Confession of an Exorcist (2006). This film definitely fits into the B-movie pantheon on this project, which includes the foreign knock-offs and exploitation films of the 1970s and the more recent B-movies that were spawned from the success of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, such as Blackwater Valley Exorcism. As with Jeffrey Combs in that movie, I was interested in this one because of Piper’s involvement.

The movie, however, was worse than Blackwater. It should have been obvious from the credits: it is rarely a good sign when the writer is the director is the star of the film. Had David Heavener given the lead role of the exorcist to Piper, instead of giving Piper the role of the drunk brother, then the film could have been better.

Alas, this was not how it went down. And what resulted was a film that followed the exorcism cinema narrative almost unwaveringly, and was completely forgettable once it was over. So let’s take a walk down memory lane together, and see what we discover when we analyze the movie about an exorcism featuring a wrestling legend.

They always say based on a true story…but that is not a real forest – that is a set!

Okay, she, the possessed woman, walks out to a pig pen and hears a language. That means they must be possessed. The movie makes it obviously so, because she is in a red lighted area and is eating an animal with the bad skin, levitation, speaking in tongues. This movie does not dink around, does not get us to care about who she is outside of being possessed. Possession happens immediately and does not even show the process — it is just there.

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And then we get what is essentially a title sequence for a television series where the “hero” is identified, the priest, Michael San Chica (Heavener) who investigates such events. Oh, and he can see the future and the past, apparently. Again, we are seeing the idea of the possessed woman not as the main character but as the antagonist of the priest, the real protagonist.

Of course, this story is set on Halloween. Because we need to have the “realism” ramped up to the idea that Halloween is truly the time when the barriers between the ghost world and our world is weakened.

thWe do not get a sense that the possessed woman was innocent at all, and the first time she speaks it is in tongues. But because she is a blonde farm girl we may assume innocence via those visual signs. Relying on stereotypes of farm girls and blondes and young women, not exactly giving us an empowered woman.

There is a voiceover narration from the priest to give his subjective experience as he recalls this case of possession. Not only do we not get to know anything about the possessed woman, Tatiana, from the woman’s experience, as being possessed or before being possessed, but we only hear about the everything from the man who is charged with fixing her. So the film positions the woman and her harrowing experience as not as important as the priest’s experience.

Is Michael visited by an angel who is telling him to go do the exorcism? And flashing back to other priests saying he cannot do exorcisms because it is against God’s will. And is he flashing forward or backward to an exorcism?

Tatiana, the possessed girl, has a rocky relationship with her stepfather, who is a Baptist minister. He seems to know she is impure. Or he assumes she is impure. But why? With mention of sinners and impure, Tiatiana pre-possession looks embarrassed, glances to a boy. Was Tatiana conducting black mass? Before being possessed, or after becoming so? Again, movie, stop being confusing.

Tatiana had been treated for bipolar and epilepsy. But mother thinks her current state, her possession, could be more than just physical sickness, that it could be spiritual sickness, given the presence of the black mass materials. So she has been possessed for years?

These are flashbacks in flashbacks, or flashforwards in a flashback, or an idiot who doesn’t know how to direct a movie?

Michael is shown as a child with stigmata. And he tried to do an exorcism on his wife. And he got mad at the Church for not letting him do exorcisms. I think. The problem is there is absolutely no clear sense of time order. No sense of place either. It just keeps landing us in different places.

Tatiana was hearing voices from animals. Having hallucinations? Is she innocent or not? Is the connection with the pig supposed to indicate that she is unclean, a pig?

I think Roddy Piper is the brother…who is alcoholic? It would be nice if the movie took the time to establish things. And now the brother is hearing the voices? But he’s drunk? But who’s brother is he? He seems old to be Tatiana’s brother…not that I know how old Tatiana is…

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The only time doubts are brought into the reality of her possession is in how the priest’s voiceover calls it into question. The family seems to believe.

So this is a white Baptist family living in Mexico? Where the hell are we?

This is making Blackwater Valley Exorcism look good.

At least the demon is speaking to her in English…

The director is trying to merge exorcism with crime drama with film noir. Maybe he should’ve learned how to do one well before attempting to merge genres.

At this point, we have not seen the priest with Tatiana; we have just seen the scenes he supposedly has knowledge of. He is speaking for her experiences and not interacting with her — and yet there is a lot of stuff he is recalling that he was not present for, and we are led to believe the family told him all of their conversations with each other

The demon entering her room on a fog, saying Tatiana is so beautiful. Forcing her onto her bed — arms coming up through the bed, embracing her — raping her? She is writhing about on the bed, there are pig squeals. So she gets fully possessed through rape. It is not enough for a demonic possession to be violent, the act of possession has to be violent as well. The intention is to make us feel sympathetic for her, but do we not already feel sympathetic to the fact that she is possessed? Raping her to possess her feels like going over the top for spectacle and shock value.

They live on a farm called “Heaven Valley.” /eyeroll

Did I mention that the priest has an earring? Because he does. And he’s wearing dark shades. Because he’s cool like that. Note: this is why you do not let the same person who has not much experience or talent be the writer/director/lead actor.

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Okay, wait, the first time Michael actually goes to see her is after she becomes fully possessed? So then why did he say he had met her before? What the hell? And the priest is also a psychiatrist? What?

Um, flashbacks to Tatiana as a small girl being molested by her step-father. So she is not innocent because he raped her? Is that why the demon possesses her through rape? Some type of symbolic link to her earlier “fall from grace”?

So the priest takes some of Tatiana’s things to see if she has epilepsy by testing her DNA. Which is being tested with a microscope. I love how this movie plays fast and loose with science and medicine.

Doctor friend saying Michael’s wife was a chronic manic depressive, medically diagnosed, who ended up killing herself. That it wasn’t demons. That it is never demons. So, there you go, doubt. Also, nothing like relying on exposition to tell a story.

Tatiana’s demon’s voice is always interlaced with a pig’s squeal. It’s that link to a Biblical unclean animal that is interesting.

So another guy is possessed? Boy, all diseases are apparently due to demons here. And again when Michael splashes holy water on him, the pig squeals.

Roddy Piper may be the only one on this movie who knows how to act.

“The demon is having its way. And all people want to do is play politics and religion.” Or something insipid like that from the priest.

What I do not get is how a Catholic priest can have a wife and daughter – because Michael was doing his exorcism on his wife… Or was he married before he became a priest?

Tatiana has no pulse…but at least she doesn’t have epilepsy! And was that a commercial break?

And now the pig/demon is speaking directly to the priest. Michael is dealing with demons everywhere but in the girl – the demon keeps saying she belongs to us now. Oh, apparently she has many demons in her, and one is dominant who wants to kill her.

Oh, the “angel” he saw at the beginning was his wife. So, again, how the hell was he married?

I think the church had a Last Supper clock.

He is performing the exorcism alone, in a church. Just the doctor is with him. The movie also fast forwards the exorcism – showing him getting sweaty without showing the process. Then suddenly she awakens and bites a chunk out of her own arm – and yet no one stops the bleeding, really. They go from wrestling her down to showing her tied up – guess she didn’t bleed to death.

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This is definitely not a sexy possession: she does not try to seduce anyone. It seems more about hurting the daughter, inflicting pain on the daughter, then inflicting pain on anyone else – at least, no real physical pain.

Michael says leave the children alone and take me instead – how The Exorcist of the movie. Except that it could not be that he would become possessed, since this is all being recalled by the priest.

Again the 3am idea, as seen in The Conjuring and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. There is an idea that exorcisms are most effective during that time, the witching hour, when the gates of hell are unlocked and open.

Of course – the pigs! The story is that Jesus cast the demons out into pigs. And that is why pigs are unclean. That’s the Legion story. So that explains the other title for this movie.

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The brother goes and tries to shoot the pig – but it talks to him again in tongues, perhaps Latin, and convinces him to kill himself with a gun – which apparently no one heard as no one comes to find out about the gunshot.

Ah, it was not the step-father that molested Tatiana, it was her uncle, which is Roddy Piper, which must make him the mother’s brother. That would explain his drinking.

She is possessed by incubus? Same demon that destroyed Michael’s family – his wife’s father molested her, so the demon destroyed her and their daughter. “I am not the custodian of evil. I am just the initiator of it.” Really not sure what that was all about – which seems like a big question, because I am not sure why possession was occurring. The demon said it as just trying to get to Michael, but it is never clear why. It apparently chose Tatiana because she too had been sexually molested as a child. Which kinda speaks to the whole idea of possession being linked to sexual impurity – and to the idea that Tatiana had her sexually forced upon her at an early age, which made her impure and thus a threat to herself and others.

Michael uses his stigmata blood to force the demon out of her. And then he just leaves – apparently the family is happy now because Tatiana is okay – but did they never find Lucas, the brother/uncle/molester?

Perhaps the movie is screwed up to metaphorically convey how screwed up the family is.

Nah, I just think it is a bad B-movie, where a woman’s past is used to paralyze her and threaten others, while the man who caused the scar in her past is never confronted except with his own “demons,” while the priest is able to restore his faith in himself and his love because he vanquishes a demon. The possessed woman’s body is all that matters here — not her agency, not her subjectivity — just the flesh through which men and demons alike can act out their desires.

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