When in a movie theater and the words “based on a true story” appear, for non-horror fans, it may create a bit more interest but not much else. For horror fans, these words carry a lot more weight than in almost any other scenario. Scary movies based on true stories have become some of the most successful productions in the genre, and that is due to various elements. Regardless, the idea of watching something horrific (especially with the supernatural involved) that actually happened has a lurid thrill to it.
Exorcisms have a way of unsettling people that no other device in horror stories have. Maybe it is the idea that is so terrifying: having your body taken over by a dark entity or the fact that there are so many reported exorcisms made every year, let alone in history, and that churches actually retain specialists in exorcism. Nevertheless, exorcism movies have been popular for almost as long as the genre of horror movies themselves. This passion led to people searching for real-life cases, and some stand out from the rest, as is the case of Clara Germana Cele.
Here is why this particular story should be adapted to the big screen and why now may be the perfect time to do it.
What Happened to Clara Germana Cele
The exorcism of Clara Germana Cele happened in 1906 in South Africa. Clara was a Kaffir girl born in 1890 and lived in the Anglican St. Michael’s Mission her whole life. The girl was an orphan, and there is not much information about her life beside her exorcisms, which are some of the most famous ones documented, primarily because of the number of people who reportedly witnessed it: 170, all of whom corroborated the incidents.
Clara was 16 years old when something changed about her. The first time it caught people’s attention was on Aug. 20th, 1906, when Clara was running through the rectory, taking her clothes off while having a conversation with someone that wasn’t there. When she saw a nun watching her, Clara apparently came back to normal, but she begged her to get Father Hörner Erasmus because Satan was going to kill her for what she had done.
Apparently, Clara had made a deal with the devil himself. Reports say she could levitate, speak several languages she was never taught, and have clairvoyant abilities — she was able to tell things about people’s lives that were around her that she couldn’t have known. She would make several animal noises at the same time, bending her body in humanly impossible ways and becoming increasingly aggressive once there was religious imagery in the room. When Clara was once asked what entity was inside of her, she responded in a deep male voicem “I am Satan.”
A Well-Documented Exorcism
The exorcism happened on Sep. 11th in front of a large group of people. At one point, she bit a nun that got too close to her. Allegedly, the bite mark only had two punctures, as if made by a snake. After the exorcism, everything appeared to be normal, as Clara had regained her personality. However, her health wasn’t as it had been. Then suddenly, in 1907, Clara appeared to be better than she had ever been. That is, until a nun heard a weird sound coming from the girl’s lips. When the nun entered her room, she had a confirmation: Clara was levitating again.
The second exorcism lasted for two days. There is not a lot of information after the second exorcism. Reports say that the girl appeared to be normal again, and that she lived a demon-free life for nearly six years until dying suddenly of heart failure at the age of 22 in 1912. Her story is grueling and has some interesting cinematic aspects to it. This would make a great horror movie, especially in the right hands.
Blumhouse and James Wan
The horror movies of 2022 may be some of the best in recent years for fans of the genre. Various well-made horror movies came out, from Smile to Barbarian, and the surprise success of the slasher film Terrifier 2 (gaining over $10 million at the box office off a $250 thousand budget) attests to the love of the genre. There is even more to expect from the genre, especially after two big horror-oriented production companies may merge by the beginning of next year.
Blumhouse Productions have become one of the biggest horror production companies, having produced Paranormal Activity, Get Out, The Black Phone, and many other successful movies. Another name behind one of the biggest horror movie franchises, The Conjuring, is writer and director James Wan. Wan created the cinematic world of The Conjuring, which currently has one film in development (The Conjuring 4) and one in pre-production (The Nun 2). He is also partly responsible for two other huge franchises, Saw and Insidious, and has focused on possession frequently. James Wan’s production company Atomic Monster has been involved in some of his projects.
One of the biggest news announcements of the year is that these two powerhouses in the genre are in advanced talks to merge their production companies. This can lead to an excellent production of horror movies with their partner Universal Studios (who partnered for Insidious). The deal should be closed in the first quarter of 2023, and that makes the perfect time to create other horror movies, especially the ones based on real-life occurrences, such as the Clara Germana Cele case.
It is safe to say that Wan knows how to choose a real-life based horror story (even exorcism, as seen in multiple of his movies) and create a great scary movie. Since nothing is certain, fans can only hope and wonder what this merge could mean for the horror genre and if stories like Cele (that could translate themselves to the big screen exceptionally well) will be seen on the big screen next.