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Weekend Binge: Burari hangings and beyond, 5 films about the mysteries of the occult

We don’t often see crimes like the Burari deaths in real life. We see them in the movies. Here are five films that attempt to uncover the mysteries of the occult.

weekend binge Updated: Jul 07, 2018 13:41 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Weekend Binge,Burari,Burari Deaths
New Delhi:In a screengrab from a CCTV camera with a view of the entrance of the Chundawat house is seen members of the family carrying stools , later used in mass hanging which rendered 11 members dead, at Burari area.(PTI)

In 15th Century France, a nun in a convent began to meow like a cat. As the story goes, upon observing her behaviour, several other nuns began to meow as well. Soon, the nuns would meow together for several hours every day. The entire village was terrified. Cats were seen as being the devil’s allies. The meowing stopped only when the Christians got the nuns whipped by the police. This was one of the earliest examples of mass hysteria, having taken place around 200 years before the Salem Witch Trials.

Earlier this week, the strangest and most sinister crime occurred in New Delhi. A family of 11 was found hanging in their home, their eyes blindfolded and their hands tied behind their backs, their bodies arranged in a ritualistic manner. Initial reports suggested sane explanations - the family must have had a stroke of bad luck, the business must have been in the pits.

But it took only a few days for new discoveries to point investigators in an altogether unexpected direction. It was reported that the family had been brainwashed into believing that they were purging their souls of evil. The architect of the plan reportedly believed that he had been possessed by the soul of his dead father. Eleven diaries maintained for 11 years with ‘psychological musings’ were uncovered, and 11 pipes were found leading out of the house, a house whose gate had 11 rods.

CCTV footage of the family carrying apparatus for the mass suicide - some say they’d been planning it for months - was obtained. Videos of the youngest members of the doomed lot dancing at an engagement party were circulated on social media. While investigations in Burari hangings are still ongoing, the emerging news have been stranger than fiction.

We don’t often see crimes like this, especially not in our own backyard.

We only see them in the movies. Movies like these.

The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides began Sofia Coppola’s long artistic collaboration with Kirsten Dunst.

Sofia Coppola’s debut feature is a typically dreamy movie, about the Lisbon sisters - five girls, all between the ages of 13 and 17, housebound by their strict Catholic parents after one of them attempts suicide. The story is told through the perspective of neighbourhood boys who were fascinated by the sisters. The eeriest moment arrives at the end, when the boys rush to the Lisbon house upon hearing a noise, only to discover the sisters dead in an apparent suicide pact.

The House of the Devil

Watch out for an early Lena Dunham cameo in The House of the Devil. Also, Academy Award nominee Greta Gerwig has a supporting role.

The neighbours of the Burari family were reportedly considering doing a ‘hawan’ to cleanse their neighbourhood. In every story like this, there is always a house that is left behind. Years later, new occupants will arrive, clueless as to their home’s morbid past. It’s the beginning of every haunted house movie. In Ti West’s retro horror film, a young babysitter is taken hostage in a suburban home and has creepy occult rituals conducted on her by a middle-aged couple. The film is a gloriously lurid homage to Rosemary’s Baby, which is perhaps the greatest movie about the occult ever made.

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes has taken on new meaning in the post-Weinstein era.

This no-budget horror film is as much about the toxic nature of movie business as it is about one aspiring actor’s willingness to do whatever it takes to become successful. Shot in that familiar old-school ‘70s schlock-style, and like The House of the Devil, featuring a pentagram or two, Starry Eyes is the sort of movie you discover years after realising you’ve had it on your computer all along.

Kill List

Kill List isn’t Ben Wheatley’s best movie, but it’s the one that alerted the world to his brand of provocative cinema.

It’s almost cruel to mention director Ben Wheatley’s breakout film Kill List here because this sort of ruins its most precious twist. Around two-thirds of the way in, the film takes a turn so drastic that it barely resembles the psychological drama that has been playing out for an hour. As the trio of lead characters ventures out of their woodside cabin and into the forest, they see rituals and human sacrifices, cult members and a hunchback. It’s absolutely nutty.

The Holy Mountain

This is what you’re in for, so tread with caution.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movies aren’t meant to be seen, they’re meant to be experienced. Little will be understood, and the most overwhelming emotion will be frustration. But no director can conjure images as potent as his - methodically framed, surreally designed and bonkers to look at. The film is about a man who looks a little bit like Jesus, and his dwarf partner, on a quest to find the Holy Mountain, where all their questions about life will be answered - but even a premise as simple as this needs to be explained because nothing in the movie can be reduced to a basic explanation. It’s a bizarre fantasy with assassins and art dealers, alchemists and thieves, immortal men and prostitutes.

(Every week, we will curate a collection of titles -- movies, TV, general miscellanea -- for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.)

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Jul 07, 2018 10:36 IST