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DEMON And The History Of The Dybbuk, Zombie Warhol and MORE!
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The Bite #91
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DEMON And The History Of The Dybbuk, Zombie Warhol and MORE!

January 7, 2020

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY: MARCIN WRONA’S DEMON AND THE HISTORY OF THE DYBBUK

By Lindsay Traves*

An endless stream of ghosts, demons, and monsters have been lifted from the realm of religion and adapted into on-screen terrors. Though these are often taken from Christianity, there are ruthless baddies that have been lifted from Judaism. The most common of the Jewish spooks is an old one known as the dybbuk.

Deriving its name from Yiddish, a Central and Eastern European Jewish language, the dybbuk is a demon that has made its way into films like A Serious ManThe Unborn, and The Possession. One of its most true-to-lore portrayals, however, was in 2015’s Polish horror movie, Demon.

So what is a dybbuk? It differs most from the familiar Christian demons in that it is not a cohort of Satan. Rather, a dybbuk is a soul separated from the body of a formerly living person, left behind after death, seeking to possess a living person to carry out their unfinished business.

Not mentioned in any Talmudic (Jewish Rabbinical) texts, the dybbuk was a common belief of medieval Jews, and its name showed up in literature the 17th Century from Eastern European Jewish vernacular. It comes from the phrase “dybbuk me-ru’ah ra’ah”, meaning “the cleavage of an evil spirit”. “To cleave”, from texts of Kabbalah, refers to the act of a spirit latching onto a body, the action for which this demon earned its moniker.

The dybbuk was a popular scapegoat for certain illnesses, especially in the 16th and 17th Centuries where those suffering from mental illness were taken to Rabbis for an exorcism of the foreign spirit.

Demon is one of the truer adaptations of the dated lore, wherein a man is possessed by the soul of a dead woman on his wedding day. Reminiscent of The Dybbuk, a play by Jewish writer S. Ansky which popularized the legend, Demon is about love, marriage, and disapproving fathers. In the play, the bride is possessed by her would-be groom after her father reneged on the marriage agreement. In Demon, on the day of his wedding, a groom is possessed by the soul of a would-be bride buried outside his rural home, previously owned by his own bride’s disapproving father.

The film also serves as an allegory for Polish and Jewish post-war relations, wherein the Jewish Piotr marries his non-Jewish bride and soon after becomes the vessel for the spirit of a dead Jewish woman here to carry out unfinished business. This depiction closely mirrors 17th Century dybbuk beliefs, depicting a doctor convinced that Piotr is mentally ill and a priest assuming he’s possessed by a demon. But it’s a Jewish teacher, one of the only Jews remaining in the town after the war, who recognizes the work of a dybbuk.

Though not as commonly explored or accurately depicted as their Christian counterparts, there are a host of Sheydim, or Jewish demons, screaming to be brought to life on the silver screen. We can only hope they’ll be treated as respectfully as the dybbuk in Demon.


*Lindsay Traves is a Toronto-based writer. After submitting her Bachelor’s thesis, “The Metaphysics of Schwarzenegger Movies”, she decided to focus on writing about her passions; sci-fi, horror, sports, and comic books. You can find her writing on Daily DeadStarTrek.comNightmarish Conjurings, and Bloody Disgusting and can follow her work on Twitter @smashtraves.


IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Image Of The Week #91 - Zombie Warhol - The Bite

Zombie Warhol’s Here For His 15 Minutes

Back in 1985, Tom Savini made up Andy Warhol to look like a George Romero zombie. A Pittsburg native, the iconic artist requested Savini do the undead transformation following the release of Romero’s Day Of The Dead.


TINY BITES

TOM HANKS, THE KING IN YELLOW AND MORE

New year, new youDracula. Well, on Netflix and the BBC, at least. Sherlock showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss talk about how they gave the horror icon a creative transfusion.

Bloody Disgusting explores how The Conjuring universe influenced horror over the past decade.

The Ringer looks at the work of Cinestate CEO Dallas Sonnier, and the importance of creating “unsafe spaces” in film.

Vulture took a close look at how the latest version of Black Christmas was made.

You may know him as Forrest Gump or, more recently, Mister Rogers, but Tom Hanks got his start in the 1980 slasher He Knows You’re Alone.

Move over A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Story – horror is taking over the holidays.

From slashers and hauntings to explorations of grief and trauma, Refinery29 weighs in on the horror titles of the 2010s that scared the sh*t out of us.

The Trilogy of Terror Zuni doll became the most valuable prop in horror history.

Vogue explores the universality of horror and what makes the genre so compelling.

Vanity Fair wrote about how this was the decade horror got “elevated”, mainly by getting the mainstream praise it’s always deserved.

Here are 10 of the most anticipated horror video games of 2020, including Resident Evil 3The Last Of Us 2, and another addition Supermassive Games’ family of choose-your-own-adventure-style games, Little Hope.

The U.S. Library of Congress National Film Registry preserves its fair share of horror films, and here’s the full list.

Step aside, Lovecraft. The Los Angeles Review Of Books is here to talk about Robert William Chambers’ legacy of the Carcosa mythos and The King in Yellow.


THINGS WE LOVE

Things We Love #91 - Horror Movie Icons Claymation - The Bite

Some Cockadoodie Good Claymation

We can’t get enough of multimedia artist Wim Laroy’s quirky clay renditions of these legendary horror villains.


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Queer movies to watch out for in 2020 (Queer Horror Documentary)

The 10 best horror films of 2019 (Tigers Are Not AfraidHorror NoireBliss)