Christopher Chacón has seen his fair share of frightening things in his life. As a parapsychologist, Chacón is considered an expert on the scientific investigation of the supernatural, including exorcisms.
Chacón, who is Mexican-American, has seen more than 1,000 exorcisms across the globe throughout his career. And while many of them have followed Roman Catholic rituals, Chacón has witnessed exorcisms that use several different practices – from the Jewish faith to others rooted in ancient Tibetan beliefs and Hinduism.
“Some exorcisms I’ve seen have elements where you’re almost conjuring – like making spells to trap or stop something,” Chacón told Remezcla during a recent interview. “There are Hindu rituals that are violent where sometimes they try to beat the demon out of the person.”
Chacón’s experience with exorcisms and other types of supernatural phenomena has led him to Hollywood. When a studio is set to release a movie or TV series with a narrative centered on a demon or apparition, they will occasionally call Chacón to serve as a consultant. In the past, he has worked on productions like Constantine, House on Haunted Hill, The Unholy, and the Paranormal Activity film franchise, among others.
His latest collaboration is with Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions on The Exorcist: Believer, a sequel to the original Academy Award-winning 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. In the film, two young girls disappear into the woods and are found three days later with no memory of what happened to them. Once home, the girls begin to show signs that an evil entity has possessed their bodies. Their parents reach out to faith leaders from different religions to combat the demon together and save their daughters.
For The Exorcist: Believer, Chacón was brought on board early in the process to talk to the production team about phenomenology (the science of phenomena) and share details of the cases he’s observed in the past.
“Everyone really listened and were very attentive to what I was giving them about how certain exorcisms work, how the room is affected and how people respond to each other,” Chacón said. “All those dynamics were taken into account.”
In Chacón’s opinion, The Exorcist: Believer comes as close as any exorcism film has to “set the template for realism” since the 1973 original. “How [the exorcism] is depicted is very grounded,” he said. “One of the things that really hit people hard with the [original film] was that it has this feeling of being real because of how they approached it.”
According to Chacón, of all the exorcisms he’s been present for, he estimates 70-80% of them “have an explainable cause,” whether it’s psychological, physiological or environmental. It’s the other 20-30% that are proof to Chacón that some things are beyond human understanding.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether you believe or don’t believe – if you’re an atheist or a priest,” he said. “If this phenomenon happens, it happens. It’s no different from being struck by lightning.”
The Exorcist: Believer opens nationwide at theaters on October 6, 2023.