Seytan (1974)

Yes, the Italians ripped off a lot of American movies in the 1970s and ’80s. But you know who really excelled at the mockbuster, folks? Turkey.

Seytan is a product of this rich atmosphere of copying that which is great in other nations’ cinema, because Seytan is the Turkish equivalent of The Exorcist. I don’t mean it was simply inspired by The Exorcist the way other exploitative horror flicks like Abby or Beyond the Door were. I mean Seytan is at times a shot-for-shot knock-off of The Exorcist, complete with a muddied soundtrack directly stolen and then slightly modified to have a longer intro. Sure, it’s not 100%…but then that wouldn’t have worked, considering the heavy dose of Catholicism that The Exorcist carried. Instead, it’s more like, oh 80%, with the remaining 20% changed due to the low budget and necessity for adapting it to a Muslim audience.

There are no priests in Seytan. Instead of our young priest, a doubting priest guilt-struck over his mother’s death in an asylum, you have a young author, a doubting psychologist guilt-struck over his mother’s death in an asylum. Instead of an old priest with a penchant for Satanic archaeology who has faced the Devil before and suffers a heart condition, you have an old mullah with a penchant for Satanic archaeology who has faced the Devil before and suffers a heart condition. Instead of a cross and heavy cursing, the Turkish Reagan stabs herself with a satanic letter opener. She also never spiderwalks down the stairs or tells an astronaut that he’s going to die in space…but she does totally urinate in front of everyone at a party.

Unfortunately while Seytan is quite an incredible copy, it’s still obviously skimping on the budget and the skill. The special effects are laughable when compared to the original(the bed-shaking scene got downgraded to a shaking mattress), and the cinematography just isn’t as awe-inspiring. There’s also a lot less polish to the finished product and garbled audio, which is further complicated by the poor subtitles on the only version I could find, though I don’t begrudge the film for this.

When Islam does come into it, it mostly involves the old priest-type character, who uses a Qur’an and holy water taken from the Well of Zamzam in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. There is also a brief scene involving a mosque and knock-off Reagan running up to hug another mullah, who rubs the top of her head and smiles that she has been spared from the grasp of Satan. It’s actually a rather touching note to end on in a film that is otherwise lacking if you are familiar with the classic it’s aping, and I do appreciate the updates made to make the film more culturally relevant in an Islamic nation.

Oh, one other thing…I didn’t find Seytan as funny, but that’s because it wasn’t nearly as well done. Yes, I found The Exorcist funny. We’ve talked about this. I have a heart made of rot and horror.

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