For this recurring segment of Beyond Elysium, I will step away from the nepharites and have a Kult-inspired look at other horror media. Welcome to The Kult Take.
Friend Request is a 2016 horror movie in which Laura, a popular college girl with an active social media presence, tries to befriend the friendless freak Marina and gets punished for it. It has problems: it loses steam about one third through the movie but just keeps plodding on, the scares are lazy, and the message is, like, wow, mean spirited. BUT! Marina, presented in the film as a new age witch who sacrifices herself to curse Laura, is a delightful look at how Sathariel corrupts the miserable and lonely.
Marina Nedifar, a lonely and bullied young woman who grew up at an orphanage, has been fed since childhood with lies and promises by Sathariel, the death angel of exclusion. She was born in Moore’s Grove, apparently a strange cult-like commune, until it burned down in a massive fire with Marina, still a fetus, as the only survivor. Cults devoted to Sathariel are rare, but this secluded commune sacrificed itself by burning down their own homes in order to create a powerful servant for Sathariel. Fascinating, and dangerous.
The movie tells us that Marina is a witch, in the classic christian ‘dancing with Satan at Blåkulla’ sense. Since Christianity is a lie far removed from True Reality, we can rule this theory out. That is not what is happening. Marina has had powers even since childhood, though, when her two bullies were disfigured and murdered by a swarm of wasps. She acts out the will of the death angel, with supernatural abilities gifted to her directly from this higher being.
When Marina kills herself, she performs a modern interpretation of what the film presents as an old witch ritual – killing oneself in front of a black mirror to become ‘something else’. Instead of using a black mirror, Marina hangs and burns herself in front of a blank computer screen. She performs this ritual in order to target Laura, who hurt and humiliated her earlier in the film, with a curse.
Marina’s “ghost”, or some magic from Sathariel meant to emulate her, starts tormenting Laura’s friends with a goal not to kill Laura, but to possess her. This can only be done once she has experienced the same loneliness which Marina lived with all her life. On a higher level, Sathariel is spreading her influence within the Illusion. Laura’s friends die one by one, Laura is framed for vehement online acts and no one believes her story of what is happening, and all the while she is desperately trying to find a way out. As her sanity slips from the chaos and fear, Marina and Sathariel herself inch closer to their final goal.
At the movie’s climax, Laura finally steps inside the ‘black mirror’ realm. It is a twisted place of darkness and grim looking trees, poorly foreshadowed by the artwork which made Marina stand out earlier in the film. Here, Marina makes her final move and attacks Laura directly. We see, as the film ends, Laura sitting alone in a college cafeteria. She is pale, dressed like Marina was, and has a laptop in front of her showing that her Facebook page now looks the same as Marina’s did. The possession is complete, and Sathariel can look for her next target.
Let’s talk about Kult and how to use Marina, or a character similar to her. Introduce her as a strange loner, in the back of the bus or somewhere in class, perhaps sitting at the far end of the office. Make them seem lonely, and sad, and a little bit off, but ultimately just a person in an unfortunate place in life. Someone that a player character could help.
Once contact has been established, escalate quickly. The character is immediately overwhelmed by hundreds of text messages, Marina finds them and visits them no matter when or where. Make Marina’s creepy art features the character she’s most attached to. The situation needs to become dire quickly enough that the character realizes their mistake and tries to break things off with Marina.
Then, the suicide. The film makes a great move by making Marina’s suicide public. Livestream it, or post a video, but the ritual itself must be done in private. Hanging and burning oneself is not an easy thing to pull off with spectators, and Sathariel prefers the solitude. The suicide may feel like either a relief or a shame to the character, but either feeling does not last once Marina’s haunting begins.
The most important thing to emphasize is exclusion, and loneliness. When the character becomes Haunted by Marina, make certain that the horror doesn’t start and end with the deaths of the character’s friends and family. The friends still alive will begin to distrust the character, and events outside the character’s control will advertise them as an other, someone to shun.
In the film, Marina posts videos using Laura’s Facebook feed which show both the suicides of Marina’s and one of Laura’s friends. She can’t delete the videos, she can’t delete her account. Laura is powerless to stop the people around her from seeing her as a complete asshole. Additionally, Laura’s own quest to stop the events unfolding brings her to some unsavory places and drives a wedge between herself and her boyfriend. Not only are her friends dying faster than she can emotionally handle, but it seems the universe itself is trying to push her away from human connection.
This is what Sathariel does, and it is what she thrives on. Once the Haunted character is completely alone, shunned by society and with a trail of dead friends behind them, the story ends with the final possession. Marina creates her successor and inhabits her… or perhaps it is just an incarnate of the death angel herself?
Final note: I have received quite a few good suggestions for horror media to tackle with The Kult Take. Next up is Jacob’s Ladder, because it has to be done. If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment them. If there’s other type of content you’d like to see in these Kult Takes, I am open to feedback. I’ve considered things such as gameplay examples, stat blocks where applicable, and things of the sort. Tell me your thoughts. 🙂