by Ben Arzate
Lana, a woman possessed by an angel, has been kidnapped by a cult of Satanists who want to exorcise the angel for their own evil purposes. However, her lover Michael has infiltrated the Satanists. With the help of him and her training to use the angel’s power, the two plan to destroy the cult and take down the sadistic Satanic priest Father Willard.
“The exorcist closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The smell of human wreckage filled him, caused his lips to tremble on the verge of a smile. Yes. Shit and pain. The dungeon smelled like shit and pain, and this was good. It was like coming home.”
The Profane is an inverted exorcism story. Rather than a priest attempting to cast out a demon to save a person, it involves Satanists who engage in a parody of the exorcism ritual to harvest the power of an angel residing inside a person. The core of the story, however, is still one of a clash of good against evil. Lana, the possessed, is not tormented by the angel inside of her but by the cult that tortures her to bring out the hate and pain in her and eventually cast out the angel so the cult can use its power.
The book begins with Lana in the dungeon of the Satanists’ castle. The castle is above a fissure called “the abyss” which seems to be an entrance to Hell and creatures called “the damned,” humans corrupted into perverted monsters, wander the halls. To cope with the pain of their torture, Lana escapes to a mental landscape called “the garden.” There, she speaks with a manifestation of Father Dacius, the man who trained her to fight the cultists. She finds solace in the garden and in her memories of watching Star Wars with Michael. Michael, meanwhile, is acting as the dungeon jailer until the time is right to strike.
Much of the story is told in flashback, revealing the backstories of the various characters. We learn how Michael and Lana met as orphans, the man named Pa who recruited orphan children into the ranks of the Satanists, and how Father Dacius trained Lana to fight the cult. The battle between Lana and Father Willard is largely psychological. While Willard torments Lana to try to get to the angel inside her, Lana uses the angel’s power to show him images of his past and his long-lost brother. Throughout the story, Bilof gives us some very disturbing imagery.
“Inside the old man’s long, wire bear, tiny creatures writhed. Tiny forms moved, twisting inside the mass of hair.
Inside of Pa’s fist, maggots.
Inside of Antonio’s orifices, maggots.”
The way Bilof tells the story make the experience of reading it like being shown a dark and hazy picture that gradually becomes clearer, its horrifying images becoming more apparent and its blood reds and burning yellow fires becoming more vivid.
In between its psychological aspects, the story also gives us action sequences of Michael fighting the damned with axes and firearms and countering Willard’s Satanic exorcism with a Catholic one. Bilof makes these various elements come together very well. The story is chaotic with a timeline that jumps around a lot, however, most of it feels controlled.
There are, however, a couple parts that didn’t work as well as they could have. There are parts that imply the Satanic cult is descended from Nazi occultists and intend to bring about a “Master Race.” This aspect is only ever partially explored and seems something that should have either been explored further or cut. There are also chapters which are journal entries written by Lana. These give insight to her mindset leading up to her capture by the Satanists, but don’t give much new backstory to Lana. They also end a little suddenly, making their inclusion feel somewhat anticlimactic. These don’t detract much from the overall story, however.
The Profane is a well-written work of supernatural horror. It’s a fresh take on an exorcism story full of vivid and disturbing imagery and engaging psychological drama. Fans of religious horror stories will especially get a lot of this.