Hexing is a 2017 supernatural horror film directed by Christophe Lenoir (produced by Vivek Singhania) that whirls around a cursed Ouija (yantra) board, a board that “protects” those who are called to play upon its mysteries by gruesomely punishing one’s enemies. To the death.
It’s also the story of Hannah (Emma Eliza Regan), a young woman, quiet and caring, inwardly struggling in the depths of her loneliness, dealing with the loss of her mother, trying to live a normal life with her father in a provincial Irish town. Together with her friends Alice (Dominique Swain) and Joe, she will use the yantra to pry open the doors of the demonic realm, until the consequences of this opening become a horrifying reality as the presence of the board’s occult powers consume the world around her.
Hexing (2017): Official Trailer
The yantra board acts as transfigurative object of unrealized desire, a key to communicate with the semblance of desire without touching it. This experience is more than mere communication with the dead, it’s the clawing open of a spirit that binds itself to those who are already in communion with its evil — and disrupts reality.
And Hannah stands at the locus of this flowering presence of evil. Perhaps Hannah’s fragile self or sense of loss operates as the drawing power. Stories like this play out more like warped fairy tales. We accept them on their own terms with the magic propulsion that they cast onto our imaginations. And we intuitively seem to understand the idea of objects infused with the power to infiltrate reality.
Once one is infected with exposure to this object (the Lacanian: object petit a) of such delicious magnitude, our world will undergo a catastrophic change: desire, wish, what is never fully attained. Films in which Oujia boards transform the lives of those around them are always more than the explosion of mere physical violence, but rather externalizations of the Subject’s inability to satisfy an unsatisfied desire, and the consequences that flow from said desire.
The object a functions as the uncanny and external intimate of consciousness—often duping the subject into thinking it can be termed or essentialized, only to result in the frustration of one’s ability ever to symbolize or know what the Other might want from him.
Kristi McGuire (on Lacan’s object petit a)
And yet Hannah dives into the mysteries of the board. It is her hope. She is full of curiosity and the need to be healed swirls about her spirit. What does Hannah hide in her consciousness? And, what is it about her mother’s secrets (the secrets she concealed from her own daughter) that haunts her as unspoken transgression, something to conquer or come to terms with? And, how will the Yantra board help her in this matter?
In light of the above quotation on the Lacanian object petit a, we find that Hannah’s use of the board spurs a deep desire inside her, a strong desire to know the truth of her past and of her destiny, a desire to transform reality to re-live the life she lost. Her Mother is her Other, forever out of her grasp, forever desired. Hannah will not accomplish what she sets out to accomplish, for playing with the fire of this black magic only results in the spread of fire in the form of pain and terror. In the case of Hexing, that fire plays out with a wave of gruesome violence that overtakes Hannah’s enemies, no matter how close to her they might be. At its core, this film is a reckoning of a family’s pain.
Ouija (Yantra): The Promise of Pleasure
The Yantra board is the seeming promise of pleasure. Thus, as Hannah’s object petit a, it is that which always promises to satiate desire, but which always ends up frustrating the desires of the user, thus causing a cyclical pattern of frustration that one cannot escape. Hannah’s drives are never satisfied, only further frustrated as the horror commences and builds to its climax. And as the board is revealed to be the cause of this swelling rash of violence, she is immediately regretful, immediately acting to quench the secret of the board, of the horrors that she has brought upon those around her.
The yantra board becomes the remainder of one’s wish to vengeance and desire. It is the externalization of inner harm — of what harm one desires to enact on those around them. She has stepped off the precipice and into a pit of terror.
Christophe Lenoir’s Visual Poetry
All this is beautifully shot by director Christophe Lenoir‘s attention to the texture of the Irish countryside, to the sway of bodies in motion, of cups in the China cabinet. To the soft scent of baking bread and friends and flirting and the promises of forever and ever. To the water stirring over the green cliffs as we float through the blue sky. To the alluring smile of Alice. To vibrancy and lush colors colliding. To the desire of Joe. To the anonymous mystery of Jake and the vulnerabilities he hides. To the worn face of the father. To what the father lost. To the father’s punishment and, ultimate, forgiveness. This is the poetry that Lenoir weaves out from the narrative. I feel viewers will be more drawn to the visual poetics of this film than the story. And, yes, while the story is interesting, it is the production and the visual flavors of its flow that remain with me a week after spending time with the film.
The very centerpiece of Lacan’s thinking on desire, the objet a is most readily defined by the fact that it is not coincident with any particular object at all, but only with the desire for desire: “What makes an object desirable is not any intrinsic quality of the thing in itself but simply the fact that it is desired by another. The desire of the Other is thus what makes objects equivalent and exchangeable” (Evans 38). Absolutely unattainable, then, the objet a is little other than the name we give to that absence that structures signification, subjectivity, and desire; it is “the object which can never be attained, which is really the cause of desire rather than that towards which desire tends,” objet a is ‘the object-cause’ of desire” (Evans 125)nosubject.com – on “Object Petit A”
The Unattainable Object of Desire
That the Yantra board possesses a kind of Arthurian power causes it to be an object of desire. It is the unattainable object of desire. When Hannah easily lifts it off the table we at once realize we are in the presence of a person who has already been infected (through and through) with this insidious evil. But even so, it is never the board itself, but rather that which is asked of it — it is fueled by the sender’s desire. That is, the board cannot speak without being spoken to. It cannot be engaged creatively and spiritually without a person at the helm causing the engagement. Thus, Hannah is not innocent, never innocent. As I mentioned above, playing with this object of desire causes consequences the likes of which are bloody and unpredictable.
The Circling Nature of Desire
Further, framed via Lacanian theory:
Objet petit a is any object which sets desire in motion, especially the partial objects which define the drives. The drives do not seek to attain the objet petit a, but rather circle round it.nosubject.com – on “Object Petit a”
Hannah circles around her desire as it weaves havoc around her. She will never purely touch the sins of the past with her physical hands. For her, in this narrative universe, there is no real redemption to what has already been lost. There is no way out of the trap of memory. The Yantra board is merely a lure for her to further spin herself around the pain of the past. The dance is what keeps us watching. We become caught up in the dramatics of a family unfolding, of friends caught in the sudden whirlwind of violence and horror, of corruption and the consequences of sin. There is a joy in this, a familiarity. For, who, when face to face with the sublime object of desire would turn one’s face away?
An Evil Force Pulls at Our Desire
As the “object-cause of desire” the Yantra board acts as our narrative spur. Without the entrance of this occult object, the secrets of Hannah’s life would remain unsolved and repressed, pushed to the back of her consciousness.
But who can turn away from a mystery when it presents itself? The board emanates the entrance to desire. Once a person moves toward its power, one is consumed. And in this tale, without giving away that which must not be given away, only love can vanquish evil. Which is interesting in how it plays out. Perhaps Hannah alone will not be enough. Or perhaps she contained the solution to her pain all along.
Is this a film about her relation to her father? Or, is this ultimately a film about the sins of her mother? The Yantra board as therapy. Or, the Yantra board as a mirror into the hidden realms of evil that exist in every one of us. Evil that pulls at us. Forces that threaten to destroy our families, to destroy those things which we hold sacred. This is the transgression that this insidious presence threatens to evoke. One must only call it into being. One must speak to it like a friend. Call out to it. Ask it to enter. In solitude… In desire. And, yes, it will listen.
Evil always listens. And it cannot be stopped.