The possession, or exorcism film if you prefer, is not likely the most retreaded but definitely one of the more tired subgenres that horror has to offer. Despite the fact that I chose a film of this ilk as one of the best horror films last year it is an area wherein filmmakers have struggled as of late to cover any new ground whatsoever.
Interestingly this film also acts as a found footage/mockumentary. Unlike some I will not allow, whenever possible, one film to forever change my perception of a given subgenre. Found footage like anything else has its pros and cons; the biggest pro being immediacy and one of the biggest cons being uninspired cinematography. However, the found footage technique alone is not why this film fails just as it’s not the only reason The Blair Witch Project, [REC] and Lake Mungo work. The way it decides to use the technique is a failing but it’s not the only one.
Some examples besides the obvious are cutting around certain incidents rather than watching them happen live. Another is actually going the other direction than the subgenre usually goes, it’s actually over-edited and over-produced at times such that any chance it has of creating anything like simulacrum is squandered quickly.
The performances in the film are a bit too inconsistent, which is unfortunate because many of the incidents in the film are very low concept and restrained so more is needed from the actors. Typically Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth, the sometimes rogue priests, are fine but on occasion they were written into situations where they couldn’t avoid being unintentionally humorous.
Those characters in and of themselves are fine though, they make sense, the cameraman Michael (Ionut Grama), however, is an unnecessary disruption. His only functions as a character are to be a nuisance and act as cynic when Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade), the subject of the supposed doc, can serve that function.
It’s easy to appreciate the efforts this film makes to legitimize exorcism and possession both through scientific and theological means to those who would have trouble suspending disbelief. The effort can’t be reproached that badly it’s the clunkiness of how facts are introduced, finer points are debated and lastly church bureaucracy reveals itself that hurts the film’s credibility more than anything.
If you were to look at this film in terms of a meal it’d be one with myriad amuse bouche, hors d’œuvres and appetizers but not much of a main course. The attraction of an exorcism film is…exorcisms. There’s the hospital encounter and one later, both a brief and somewhat anti-climcatic. However, that’s not unusual many of the countless progeny of The Exorcist are underwhelming in this manner. I will admit that for most of its duration it’s a watchable bad film that even features a strong performance by Suzan Crowley. What then makes this movie so terrible?
It is the ending. A few things need to be said about it: first, even though I heard stories about how bad it was before I saw it, it was actually worst than advertised. Second, I refrain from re-writing in reviews but what angered me most was that I could feel the potential for a good 20-30 minutes coming, most could, there’s a satisfying conclusion to this film (good enough to redeem the whole thing) in some other dimension perhaps but sadly we weren’t shown it.