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For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been a huge fan of the demonic possession subgenre. Outside of a few notable exceptions — William Friedkin’s iconic horror opus “The Exorcist” and Scott Derrickson’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” being the most accomplished of the bunch — productions that take a traditional approach to the “little girl possessed by otherworldly forces” are typically pretty boring to me. Most dedicated movie-goers have been down these paths before, as few filmmakers are savvy enough to deliver something that’s both creative and unique. What’s the point in making a motion picture if you’re just going to retread familiar territory? Why waste everyone’s time by simply remaking the same old thing over and over again? It just doesn’t make much sense to me.
Director Manuel Carballo’s 2010 possession yarn “Exorcismus” dwells directly in the middle of the cinematic road. It’s not that it’s a bad film, mind you — it just isn’t that great. In fact, things really start to pick up during the final fifteen minutes of the picture, though, by then, most viewers will have written the whole thing off as yet another cheap demonic possession tale that borrows heavily from the countless endeavors that have preceded it. If you’ve never seen a movie of this nature in your entire adult life, then there’s a very strong possibility that you’ll absolutely adore all of the supernatural tomfoolery the movie has to offer. Those of us who grew up watching this stuff, on the other hand, may find themselves nodding off during the more familiar set pieces.
Specifically, the story chronicles the increasingly dysfunctional adventures of a seemingly normal suburban family as their lives slowly begin to spiral out of control. It all starts when scrappy teenage ragamuffin Emma (Sophie Vavasseur) rushes into the bathroom and purposely digs a bloody trench directly into the palm of her hand. An unsurprising act from a kid who is experiencing some seriously emotional turbulence, you say? Not quite. Before you know it, all sorts of strange things begin to plague poor Emma, ranging from unprovoked sibling abuse to evil stares and unnerving glares. Her parents are convinced that their daughter is slowly slipping off her rocker, but her uncle, an excommunicated priest, believes otherwise. His theory: Emma’s body has become possessed by an otherworldly entity who wishes to harm anyone and everyone she loves. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take very long for some seriously bad things to befall her entire family.
Once the stage has been properly set, Carballo and crew simply go through the motions. There’s an abundance of green vomit, plenty of colorful expletives, an assortment of sexual misconduct, and all manners of madness and mayhem. But wait — there’s more! There’s a flaming crucifix, spontaneous levitation, and a troubled priest who gets in way over his head. Do you see where I’m going with this? Granted, you might say that omitting these elements from a possession flick are akin to pulling the fangs off vampires, and, for the most part, you’d be correct. However, it isn’t so much the imagery that concerns me — it’s the manner in which they’re presented. There’s no originality here, no desire to do something different. The twist is interesting, but like I said, it’s just too little too late.
I wish I had more positive things to say about “Exorcismus”, but there’s really not much to praise here. The performances are decent, the effects are strong, the direction is satisfactory — and that’s about it. What this sort of story needed was a healthy dose of creativity with a razor-sharp edge; the manner in which this by-the-numbers exorcism yarn is presented strongly suggests that the filmmakers were simply content to regurgitate select pieces from all of the possession flicks they’ve ever consumed. And while there’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from the pictures that inspired you, lifting entire segments from other features and tailoring them to suit your story is just plain lazy. Unless you’re brand-spanking new to the subgenre and have issues watching movies that are older than you are, there’s really no reason to let this devil into your home.
Manuel Carballo (director) / David Munoz (screenplay)
CAST: Stephen Billington … Christopher
Doug Bradley … Father Ennis
Sophie Vavasseur … Emma
Tommy Bastow … Alex
Richard Felix … John
Jo-Anne Stockham … Lucy
Brendan Price … Brian