Studio:IFC Films Year: 2010 Cast: Sophie Vavasseur, Stephen Billington, Richard Felix, Jo Anne Sotckham, Lazzaro E. Oertli Ortiz, Ismaya French, Tommy Bastow, Doug Bradley
Director: Manuel Carballo Release Date: June 07, 2011 Rating: Not Rated for (violence) Run Time: 01h:41m:03s Genre(s): horror
"Don't worry. God won't let anything bad happen to you." - Father Christopher (Stephen Billington)
For me exorcism flicks fall pretty low down on my list of preferred horror genre storylines. The premise has little room for variation, and is predestined to include certain obligatory elements. That's what we get in Exorcismus, though director Manuel Carballo tries his best to cover the material from a slightly different angle. But in the end it's another possession title.
Movie Grade: C+
DVD Grade: C+
I really loved John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps and the way it paralleled the onset of a teenaged girl's puberty with her becoming a werewolf. It treated the material with a nice mix of quirky humor and horror thrills, and it seemed like a primer that every parent of a soon-to-be-teenaged-girl should see just so they could nod knowingly to one another about their own unpredictable monster living upstairs. In Exorcismus director Manuel Carballo and writer David Munoz dabble in creating a similar feel for this 2010 possession film, providing a sulky fifteen-year-old not so happy with her home life who suddenly begins exhibiting some really unpleasant and dangerous behaviors.
At this point most parents are probably thinking Exorcismus could be more of a documentary than a horror film.
As viewers we can clearly see something is wrong with Emma (Sophie Vavasseur), and it's a whole lot more than just being disgruntled about having to be home schooled by her kind-but-clueless parents (Richard Felix, Jo Anne Sotckham). Even though she has weird seizures, disturbing visions and memory loss Emma thinks something supernaturally rotten is going on inside her. Either that or she thinks she is losing her mind. Luckily - or perhaps not - Emma's uncle is disgraced priest Christopher (Stephen Billington) who has some experience with exorcising demons, though in his case it didn't necessarily work out so well. Christopher convinces Emma's parents to allow him to perform an exorcism, and that's where Carballo settles in for your basic power-of-Christ-compels-you sort of confrontations. There are some plot twists near in the third act, but for the most part Exorcismus stays within the genre lines.
Carballo does attempt to show the demonic-possession angle from a somewhat different perspective, spending a good portion of the runtime highlighting the physical and emotional devastation taking place within Emma's family as her condition worsens. The performance from Vavasseur is pivotal to the narrative, and she really carries it well, going from bitchy teen to demon-possessed soul to weepy mess, often all in the same scene. Jo Anne Sotckham - as devastated mother Lucy - is another highpoint, with her scenes full of believable grief and hopelessness. Both Vavasseur and Sotckham kick up Exorcismus to watchable levels, even as the plot wanders around until the inevitable crucifix-waving/knife-wielding climax. As a sidenote to horror fans the above-the-title listing of Douglas Bradley on the cover of this disc is a bit deceptive. Bradley - he who shall always be Pinhead, my favorite hell-raising Cenobite - gets nothing more than a glorified cameo here as a wise old priest.
It is nearly impossible to make an exorcism film and NOT compare it to The Exorcist, even if a filmmaker tries to do something even remotely different; when it comes to demon-possession Linda Blair's unholy transformation is the genre benchmark. Carballo's certainly not trying to emulate William Friedkin, and to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen with a "Exorcismus, you're no The Exorcist' is not really a slam at this film. It's just a statement of fact. We've seen the basics of this all before, and by nature it has to operate within a certain set of predetermined plot points.
And that's what we get here.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen looks pretty solid, one that renders the film's purposely desaturated and color-tweaked palette cleanly with no obvious compression issues. Respectably deep black levels - a rarity in B-grade horror - is a nice plus. It's not the sharpest image I've seen, but the presentation is even-keeled throughout.
The backcover promises a 5.1 surround track but it appears to be a 2.0 presentation. With the exception of any rear channel cues the front-centric mix carries generally clean dialogue (except for the Bane-like demon voices which required the English SDH subs) and some modest directional movement.
Bonus material is fairly skimpy, consisting of a standard-issue behind-the-scenes piece (17m:26s) that uses the film's original title: The Making of The Possession of Emma Evans. The input from the production crew is presented in Spanish, with forced English subs, though some of the English-speaking cast gets a few words as well. The film's spoilery trailer is included, as are a number of other IFC titles.