Yay! Another mesmerizing documentary style film about a possible possession, ghost, monster thingy (really just a possession in this one). Why on earth after Paranormal Activity, [REC], Cloverfield??? Why? And I respond with, “because somebody can still scare the piddle out of you by making a fairly clever faux documentary picture with some cojones (balls people, balls).
I didn’t walk into this one knowing it was going to be shot in fake documentary style. In my mind, the poster was a pretty clever Exorcist rip off drawn directly out of the Regan MacNeil walking down the stairs backward routine. The name having the word “Exorcism” in the title continued to spur on that conclusion that we might have a rip off ala Beyond the Door on our hands. Let’s face it, having a priest who was questioning his spiritual beliefs is just off putting enough to have me lightly grazing the stop button on my DVD player… ever so gently. So Eli Roth helps to fund a movie about an Exorcism that seems to incorporate all of the exorcist genre defined attributes to what? Make money? I had to stick around for the ride despite some serious skepticism.
Let’s recap the story a bit (unless I haven’t given away enough already). The “documentary” begins with a preacher in the south who comes from a long line of preachin’ and his… wait for it… questioning his faith. Said priest is out to expose religion for the sham that it is post reverse epiphany. He’s no stranger to performing exorcisms and wants to use the ritual of exorcism to expose Christianity. Can you smell the plot yet? How about if I take away the garlic and onions and have the main character throw up some pea soup? As our documentary team and challenged preacher approach their opportunity to reveal the truth about exorcism they realize that something isn’t quite right with the god fearing folks of this small Louisiana town. Maybe they’ve truly found the devil (not in Georgia), but in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.
So is Eli Roth trying to make a buck by backing this picture or is all of this a false start in the wrong Sherlock Holmes direction? Miscue after miscue builds you up to miss the plot twist successfully. We’re talking minimal special effects on a low budget. Some actors you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re kin. But the devil doesn’t need a special effects budget to do his work and they minimal effects are barely necessary once this one hits its stride. A good demon/devil/Satan pic requires only your imagination because everyone’s already scared of the devil. Even if you don’t believe in the Devil, you're scared of what people do in the name of the Devil or God or whichever they really do horrible things on behalf/in the name of.
I don’t want to give the goody bag away, but in my high school formative years I read a little tome about Devil worship in the southern United States. Seems these little cults were set up by some deeply religious folks and were actuators of murder, rape and incest. By the time I suspected that the plot twist was similar to this Satanic work I read as a youngin I was already creeped out by the use of camera manipulation to purvey the deaths of our loving film crew. I’d love to be able to tell you just which book gave the plot away (if only minutes too soon), but I can’t seem to locate it on the internet, and I don’t own a copy anymore. Guess it was a best seller.
On a slightly stranger note, if you Google devil worship book, you get all these true story confessions and forum posts about six year olds worshipping Satan. They are as entertaining as this movie and the book I reference above and maybe even the Exorcist. I won’t say that this one holds a candle to the Exorcist. That’s like comparing Deuteronomy to the book of Exodus, and who would want to do that (what does that even mean)? I’m not going to say we have another Rosemary’s Baby or Omen or Curse of the Demon or Gorgon. We just have a little bitty creepy Indy picture. If Eli Roth was trying to make money I’m sure he succeeded, and if he was trying to get a worthy entry into the genre to boot out Beyond the Door or its cursed sequel, it did that as well. Handsomely.
Good for non horror fans and especially people on the cusp, questioning their religious dogma.
-Dr. J. Terror