Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exorcismus (La Posesión de Emma Evans)

I Compel Thee!

The Exorcist stands out as the definitive film about exorcism with priests battling it out with demons in possession of a young girl's body, and to date no film can surpass that brilliance, and I am of the opinion it will stand the tests of time and various interpretations of the horror sub-genre to knock it off its perch. Attempts will come and go and it's up to filmmakers to find certain spins to their stories so that they don't get drowned out. The Last Exorcism by director Daniel Stamm was quite an effort with its documentary styled narrative with those huge twists that came with it, and the Anthony Hopkins starrer The Rite will hit our shores quite soon.

Then there's Exorcismus right now by Spanish director Manuel Carballo, which tells of a young girl Emma (Sophie Vavasseur, the schoolgirl in Resident Evil: Apocalypse) whose family suspects she needs mental help for her recurring fits and behaviour, until an inexplicable levitation opened their minds to engage the services of their relative Christopher (Stephen Billington), a priest with a tainted record in exorcism no less, to try and save their kid from the clutches of whatever demon is possessing her. That's the basic crux of the story, but what the film is about comes from the manipulation that mankind is capable of, and the folly and greed of man's pride, wanting to prove oneself to peers for that one-upmanship, or to exact some unintentional vengeful hatred arising from petty, hissy fits.

As the saying goes, don't push your luck and tempt the devil, because you'll never know the true impact of such an unwarranted pact, that you'll probably live to regret it. The film opens with the persistently angry teenager Emma, whom we learn through the course of the narrative isn't quite the docile, demure girl disciplined through home-schooling and always under the watchful eyes of mom, but one who does not hesitate in dabbling with mushrooms, and oh, the ouija board. All these spell trouble, and trouble does come knocking. Half of the show went to Sophie Vavasseur's performance as Emma, and she plays her role quite well, continuing the legacy of fellow peers who have stepped into the shoes of characters possessed by demons, in providing a fitting rendition with what some may say is the same old usual bag of tricks with bile spewing and eye rolling.

On the other corner of the ring is Stephen Billington as the priest Christopher, who is as eager to assist his niece as he is to laying down some ground rules which are a bit peculiar even for horror fans, such as performing it outside of holy grounds, not engaging more spiritual help from fellow brothers of the cloth, and not arresting the problem on the spot, spreading the exorcism over a number of days, with vast periods of intervals as well. This raises alarm bells of course, but all will be addressed as the film wears on, leaving room for various dastardly deeds to be performed, as if a lesson to be learnt against the dabbling with the occult.

For an audience looking for cheap scares and thrills, this is not that film unfortunately, even though it is steeped in the horror sub-genre of possessions. You don't get to see much since the details of the exorcisms are kept under wraps by way of the narrative, although you do get glimpses of it in the final act that turn out to be nothing quite new from what's already been done, such as the trash talking, sexual come-hithers, and more levitations, together with the Lord's Prayer, use of holy water and other equipment in a priest's arsenal.

Like The Last Exorcism, this film also relied on the final act to differentiate itself in quite radical terms, so it's pretty much hit and miss, and more of the latter if you're expecting something to make you jump at your seat, or linger in your thoughts way after the end credits roll. I bought into the explanation so it didn't turn out too bad, but be warned, if you're not receptive to little creative sparks adopted by the filmmakers, then perhaps this may be quite frustrating to sit through given a number of plot conveniences you have to buy into, and having more talk than to show for it.

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