October 22, 2011

Horror-A-Day: Exorcismus

My last movie choice was based on finding some low grade B-type movie to pass some horror time. I was successful in that endeavor with the surprisingly decent, but still bad Pinocchio's Revenge. It had a couple of decent ideas and a fun child performance, but it is not one to go running back to any time soon. For this choice I decided to go with star power. Well, the star power of one. As I scanned my Netflix queue until I came across one with a star I was interested in seeing and clicked play. I was hoping I made a good choice. Well, my choice was neither good nor bad, it was just sort of there. Far from the worst I have sat through this month, but not exactly one to rave about.

The name I came across that intrigued me so was that of Doug Bradley. He is better known to the horror community as Pinhead from Hellraiser. He was the first name listed under the "stars" line and I was intrigued to see him outside of the make up. I am fairly certain that I had never seen him in a movie outside of that role. On top of that, I was able to meet him at the Saturday Nightmares convention earlier this year. What a nice guy. Anyway, on to the movie.

The movie is called Exorcismus, it has also been called The Possession of Emma Evans. It is an English language export from Spain. It was directed by Manuel Carballo. He has a few other titles to his name, but I have not seen any of them. The screenplay was written by David Munoz, who made a name for himself early in his career having penned the excellent ghost story The Devil's Backbone (that film was directed by Guillermo Del Toro).

If you couldn't tell by the title, this film is about an exorcism. As I watched it play out, I could not help but think that William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty ruined exorcisms. Seriously, The Exorcist still stands as one of the scariest films ever made and it was done so well that pretty much any exorcism movie since has used it as a measuring stick and seem intent on trying to match it, which I am not sure is possible. Fortunately, there have been a couple in recent memory that have made decent attempts at being different, The Last Exorcism and The Rite, to varying degrees. Then there are movies like Exorcismus, which follows down familiar territory, being sure to hit all the main points with deadly seriousness.

As the movie opens, a teenage girl, Emma (Sophie Vavasseur), enters a bathroom, breaks a shaving mirror and proceeds to use a shard to slice open her hand. Soon thereafter, she gets upset with her parents for not letting her go to a concert and has a seizure. Interspersed through these early scenes are bits of her and her friends partying and playing with a Ouija board. The flashbacks continue, each revealing a little more of that fateful night.

Well, the family thinks she is acting out and troubled and send her to a psychologist. However, things continue to happen with little explanation other than possession. Fortunately, Emma has an uncle (Stephen Billington) who just happens to be a priest. He comes to stay with the family and perform an exorcism, all while recording the sessions.

It's odd, this is not really a bad movie, it is generally well paced and acted, but it just feels so derivative and familiar. Exorcismus does not take any real chances with the material, plays up familiar Christian stereotypes and delivers the familiar signs of cinematic possessions with voices, contortions, blank stares, and a bit of vomit.

The real winner with this movie is Sophie Vavasseur. Her performance as Emma is really quite strong. She does a great job portraying a rebellious, angsty teen who can transform in a moments notice to the blank-eyed, demon possessed young girl, and further into a crazy eyed in control devil. She is believable and convincing in this role with a good sense of timing and an ability to be sympathetic throughout. She also reminds me of Anna Paquin for some reason.

Overall, I cannot say you should avoid it. So far as exorcism movies go, I don't think this is all that bad. It is shot well and has decent performances. It is just the content of the story is a lot of been there, done that. I would say it is worth watching, but you won't need to revisit it anytime soon.

As far as Doug Bradley is concerned, he is in it for all of a scant few minutes. He has a quick line or two in a flashback and is gone until the conclusion. In a way, he is like some of the later Hellraiser films where Pinhead only appears at the end to spout some revelatory wisdom. It is disappointing and him being listed as a star is awfully misleading, so don't watch this if you only want it for Bradley.

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