Our occasional tour of cinematic semi-oddities from around the globe takes us today to the UK, by way of Spain, since the film under our metaphorical microscope, 2010 “demonic possession drama” Exorcismus, is a Spanish production with Spanish financing shot in “Ol’ Blighty” with a British cast and spoken entirely in English. Which leads me to believe that it had to have been subtitled when released in its country of origin (well, okay, one of its countries of origin) under the title of La Posesion De Emma Evans (translated as, I’m sure you can probably guess, “The Possession Of Emma Evans”), but it doesn’t really matter all that much because whatever language you’re hearing and/or reading this thing in, and whatever title you’re seeing it under, Exorcismus is a thoroughly middling affair that succeeds in really one respect only — establishing itself as a “bog standard” exorcism flick to measure the better and worse films in this increasingly-crowded genre up against.
To wit : if we’ve got William Friedkin’s classic The Exorcist perched at the top of the demon-possession hierarchy (as well it should be), and utter dreck like The Devil Inside at the bottom, director Manuel Carballo’s decidedly PG-13 opus falls pretty much dead in the middle. He can take pride in knowing that others have done far worse with material of this nature, but it’s also been done far better — and if knowing all that leads you to ask “okay, so what’s the point of this one, then?,” you’re pretty much on the right track.
So here’s the deal : fifteen-year-old Emma (Sophie Vavasseur) was always a generally well-behaved and unassuming young lady until quite recently, when she started chafing at the over-protectiveness of her parents (played by Richard Felix and Jo-Anne Stockham) and getting resentful about things like constantly having to keep an eye on her kid brother. Typical teenage stuff, I’m sure you’d agree, but when her folks decide to send her to a shrink, said shrink ends up dead , and an audio recording of Emma’s therapy session surfaces that features her ranting in unknown tongues and hissing and spitting — well, maybe she’s taking things a bit far with this “youthful rebellion” phase, ya know?
Fortunately for all of them, there just so happens to be someone in the family who specializes in this sort of thing. Her uncle (by way of her mother’s side) is a Catholic priest (portrayed by Stephen Billington) who’s currently on an extended — what shall we call it? — administrative leave for the part he played in carrying out an exorcism that led to another teenage girl’s death. Still, despite some qualms, and with their daughter only getting worse, the Evanses (is that how you say that?) decide that maybe some dousing with holy water and being barked at in Latin is, hopefully, exactly what their one-time pride and joy needs, they just have one condition — the whole thing needs to be filmed.
Rest assured, however, that this isn’t a “found footage” flick (well, not primarily, at any rate), and take heart in the fact that some good performances from all involved, particularly Vavasseur, elevate the rather lackluster script, but don’t expect anything terrifically new or exciting here. The plot takes a rather nifty twist right around the midway point (I’ll put it this way, if you thought it sounded pretty goddamn convenient that a priest’s niece happened to get caught up as the host for an evil spirit, you’re right), and once we get to the nitty-gritty of the exorcism itself it’s all reasonably well done, but — and it’s a big “but” — there’s just nothing going on here to really set it apart from the pack. If you’re a fan of tales of demonic possession just as a general principle, then you’ll probably appreciate this one more than others may, but you still won’t be able to escape the “been there, done that” feeling that positively oozes from every celluloid pore here.
Maybe that’s not terribly fair to either Carballo or his film, but it’s not exactly unfair, either. If there had never been a movie of this nature made before, Exorcismus (which is now streaming on Netflix — it’s also available on DVD and Blu-Ray from IFC Midnight, but hey, since I just watched it online, we’re only covering the basics here and not examining the technical specs of its physically-stored versions) would probably stand out as a triumphant spectacle of modern horror, but hey — nothing exists in a vacuum, and if other, and better, flicks than this hadn’t been made first, this one probably never would have, either. So take it all for what it’s worth — if you’re in the mood for something not too taxing that doesn’t break any new ground but at least goes about its business with a reasonable amount of professionalism, give this thing a go. But if you feel like watching yet another riff on more or less the exact same story for the hundredth time sounds kinda dull, then give it a pass.