I don’t know much about Spanish director Marc Carrete, but I’ll say this much for the guy : he seems to be a man of his word.
His 2014 Barcelona-filmed Asmodexia, which generated at least a little bit of buzz over the past year or so on the horror festival circuit before making its way onto various on-demand and streaming platforms (including, of course, Netflix, which is why we’re talking about it here), billed itself as a “different take” on the exorcism sub-genre, and whaddya know, even though we’ve heard that same pitch a hundred times before, in this case it’s actually true.
Which isn’t to say, mind you, that it’s an entirely successful “new take,” but at least this story of five days in the life of travelling exorcist Eloy de Palma (Luis Marco) and his grand-daughter, Alba (Claudia Pons) offers up a fairly generous number of intriguing variations on an admittedly shop-worn theme and gives audiences plenty to think about along the way.
In fact, you could probably argue that it gives us all a little bit too much to think about for roughly the first two-thirds of its 81-minute runtime, in that it’s not entirely clear just what the heck is going on and Carrete and his co-writer, Mike Hostench, don’t seem to be in too terribly much of a hurry to clue you in. I’ll do you the favor in case you decide to watch this, though, by saying that as far as I was able to puzzle things out, what we seem to have going on here is a kind of “exorcism-in-reverse” centered on a character named Ona (Irene Montala) who has apparently caught hold of an unwelcome demonic entity by means of a supernatural transmission from somebody else.
At least, I think that’s a reasonably accurate summation of the general gist of ebb and flow of events here. Don’t hold me to it too tightly, though.
The idea of demon possession operating like a spiritual virus is a reasonably clever wrinkle (although I think Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta may be playing the same angle in the pages of their Outcast comic book series) that’s played for nearly-maximum effect here, and this hauntingly-shot, incredibly well-scored (seriously, massive hat tip to soundtrack composer Jordi Dalmau) flick may be confusing, but it’s so aesthetically pleasing on the whole that you never lose interest, even during its most convoluted, even flat-out inexplicable, sequences.
The payoff at the end is pretty nice, too, so while your patience may be tested here and there at times, hey, at least it’s rewarded. No cheat, cop-out, or sideways maneuver is on offer when it comes time for Carrete to put his money where his mouth is, and in the world of horror, where we’re used to feeling ripped off or sold short, that’s very welcome indeed.
I’m thinking that I may have to watch Asmodexia a second time just to make sure I really have a firm grasp on what happened, but it’s a compliment to everyone involved to say that really doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.