Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Exorcismus (La posesión de Emma Evans) (2010)

The Power Of Christ Repels You

Exorcism films are "in" right now. Why? I don't know. They mostly follow the same plot, as if The Exorcist had provided a "how-to" guide in holding crosses, levitation, demonic voices, and so forth.  Last year's The Last Exorcism was a surprisingly entertaining departure from the norm and gave audiences a different side of the priest/demon relationship. Manuel Carballo's Exorcismus, a.k.a La posesión de Emma Evans a.k.a The Possession of Emma Evans is also successful in creating a slightly different storyline than the usual exorcism fare. But just because the film works doesn't mean it's free of the general side effects, which include: levitation, skin irritation (mostly to crucifixes), demonic visions, change in vocal tone, death to loved ones, lack of memory, and vomiting. You'd think they'd have a pill for this by now.

Emma is your average fifteen-year-old emo girl. She hangs out with her cousin Rose and their friend Alex (both of whom are pierced to the max and are still assured that somber hair swoops are in style). After playing with a Ouija board the night of her fifteenth birthday, Emma starts to think she may be possessed. She's blacking out, finding messages written on the bathroom mirror, trying to drown her little brother; you know...the usual. Like in the first half of most exorcism films, Emma's parents don't believe her, so she chooses to ask her uncle, Christopher (who is conveniently a priest), to perform an exorcism on her. And like other exorcism films, Christopher is hesitant because of an earlier incident in which a girl died from his efforts to save her soul. Once he sees the possession for himself, he lays down a strict list of rules for Emma and her family and begins his work. Unfortunately, his methods are taking a bit too long and Emma's loved ones are suddenly dropping like flies on an Amityville window.

While the plot may sound generic, Exorcismus succeeds in that it doesn't overdo anything. When Emma is in her possessed form, she doesn't decay or become distorted; her eyes turn white and she speaks through a demonic voice (which is almost laughable at times). She also uses her evil to invoke her loved one's fears, such as her father's doubt that his son is really his, or even Rose's sexual preference. Of course, Emma can't recall doing any of this, but they still give the plot an extra kick. What also makes the film work is Christopher's agenda. Why isn't Emma cured yet? Why are the exorcism sessions taking so long? Why are his rules so strict when he's treating her alone in a locked room? Thankfully, these questions are answered in a straightforward and human way and leave little to the viewer to figure out. The film also ends on a surprisingly anti-Hollywood note; not pulling any bullshit twists, but leaving the story realistic, as much of a downer as it may be.

Most of the acting in the film is exceptional, especially on the parts of Emma's elders. Emma's demonic form could use some sprucing up, but it gets the point across (no matter how badly her mouth tries to fit with the demonic overdubbing). Also, look for a cameo by Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) as Father Ennis, though I didn't realize it was even him until the credits. There isn't much in terms of gore, but there are a few scenes that feature some uncomfortable stabbings or cross-meeting-unholy-skin burnings.

While the story is UK-based, the film was produced by Spanish production company Filmax and its head, Julio Fernández (the [Rec] series) and at times, it shows. It tries to stay away from many exorcism movie pitfalls, but still has to find a way to keep the important ones in without abusing their presence. Like [Rec], it succeeds in taking a formula that's been beaten into the ground and changing up the code enough so that it works. But don't think Exorcismus is going to be anywhere near as engaging or fierce as [Rec]. A modern exorcism film that's both heart-stopping and terrifying? Now, that would take a miracle.

3/5 Stars

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