From the very first time that I heard about this film, I knew I would see it. Somehow it took me longer than expected, but recently I viewed this for the first time. The exorcism subject has been one that has always been of great interest for me, so I’m always ready and willing to watch these type of flicks – no matter how good or bad they turn out. I had tried not to read much about this one, and from what little I had read or heard, it is supposedly one of the very worst movies of 2012. Period. My expectations were definitely tampered.
This story involves an American girl named Isabella, who understandably, would like to know exactly what happened to her mother Maria Rossi, who murdered three clergy people from the church who were conducting an exorcism on her. Maria ended up being found not guilty due to insanity. But was it insanity, or, was she possessed by a force outside of her control? Somehow, Maria ends up in a mental hospital in Rome, Italy – conveniently located close to The Vatican (ha, ha). Her daughter Isabella takes a camera man with her to Italy to film a documentary on an Exorcism School in Rome (I would love to attend one of those!), and also to visit her mother Maria at the mental hospital. Along the way Isabella meets two young priests who as it turns out, have been conducting their own exorcisms without the church’s approval — rogue priests if you will. These priests believe that Maria’s condition is not medical, and that there is indeed some demonic force at play. Some creepy stuff happens along the way.
I absolutely love the setting of this film in Rome and at The Vatican. These are two places I would love to visit some day. This kind of setting is what really helped a movie like The Rite; another flick with fairly mediocre reviews which I actually thought was not bad at all.
The exorcism scenes I feel were extremely effective and done very well. One of the coolest things I thought was how one of the actors, Bonnie Morgan, who plays the possessed character, Rosa, is a real life contortionist, so all of her strange and seemingly impossible body movements, and bending limbs, were done for real and no special effects were needed for her exorcism scene. Susan Crowley, who plays the disturbing mental patient, Maria Rossi, also gave an excellent performance which was eerily convincing. There was an intensity in these exorcism scenes that I have not seen since The Exorcist and The Exorcist III.
The opening scene set the tone effectively and made me think I was in for one hell of an entertaining exorcism story. Maria Rossi’s 9-1-1 call to the Police was spine-chilling. The number three seemed to be an ongoing thing near the beginning stages of the film, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. I just turned my brain off and wanted to enjoy the ride. The first hour or so was highly entertaining and genuinely frightening, in my opinion. Where things sort of started to drop off a little bit was in the final half-hour or so, when the evil, demonic spirit began to transfer to different bodies. It’s not a bad direction to go in, but something about it didn’t feel quite well executed. I think I was hoping for much more time spent on trying to Exorcise Maria Rossi and Rosa in their respective rooms. There could also have been more creepy stuff done within the mental hospital. On the other hand, these sort of scenes have been done to death in other similar movies, therefore, going in the other direction perhaps was the filmmaker’s attempt at doing something a little bit different. I feel like I am contradicting myself a bit here, but something about it just didn’t sit right with me. I also have similar mixed feelings on the ending. It’s not a happy-go-lucky-all is solved-ending, so that is good, but in the same turn, it also felt too abrupt; like the film was not complete. I haven’t even touched on the ‘found footage’ aspect; I’ll let other critics do their thing in bashing it. I’m still not tired of this type of flick.
All in all, I really enjoyed this film. Yes, it is not the cream of the crop of exorcism movies, but it is definitely better than some of the other ones I have seen. I am, however, surprised at just how blasted this film got by critics. It is nowhere near as bad as all the reviews say. This thing has a Rotten Tomatoes website rating of 7%!!! Are you kidding me? I strongly disagree with that. Sure, I am slightly biased, as like I mentioned before, I love the subject matter, but still, I’ve seen my share of truly bad flicks, and I would not count this as one of them. What I think might be the case is that there just aren’t enough fans of this sub-genre in horror films. Some people just think it’s too hokey, or are bothered by the religious over tones – I don’t know. Maybe. At the very least, people should be able to appreciate the outstanding performance by Suzan Crowley as Maria Rossi. I would dare say it is right up there with Linda Blair and Brad Dourif as great possessed characters in exorcisms. The only issue I had was that they did not utilize her more in this.
Give it a chance. Watch it with an open mind and judge for yourself.
– J.P. Thorn