Emma, a troubled teenage girl, collapses at home in a violent fit during an argument and her parents and doctors are at a loss to explain, medically, what might be afflicting her. When she’s sent to a therapist for a session of hypnotism to find out just what’s going on, the gentleman falls dead in her lap from a fatal heart attack. Those around Emma soon find themselves in grave danger after it’s revealed to them that she’s possessed by an unclean spirit, a demon. Her only hope for salvation lies in the hands of her Uncle, a disgraced Priest with a tumultuous past involving an exorcism-gone-wrong. Is Emma being punished for her misdeeds or is she being tormented for some greater good?
Exorcismus, not surprisingly, starts off fairly predictable, following in the footsteps of pretty much every other possession film out there, but toward about the midway point things suddenly change course, leading you in an original and disturbing direction. While most films seem only interested in patterning themselves on Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Carballo introduces us to a “not-so-innocent” young girl with dark secrets, constantly locking horns with her progressive parents. Instead of jumping right into the possession, the director leads us to wonder whether Emma’s malady is nothing more than the calculated tantrum tactics of a conniving teenager. This, of course, keeps us guessing while tension slowly builds and the signs of possession become evident.
The film occasionally has a documentary feel, thanks to the cinematography of Javier (Romasanta) Salmones, successfully bringing you closer to the characters without forcing you to participate, like The Possession of David O’Reilly. Naturally that only works when you’re given genuine characters to connect with and in my opinion the actors all did a wonderful job, with 19-year-old Sophie (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) Vavasseur turning in the most impressive, and probably physically exhausting, performance as Emma.
Bottom line, when you watch a possession film you want to see some actual demonic possession, whether that’s bending backwards, walking on walls, vomiting pea soup or using foul language. In the case of this film, the director could have kept things ambiguous without ever showing us anything supernatural but, thankfully, he didn’t go that route. Exorcismus doesn’t depend on wild CGI possession gags but they are used and when they are its to great effect as they’re never over-the-top.
Written by David (The Devil’s Backbone) Muñoz, Exorcismus features capable actors, solid CGI and some thrilling sequences that ooze tension and terror. This film is definitely worth checking out but be sure to rent first.