New On Demand and digital download from Saban Films!
THE EXORCISM OF GOD (2021)
Directed by Alejandro Hidalgo.
Written by Alejandro Hidalgo, Santiago Fernández Calvete.
Starring Will Beinbrink, Joseph Marcell, María Gabriela de Faría, Raquel Rojas, Irán Castillo, Alfredo Herrera, Juan Ignacio Aranda, Hector Kotsifakis, Christian Rummel, Johanna Winkel, Eloisa Maturen, Nuria Gil, Uriel Bravo, Patricia Rojas, Maria Antonieta Hidalgo, Jesse Celedon, Marcela Girón, Evelia Di Gennaro
In 2003, Father Peter Williams (Will Beinbrink) messed up an exorcism big time. Despite the large amount of goo and pus on a possessed woman, he ended up being mesmerized by her during an exorcism and has sex with her. This seemingly worked in releasing the demons, so to speak, but this act has cursed the priest ever since. Now in present day, Father Williams is looked at as a saint in the orphanage he works at. But when an inmate at an asylum claims to be possessed by the same demon, Father Williams is forced to face his past and dispel the demon once and for all.
Possession movies have a lot going against them. The process was well documented in the original THE EXORCIST and ever since, anyone attempting to do a film about Catholic exorcism is forced to follow the same steps which basically seems like the new film is simply knocking off of the old. That said, THE EXORCISM OF GOD really doesn’t do itself any favors at making itself distinct by recreating specific scenes of THE EXORCIST such as the street lamp arrival in the first moments. I get it. It’s an homage, but if you’re trying to establish a movie to stands on its own, you don’t start by ripping off the king of possession films. It’s a bad look.
Thankfully, THE EXORCISM OF GOD recovers from that early foul by veering in a very controversial direction. Yes, we’ve seen the story of a priest who has made mistakes in the past. But man, sleeping with the person you’re supposed to be saving is a big one. This immediately complicates things greatly and while I wouldn’t say Will Beinbrink knocks this role out of the park, but he certainly does a decent job of making his role as Father Williams as distinct. Yes, the concept is quite icky, but if you’re looking for a sin to commit, the original one is as big as it gets. So, I quite liked the twist this film tosses our way.
The film itself has a number of solid scare scenes incorporating some very scary practical possession appliances. This is done with a nice mix of skewed angles, intense scenes of build-up, and genuinely scary effects as the punchline. The possessed in this film really do end up looking frighteningly potent. I’ve seen my fair share of possession films, but this one really delivers the goods in terms of the way the possessed look. There’s a statue of Mary that grows bulbous eyes and comes to life as well as a statue of Jesus that is the stuff of nightmares. There are also some simple scenes of night terror that work marvelously. The filmmakers manage to pepper these scenes evenly throughout the film, which kept me on my toes the entire way.
Unfortunately, while the film veers from the possession movie blueprint after the opening moments, it heads right back on course into familiar territory in the last act. Yes, the film takes the final moments a step farther, it still is all about sacrificing one soul for another. I get it. The soul is always the bartering chip for these films, but again, there has to be some way of making the final moments different that what has come before. And while it may be different than the final scene of THE EXORCIST, I’ve seen the last scene before in many, many possession films that have come before this one.
So THE EXORCISM OF GOD is a mixed bag. If you don’t mind the familiar beginnings and endings, you’re going to find the middle section of the film to be refreshing and downright terrifying. It’s got a smaller part for Joseph Marcell as another priest who advises Father Williams. You’ll recognize him as Goeffrey or Jeeves the Butler from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and find yourself wondering where the hell he’s been and why he’s chosen this movie to make an appearance in. There are definitely far worse possession films out there, but THE EXORCISM OF GOD fails to escape the trappings of the best Exorcism of all time.