How to even begin to discuss a movie like you. How to properly separate and address the myriad issues I took with not only your story, but your lack of attention to detail, your incompetent direction and acting, and the simple stupidity of your most basic choice of narrative form. Can I even pretend to approach your bloated, festering corpse with anything approaching objectivity or impartiality? Will I be able to keep my personal venom from entering my critiques concerning your very basic filmic failings? There is a difference between personal opinion and what might be called academic criticism, but you are so meticulously awful that the line becomes corroded by the sheer odiousness of your existence.
Does it matter, though? When a film is as wickedly, almost purposefully bad as you are, can I really be expected or required to keep up a veneer of respectable criticism? After all, you don’t seem to be able to muster the respect for film form or narrative integrity to bother with very simple, basic characteristics. You don’t make an effort even to account for all of your characters in a physical space at any given moment.
Let’s just dive in. You are a story about a filmmaker following a woman who wants to learn the truth regarding her mother, who murdered three officials of the Catholic Church in an unsanctioned exorcism. Or are you just the story of that woman, and the filmmaker gets pulled in by dint of being a terrible filmmaker? Then again, maybe the story is of a woman possessed by multiple demons, or the rogue priests who try to help her. It’s hard to say for sure, because none of these stories is ever given proper weight, no character is ever given a decent amount of time to develop or an emotional arc to follow, and above all no story point is ever resolved.
Honestly. You’re a film so lazy, so incompetent, so offensively opposed to the idea of even attempting to be worthwhile that you forgo any kind of resolution or climax. You just give up. You set forth a stirringly ridiculous series of events perpetrated by stupid people, bring those events to a moment of confusing and asinine drama, and then flash a URL at us. You give an ending so deliberately and willfully infuriating that I can’t believe anyone involved could have looked at it and been happy with it.
But what ending could have fared better given the hour and a half that precedes it? We begin with a series of police and news tapes that fill us in on the story of Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley), who murdered three people. Then we meet her daughter, Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), who is making/starring in a documentary about her attempt to discover the truth about her mother’s circumstances. We meet Michael (Ionut Grama), the cameraman/director/editor/sound/lighting expert making the entire film alone, who is going with Isabella to Rome to investigate. There she meets Father David (Evan Helmuth) and Father Ben (Simon Quarterman), who meld science and religion as a means of fighting the demons that the Vatican won’t admit are a problem. That’s right – they are the renegade cops/ronin samurai of the Catholic Church.
This, granted, is an idea that could be interesting, but we never learn anything about these men that leads us to care about their existence, their lives, or their work. They treat the Church like it is city hall or a do-nothing police department in a mid-90s action film. No one ever brings up the fact that there are demons possessing people for some unknown, nefarious purpose. No one ever brings up that this fact provides incontrovertible evidence that God and the devil are real. The massive, world altering, soul-scarring reality that these characters are now forced to confront is never brought to the fore.
They proceed with a foolish and ill-defined and barely-reasoned attempt to exorcise Isabella’s mother, which leads to a series of events that, had they been vested with any kind of character motivation or existential terror, might have been interesting. Instead, they come off as perfunctory, obvious, and eventually utterly pointless because you don’t have the common decency to give any kind of closure to the whole god-forsaken mess. And this isn’t a cool, hip, open-ended sort of comment on the endless nature of good versus evil. This is a cold, malicious abuse of the goodwill any audience member invests in you which allows them to sit through your plodding, pointless, poorly acted/staged story.
And it’s not just lame, meandering, and purposeless. It is poorly researched and handled with a lack of attention or even basic care. During one scene, Isabella and Michael are interviewing her mother, and Michael has placed mini-cameras all over the room. These cameras can see the whole room. Michael, with a handheld camera, makes sure to get close-ups of Maria’s self-inflicted wounds. Problem: when shown a whole-room view from the mini-cameras, Michael is not in the scene. Yet, somehow, he is capturing close-ups of Maria and Isabella, roaming around the room to all for maximum coverage. So, you can’t even be bothered to say to yourself “Oh, right, I have a third character in here.” Then again, Michael also seems to be capable of filming with three different kinds of cameras depending on the kind of awful digital grain the scene could suffer most from, so maybe he’s a witch. Who knows. Who cares.
Oh, and those wounds on Maria’s arms and the inside of her lip? One of the priests says that though they are crosses, which would harm a demon, since Maria would see them as being upside down they are actually demonic symbols, as satanic cults use the inverted cross as a symbol against God. Good point, if your knowledge of satanic cults comes only from middle school cliques. You know who else uses the inverted cross as a symbol? The Pope! The inverted cross – also known as the Cross of Saint Peter – is a papal symbol, derived from the fact that when Saint Peter was crucified and martyred for his faith he asked to be crucified upside down because he did not deserve to die in the same way as Christ. An inverted cross is a sign of humility before God! Would a priest known this? A priest in Rome? Who studies at the Vatican? Would that same priest also know that an unbaptized baby doesn’t go to Hell, but to Purgatory? Because this one doesn’t!
So what do we have here, when all these various issues are brought together to simmer for over an hour? We have a poorly written, grotesquely structured abomination that can’t even get a handle on its own lame conceit. The documentary format is a means for giving us a feeling of reality, and yet no one acts like a real person and nothing ever occurs as it would. Police disappear when not needed. Hospitals are staffed by three people who have no triage training. You are a film that devotes as much time to continuity and staging as it does to proper research and the barest veneer of actual effort on the part of anyone involved.
You are a hateful, detestable, blindly, viciously unsettling experience not because of the “terror” or “fear” you inspire, but because of what you represent: a moment in history when the barely concealed greed beneath the Hollywood system of filmmaking has finally peaked. A cheaply produced film is opened wide, makes a profit in the first two days, and can then die an inglorious, richly deserved death due to the unstoppable tide of bad press and word of mouth it receives. The studio wins, the audience loses. No one involved in your creation can possibly have had a single honest bone in their body. Their sinew must be laced with greed and contempt for the filmgoing public. Even the biggest hack filmmaker imaginable has the decency to end his film. No, you were created by an accountant, a marketer, and the goddamned devil.
I can’t find words enough to gut you and string you up as a warning to all other films of your kind. I can’t even feel pride or joy in having taken you this much to task. I don’t feel like any amount of wailing or gnashing teeth could be enough to articulate the loathsome, rotted, corrupt center of your existence.
Burn in Hell,
Brian J. Roan