CAPSULE: CHRONICLES OF AN EXORCISM is a low-budget, direct-to-DVD, pseudo-documentary horror thriller. The title tells most of the story; the film shows an exorcism. Not surprisingly the style is much influenced by THE EXORCIST but is done in a crude "Blair Witch Project" filming style. The roughness of the filming style works for the film, but cut corners undermine the effort frequently. The film seems stretched out by seemingly endless on-screen Bible-reading and prayer. Nick G. Miller (who co-writes, directs, and stars) is spread a little thin, and the resulting film will be effective only for the most susceptible. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Horror films do not quite work the way films in other genre work. One might think that a well-polished, well-produced film would be a more effective one. But horror does not necessarily work that way. For a film to have a visceral impact it has to seem real. Films like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or CARNIVAL OF SOULS work well as they do because they have a feeling of truth actually created by their unpolished production values. The style of a better production can get between the viewer and the story. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has started a more recent spate of horror films that get their power from their apparent crudeness. CLOVERFIELD is another recent example.
The title of this film tells most of what the viewer needs to know about CHRONICLES OF AN EXORCISM. Shot with shaky handheld cameras in and around a ramshackle house in the country, we see a story of a woman possessed by demons and the attempts to destroy the demons by a team of stealth exorcists. (Why stealth? The film claims that the Catholic Church has renounced exorcisms but still sanctions them in secret. Actually I believe it revised the rites in 1999, but it has not renounced them altogether.) The exorcists are Fathers Michael and Lucas (played by Matthew Ashford and Nick G. Miller, both a little young to be well-experienced exorcists). They have cast out demons in Eastern Europe, South America, and "the jungles of Korea." (Korea has jungles?) Pastor Bill (Ray W. Keziah) has brought them here to exorcise the demons possessing Tina (Dara Wedel) in front of documentary camera. Not everyone in the group agrees what treatment is needed.
I am not Catholic myself, so the proceedings do not have a lot of credibility for me. I am willing to suspend disbelief about as much as I did for THE EXORCIST thirty-five years ago. It does not take a lot more since that script seems to have been used as a handbook for the religious background of this film. It is similar to the fact that most vampire films seem to follow the rules found in Bram Stoker's novel DRACULA even though the actual folklore itself varies a great deal from country to country. Not a whole lot happens in this film that did not happen in THE EXORCIST. Hearing that this is a multiple demon possessing instead of one possessing the woman does not give the film a lot more impact. Nor is it clear why as claimed that the principles discovered in this exorcism would help thousands of people. For much of this film we just see people praying over a convulsing woman.
Visually the film frequently has problems. The possessed woman is played by Dara Wedel who is a little too sexy to make the proceedings seem credible. She wears white contact lenses with little black irises. But since the white of the lenses does not match the white of her eyes, the result just looks silly. When she speaks we hear on the soundtrack her voice and a deep bass voice, presumably that of a demon. A similar effect was used on the soundtrack of THE EXORCIST. Most of the effects are borrowed familiar from THE EXORCIST.
This is that sort of horror film that really needs a Friday night or a great deal of suspension of disbelief. I rate CHRONICLES OF AN EXORCISM a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0999970/
For Vatican policy on exorcism see: http://www.trosch.org/chu/exorcism.htm#cwn.
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper