I decided to watch this film in spite of overwhelmingly negative press and reviews. I enjoy 'found footage' most of the time, but this was almost a pseudo-documentary. In 1989 (they had HD cameras back then) Maria Rossi murdered three people while they were performing an exorcism on her. She was then committed due to insanity to South Hartford State Asylum, finally being relocated to Vatican City. How convenient. Some twenty years later, her daughter Isabella and a filmmaker named Michael set out to discover the truth about her mother and find out if she is possessed by the devil. She goes to the Vatican School of Exorcism and meets two priests, Father Ben and Father David, and they agree to let her witness a true exorcism.
Before I continue, I know the scene was supposed to be scary and unsettling. There were multiple cameras, quick cuts, static and blurring...these effects just don't make a movie scary. The camera work was well done when compared to other contemporaries, but in order to stand out there needs to be more. The shouting in multiple languages and knowing Isabella's name were nice touches but still didn't do it for me. I'll continue.
After the successful removal of a demon, the priests feel ready to attempt the same with Maria Rossi. Isabella visits her mother and finds she is erratic and unfocused. She has carved crosses into her arms and lip, and also speaks in multiple accents (which is mentioned at least three times in the film, so the director really wanted to make that point) before she lets out a blood-curdling scream. She didn't seem overly demonic or evil, more toying with Isabella, to the point of calling her a murderer for having an abortion at some point in the past. When the exorcism is ready to happen, Father David starts to fall apart. He has growing fears that he will lose his position at the church, as such acts aren't sanctioned without significant proof. He decides to go on with the exorcism, and the film's 'big' scene begins. Maria continues her mocking of the group, calling out Ben for things he had done in the past and again talking about Isabella's abortion. She lets out another fantastic scream and breaks free of her restraints, attacking Ben and David before being subdued. The scene suffers from the same camera shots used earlier but still maintains a decent pace, making a more dramatic exorcism scene.
The recordings are presented to the church as evidence, and as Ben plays some of the audio over and over, David seems to react. They discover that Maria is not possessed by one demon, but four. This didn't deliver the shocking twist that I imagine the film was shooting for. Suddenly, David says he must leave to perform a baptism and Mark says he will join and film it. Convenient. During a seemingly normal procedure, David begins to mumble and stare right into the camera. He then holds the baby underwater, not releasing until some of the crowd rushes him. At this point, I realize that the discovery of multiple demons will probably lead to the main characters getting possessed. It's just obvious. Moving on, the next scene finds Ben seeing David and the wounds he has inflicted on himself. Police enter the room and David grabs a pistol from an officer and threatens to kill himself. Ben cries out to him, hoping to reason with the demon inside but to no avail. David recites the Lord's Prayer and near the end blows his head off. The instant he hits the ground, Isabella starts to convulse and Ben figures she is possessed now as well.
The finale takes us to a hospital where Isabella has just been admitted. When the camera finds her room, a nurse is covered in blood spewing from her neck as Isabella attacks her. Ben and Michael take her and they drive off, Ben hoping he can release this demon as well. The demon is very repetitive, as once again an act he committed in the past is mentioned and he is attacked. Michael loses control of the car and Isabella breathes into his mouth, immediately showing signs of being possessed himself. He speeds into oncoming traffic and the next few seconds are dark with scenes of the car spinning and their bodies crashing about. The film comes to its conclusion here, with no resolution and the three characters likely dead. Text reads the case is still unsolved and directs to a tie-in viral site with more information.
It's hard to say much about this film that casts it in a good light. There are interesting scenes but they either have no setup or go nowhere. The widely panned ending is such a letdown, it's clear that all stops were out as the demons jumped to all of our characters but that stopped abruptly with the crash. I'm all for most of a cast dying, but give us something. The only death that had weight was David's and only because we had a few moments of setup. This could have been an enjoyable film, but the focus was on replicating something already done and little would have been added, even if it found success.
The character of Maria was the standout of this film and Suzan Crowley did an excellent job of being genuinely weird and unsettling. The times she would scream were a treat and possibly just because I don't really see 'possessed' characters just act weird as hell. It was a good move, and if I get real serious about the subject, biblically demons would mock those around them in an attempt to discourage continued attempts. -Also see The Exorcist, haha. Exorcism scenes are starting to become stale although one could say they were as soon as religious horror became the flavor. The establishing scenes with these characters are what I relish and that's the positive I will give. I hate that another good idea was ruined with poor execution and wasted talent.