Billed as two amateur filmmakers assigned to record a real exorcism, writer/director/actor/ Nick G. Miller has come up with a production that fulfills its promise if taken at face value. What fun to have a pair of rogue priests wrestle with Beelzebub and friends with cameras capturing every drip of holy water and futile prayer. Miller plays Father Lucas with convincing moral outrage and some unexplained ominous bits of phlegm; Matthew Ashford brings Father Michael—the vicar-with-a-forbidden-flesh past—to life and death with holy conviction and a chin that defies even stubble over the 3-day span. Filling out the religious trinity is Ray W. Keziah as Pentecostal Pastor Bill—the local clergyman who summons the experienced demon dukers to work their magic and manages to speak in tongues at the foot of the bed.
That would be the bed in an abandoned farmhouse surrounded by fields of Stephen King corn (the inevitable late-night chase is a great game of spook-and-seek) of the young and possessed Tina. Dara Wedel turns in a wide-ranging performance from teasing, finger-sucking temptress to a howling devil who acts as the host and human link between her master and the men doing God’s work (“They don’t want me to talk to you,” she blurts out during the cross probes and rites of expungement).
Recording the grisly proceedings are the anything-for-a-buck camera-lads Ross (David Michael Ross who most believably vows to keep going even when the sheets turn red because “this is priceless”) and Lee (Rob G. Kahn nearly gets more than his digits devoured as he’s seduced into untying the alluring monster wearing little but a short-short nightie, until the sudden re-emergence of the demon’ bass-baritone voice ruins the moment for himself and his member) declares “I’ll do it for Tina” as the cinematic duo work out whether to stay or go.
So it’s fine as it goes and has a couple of horrific moments and surprises but there’s more work required to move this oft-written storyline into the truly scary realm of art.
Mostly it’s about the script. Many bits of planted intrigue are left unfulfilled: Why won’t the Church want to let this tape be seen? (if bingo is your bread and butter, imagine the residuals from a failed exorcism); What sort of flesh did Father Michael violate? (man, woman?)—or the delicious plot twist of having “fucked with the devil” after a previous exorcism; the line “Doing God’s work” is quickly stale; briefly introducing a character (Erin—Heather Harvey—whose worry for Tina got the whole plot in motion) only to dismiss her with a nod and a prayer suited the writer’s purpose but not the reality of human emotion. (Yes, she’s fucked up and perhaps near death, I’ll just go home and wait for your call …); it seems that Tina has the bowels of the gods: she’s strapped into her bed and left for hours on end … was there a catheter we missed?; having been rescued from being tied down to the earth post corn-hunt, the intrepid medium is put back into bed with many slashings that were meant to be “cleaned”—but like a period of the damned her blood stains remained large until Father Michael whisked one away in the flash of a hand …. Real “horrorists” won’t be fooled or amused.
There are enough things that did go well to throw this gauntlet: let’s eschew those hand-held cameras and easy-target plot in favour of truly stirring Miller’s creativity then see what transpires. JWR