Okay, I successfully reviewed all of the THE EXORCIST movies, I’m ready to move past the topic of exorcising. But first I wanted to check out this year’s release THE POPE’S EXORCIST. I know what you’re thinking – The Pope gets to do his own version of THE EXORCIST? But in this case the title does not represent authorship, instead it refers to the title character being the official go-to exorcist for The Pope. Father Gabriele Amorth (1925-2016) was a real Catholic priest who was appointed an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome in 1986. In 2017 William Friedkin did a documentary about him called THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH. I’ll save my views on the real guy for the end and say for now that I find him very entertaining as a jolly pulp hero played by Russell Crowe (THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS).
Crowe basically depicts him as a lovable Italian grandpa – generous with his chuckles, good with kids, full of corny humor (I never quite figured out why he likes to make a cuckoo clock sound at people?). He greets humans, statues and at least one desiccated corpse as “my friend.” Also his girth comically dwarfs the Ferrari scooter that is his preferred mode of transportation. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER is the new Blumhouse-produced EXORCIST sequel directed by David Gordon Green (YOUR HIGHNESS), who also co-wrote it with Peter Sattler (CAMP X-RAY). It tells the story of two 13-year old girls in Percy, Georgia who mysteriously disappear and return in a state we watchers of these movies will recognize as “demonically-possessed.” I’ve seen people making fun of that premise – “Oh wow, there’s not one, but TWO of them!?” – but I think they’re missing the point. It’s not about one-upping, it’s about creating a scenario where two families with different beliefs and backgrounds have to deal with this at the same time.
It immediately feels more like a true EXORCIST followup than the trailer had me worrying it would, because it does open in an exotic locale. Photographer Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr., RED TAILS, ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…) and his pregnant wife (I thought girlfriend but I read wife) Sorenne (Tracey Graves, THE WEDDING RINGER) are vacationing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (filmed in the Dominican Republic), and it’s shot very naturalistically, full of vivid color, texture and people. They talk to nice locals, some give Sorrene a traditional Haitian blessing to protect her baby, they visit the inside of a beautiful church. The differences between Victor and Sorrene are illustrated by Sorrene’s exclamations about “Jesus is in this place!” while Victor is more excited to get a photo of the city from the bell tower. (read the rest of this shit…)
At the turn of the century, as we discussed yesterday, Morgan Creek set out to make a prequel to THE EXORCIST, and wound up making two of them instead. We already took a look at Paul Schrader’s DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST, the first one made, but initially shelved by the studio. When they test screened it they were so unhappy they decided rather than trying to salvage it with reshoots and recuts they would build a church on top of it and bury the church, by which I mean hire Renny Harlin (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER) to start over.
The script was heavily rewritten by Alexi Hawley (a first timer who has since written for TV shows such as The Following, Castle and The Recruit), but it’s still about Father Merrin uncovering an early Christian church found mysteriously buried in the Turkana district of Kenya. Stellan Skarsgård continued, as he put it in an intro for the premiere of Schrader’s version, “carrying the cross for Merrin for another year.” And Julian Wadham and Ralph Brown will later show up as Major Granville and Sergeant Major. But Father Francis is now played by James D’Arcy (HITCHCOCK, OPPENHEIMER), and Clara Bellar’s Dr. Rachel Lesno has been replaced by Izabella Scorupco (GOLDENEYE) as Dr. Sarah Novak, so even when Skarsgård’s dialogue is the same he had to refilm. (read the rest of this shit…)
This is the first first-time-watch for me in this EXORCIST series viewing. There are so many horror franchises that I’m a completist about, but I never really thought of myself as an EXORCIST guy. But after revisiting I, II and III in quick succession, and knowing I’d be seeing the new one too, I figured… when in Rome (home of the Vatican), right? Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize the entire THE EXORCIST series in one moment…
I actually always meant to see the EXORCIST prequel, but it was intimidating, because there were two of them. Morgan Creek founder James G. Robinson started trying to develop the prequel in the late ‘90s, probly without very lofty ambitions, since the first director attached was Tom McLoughlin (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES). But after McLoughlin didn’t like the script by William Wisher Jr. (TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY) and left the project, they picked up the great John Frankenheimer, who had most recently done REINDEER GAMES and the made-for-cable PATH TO WAR. He brought in novelist Caleb Carr for a page 1 rewrite, and Liam Neeson signed on to star as the younger version of Max von Sydow’s archaeologist/exorcist character, Father Lankester Merrin. But Frankenheimer had to leave due to illness (and died a month later), and his friend Paul Schrader (fresh off of AUTO FOCUS) agreed to take over if he could rework the script. (Only Wisher and Carr received credit, but Carr said it didn’t resemble what he wrote.) Neeson had to drop out to do LOVE ACTUALLY, but miraculously the studio let Schrader hire Stellan Skarsgård (IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE) to star. (read the rest of this shit…)
My experience with THE EXORCIST III is different from the other ones. This one I actually saw in the theater as a teenager. In those days you would just go see the latest chapter in a horror series even if you hadn’t seen the earlier ones. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen part II at the time, and I’m not even sure I’d seen the first one. I definitely wasn’t familiar with it enough to realize that the protagonist, Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue) was a character from the first one (the homicide detective played by Lee J. Cobb).
I think I saw it a second time on video at some point, but that would’ve been years ago, maybe decades. What I remembered: a creepy part with somebody crawling on a ceiling in the background. Brad Dourif ranting in a cell. Pretty scary. I liked it at the time, but I seem to remember people thinking it was bad. I feel like now it has an overall reputation for being underrated at the very least. (read the rest of this shit…)
William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST. Pretty good. Pretty popular. Pazuzu possesses the young lady, she behaves inappropriately according to most forms of etiquette, the two priest guys of different generations say the magic words and die, hooray for everyone. Please note that it’s not called “THE EXORCISTS,” there is only one exorcist of record, so either Father Merrin or Father Karras is getting the shaft in that title. Whichever one you like least. Fuck that guy. Who does he think he’s fooling, trying to be The Exorcist by sacrificing his life for a little girl? Go away, loser, there’s no room for you in this title.
There’s a persistent myth that when she pukes up green stuff it looks like split pea soup. In fact it looks like Nickelodeon slime. If you read the book it’s very clear about that. Anyway – good movie.
There are a handful of beloved classics that are part of what I consider “the modern era” of horror and yet were made before I, a pretty old guy, was born. Of those I’m more attached to PSYCHO, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, but THE EXORCIST is a good one too. It’s been around long enough and been considered important enough that arguably one or two people have said one or two things about it, and there might not be much room for new points to be made. But I’m not looking to make a definitive review here. I’m just trying to make one a little less dumb than the first time I wrote about it. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE WAILING is a long, moody, unpredictable South Korean film about a terrible evil coming to a small fishing town in the mountains. The plot is fairly simple, there’s not that much to it, but I like how it takes you very gradually from naturalism to a bit of craziness.
It’s one of those openings that made me immediately think this might be a great movie even before anything actually happened. It just has this potent transporting quality as it depicts this hapless cop Jong-goo get up early to investigate a crime scene. Rain is coming down hard, you can hear it in every direction. He’s still trying to wake up, and he’s not in any hurry. And then he gets there and all the officers are sheltered under their tent-like rain coats, walking through and cataloging the aftermath of a horrific murder, and unlike the usual depiction of seen-it-all cops barely phased by dead bodies (while one minor character kneels down and pukes to show that this is an extra bad one) we see Jong-goo’s terrified expressions as he witnesses the increasingly bizarre circumstances of the deaths.
This is our hero. Not some badass. Just a guy. And it endears us to him so that we’ll relate all through the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL takes place in a horror movie Bronx. It’s all gloomy cinematography of wet streets at night, filthy, decrepit apartments, an ancient Latin invocation carved into walls or flesh. A malevolent demon monster or whatever is spookifying the place, so wherever our hero goes the power cuts out or the light bulbs burn out or they flicker like a strobelight (sometimes for an entire knife fight scene).
Also I think the filmatists are trying to play off of our primal fear of animals, so the Iraq War prologue features tarantulas, a snake and a bat. Another early scene involves a zoo with the animals loose (and lights out, of course) and the heroes get chased by a bunch of lions. Later a major piece of evidence is a security camera tape of a dude talking to a lion. And you got your usual cat scares like in all movies and also a crucified kitten and if you saw the trailer you’ll remember the scene of the hero’s daughter in bed at night getting spooked by her weird hooting owl doll. Sadly that James-Wan-esque scene climaxes with a jack-in-the-box with blood on its face. The ol’ evil clown standby. Boo.
Patrolling this world we have macho NYPD Sergeant Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana). He was raised Catholic, sure, but doesn’t believe in all that mumbo jumbo, etc. He’s renowned by his colleagues for catching a child killer with the first draft name “Marvin the Molester” and punching his face to death. He works too much his wife is pregnant she never sees him when he is home it’s like he’s not even there she never knows if she’s gonna get that call in the middle of the night he missed his daughter’s birthday she cried herself to sleep, all that. But somehow every case he gets connects to this weird supernatural thing with a mysterious guy who walks around acting scary with his Darth Maul hoodie up at all times even though he’s never in the numerous scenes where it’s pouring rain.
Sarchie also has a wiseass partner with seven deadly sins themed tattoos who carries two big knives that he uses to fight suspects instead of guns which in my opinion is not regulation. He’s played by Joel McHale from Community and the local Seattle sketch show that Bill Nye the Science Guy started on, Almost Live!. I know from an interview with director/co-writer Scott Derrickson that McHale has been his best friend for years and supposedly this character is more like the real him than anything he’s ever played. Apparently he really is obsessed with knives and maybe even wears a backwards baseball hat and sleeveless shirts all the time. Still, I had a hard time accepting the funny asshole guy from TV as this David Ayer type character, even when he tried to do an accent.
I’m always open to a James Wan movie just because I love DEATH SENTENCE so much. But everything else he’s done (until FAST AND FURIOUS 7 next summer) is horror, so it’s pretty different. SAW was okay, I kinda liked INSIDIOUS, haven’t seen the other one (DEAD SILENCE) yet. I probly wouldn’t have rushed out to see this except I heard good word including from some of you commenters who I trust.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren, supernatural investigators or demonologists. They’re actually based on a real couple who famously investigated the cases that AMITYVILLE HORROR and A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT and I think GHOST DAD and CASPER MEETS WENDY were based on, and wrote several books about this type of shit. I guess this is kind of like CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND where the movie pretends to believe their story and tells it as they would tell it. (read the rest of this shit…)
INSIDIOUS (new this week on home video formats) is the latest from James Wan, the director of SAW. He didn’t do any of the SAW sequels though, if that’s what you’re thinking. This is only his fourth movie. I didn’t think SAW was that great and never saw his other horror movie DEAD SILENCE, but I’m kinda rooting for the guy to turn into a consistently good director because of how much I dug DEATH SENTENCE, his vigilante movie starring Kevin Bacon. Also ’cause he’s the only Chinese-Australian director I ever heard of, and that’s kinda cool. (read the rest of this shit…)
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