Exorcismus (aka La posesión de Emma Evans) is a 2010 Spanish horror movie set in the warm, tropical climate of London, circa now. Emma Hawkins (Sophie Vavasseur) is your everyday average teenager living with her family in white collar suburbia. At her mother’s insistence, Emma and her brother are home-tutored by their academic father, meaning Emma’s only contact with the outside world are two friends, one from a local high school and the other from university. So your usual everyday teenager trapped in TARDIS like house with caring, but clinically logical parents. After an act of self-harm, which she hides from her family, Emma begins to experience fits and display behaviour unbecoming of a future Oxford graduate. Namely, seducing her female friend, attempting to drown her brother in the bath and killing her psychologist. Before long, Emma’s mother is calling in her own brother, who just so happens to be a priest, to help exorcise Emma.
Is a lot of this sounding familiar? Well, it should. Exorcismus is without contest, one of the most unoriginal pieces of work to come out of the horror genre. It works like a greatest hit package of clichés. A horror movie designed by committee. Any scares that could be wrung out of this genre sponge have worked better elsewhere. Namely The Exorcist.
Whilst it’s lazy journalism to compare any exorcism movie with William Friedkin’s masterpiece, when you’re faced with a film that’s essentially cherry picking the best moments and trying to repackage them Rola-Cola style, it’s really hard not to. Everything that was seen in Max von Sydow’s fight with Pazuzu is dipped in bleach, scrubbed down and put back on display as The Exorcist, but you know for kids.
Body contortion, echoes of ‘Can you help out an old altar boy, Fadder?’ and even Regan’s grounded nightmare in the hospital all raise their heads and make you aware that you could really be watching something a lot better at this present moment in time. There are attempts at surprises along the way, but they serve no other purpose than making this critic really angry. Useless, pointless attempts at shock that raise nothing more than a titter. This really is a bad film.
Vavasseur is thoroughly game as the tortured soul of Emma. Throwing herself into the role, she is wide-eyed innocence one minute and black-eyed vixen the next; she easily convinces that there are two forces at work inside her young mind. It’s a shame more can’t be said for Stephen Billington as her uncle; a priest hiding a terrible secret, who has faced this particular demon before and hopes this time he will be given some closure (Sorry, have we mentioned this like The Exorcist?). Billington walks around smoldering with such success that I’ve no doubt he can set many a housewife heart aflame, but as a world-weary priest, he fails miserably. The only subtlety in his performance comes from whispering every line to suggest ‘Hey! This is pretty hard for me you know. Being a priest and everything’.
It’s not good walking away from a film and being angry at the whole genre it comes from. The last time we felt like this was the appalling Brit-horror, F. However, the fact of the matter is that Exorcismus is one of the worst examples of horror in the last ten years; a boil in the bag horror for people who don’t know any better. Do yourself a favour, if this film comes round to visit, feign death and the early stages of rigarmortis until it gets the message and goes home. It sounds like a lot of effort, but you will ultimately be happier for having done so.