The Power of Crap Compels Me. Apparently.
Main Cast: Rudy Barrow and Liz Mente-Bishop
Director: Philip Gardiner
I never learn. After 43 years, you’d think I’d know that the movies in the $1.99 bin are probably in there for a reason. But sometimes you see actual good movies in there like The Omen or Grace, and you think I like demon possession movies; maybe this Exorcist Chronicles thing won’t be so bad. So you buy it. And it turns out it’s not only bad, it’s terrible.
The story, such as it is, deals with a priest (Father Jan, played by Rudy Barrow–from nothing you’ve ever heard of) and a scientist woman (Daryl, played by Liz Mente-Bishop–from even less you might have heard of) trying to deal with an epidemic of demonic possession cases start popping up all over the place. And by “all over the place”, I mean in a very isolated section of the UK. And by “demonic possession cases” I mean half a dozen nearly-nude women are covered in some sort of grime and mutter some vaguely latin-sounding phrases before special effects lighting starts emanating from their chests.
Then Father Jan and Scientist Daryl convene back at their camper in the middle of a field where the Vatican has set them up, and try to puzzle together the strange goings-on.
There’s some nonsense about the water in a pond not being water but “pure DNA”, a mix of human and reptile, and Daryl wears hooker shorts and a leather vest with nothing under it, sleeps nude in the camper with Father Jan, who seems to have no problem with this, and the Vatican apparently has “extreme case“ studies of possession locked in a dungeon somewhere.
That’s about the sum of this movie. Oh, and there’s lot of weird lightning choices and more special camera affects than I care to remember. Unfortunately what was missing from this movie–and I use that word in the loosest sense possible–was any sort of direction, purpose, or goal. Really, the whole thing felt more like a bunch of short scenes randomly pieced together in the hopes of forming some kind of coherent whole.
In the hopes, I said. Don’t get me wrong, it totally fails in doing even that much.
With a story by Warren Croyle and Joe Micallef, but a screenplay by the director of the movie, Philip Gardiner (of even MORE you’ve never heard of), Exorcist Chroncles feels like a movie that has loads of ambition, but no clear direction. It’s almost like Gardiner overheard Croyle and Micallef chatting in the pub one day, heard a few snippets of their conversation, something about an epidemic of possession cases and a priest sent by the Vatican to get to the bottom of it, and he’s got this lady scientist sidekick, and he ran with it before realizing what they were actually talking about was an outbreak of chicken pox at the office one of them worked in.
That’s my guess, anyway. Because there’s no way THIS was the original vision of anyone connected to this movie’s origins.
I’m also on the fence as to how much blame to place on the actors. Sure, the script they were given was incredibly weak and not fully formed yet, but I think an actor worth their salt could have made SOMETHING resembling “not terrible” out of this mess.
Or maybe not. Because the script and the acting are the least of this movie’s worries. There’s Gardiner’s direction and the fact he can’t seem to settle on a consistent visual style for more than five minutes. Better make that two minutes.
The camera is placed almost as an afterthought, and sometimes we get this really weird fish-eye lens that has no storytelling purpose whatsoever, or a bunch of echo effects on the dialogue that is probably meant to be scary/demonic, but just sounds like a bunch of static and leads us nowhere at all.
I mean, it’s probably a really bad sign when the best detail I can pinpoint about this entire movie is the cover of the DVD box. Once you open that box and dig into the movie itself, yeesh! Talk about needing someone to pray for you!
In a lot of cases like this, where the vision far outweighed the abilities and the budget, I come away thinking “If only they’d had more money for a better production, better actors, etc.” I can’t even say that would have helped this one. Because it’s not just the lack of money that held this one back. It’s a mess from start to finish. The story is barely comprehensible, and there was almost no evidence of Gardiner having any idea whatsoever what he was doing behind the camera.
Even at $1.99, I feel cheated by this one.
–C. Dennis Moore
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.