The Devil and Father Amorth (2017)

In 1972 William Friedkin made “The Exorcist”. Now, fourty years later, he got the opportunity to film a real exorcism. He travels to Rome, Italy, to meet Father Gabrielle Amorth, a priest and the Vatican’s Exorcist in Chief himself who’s performed over 50.000 exorcisms. During the documentary he was 91 years old and a bit fragile, but showed no sign of slowing down. There are 60 million people in Italy and we learn that 500.000 of them are seeing an exorcist every year. Yikes.

 

One of them is the 47-year old Christina who claims to be possessed by the devil (or 89 (!) demons as claimed in an online article), and Father Amorth have exorcised her eight times without any success. In this documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth”, we’ll witness the ninth attempt. And Friedkin was allowed by the Vatican to film the session, but only with a small video camera and without any crew. And according to this documentary, The Vatikan has never allowed any exorcisms to be filmed before.  So I bet Mr. Friedkin was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning to finally witness the real deal, and show it to the world.

 

And after we briefly meet Christina, I wish there was a lot more focus on her and how she functions in the everyday-life while supposedly being possessed by 89 freakin’ demons. Seriously. How does she even get out of bed? How is she being able to do anything? And how does her boyfriend and family handle the situation? And this being the ninth time she’s being exorcised, she sure looks pretty healthy with her make-up an all. She gives a quick interview before the exorcism session starts, while she smiles and acts like she’s waiting for her turn to do an audition for a song contest, Italian Idol, or something. But no, there’s no in-depth with her, she just comes and goes. Is she really possessed, mentally ill or just a really bad actress who wants some attention? Still, Father Amorth is certainly convinced that she’s possessed.

 

And then the session begins in Father Amorth’s office with Christina’s family and relatives as witnesses. And oh’boy oh’boy what a cringy witnessing that is. If I sat in that room, I would really struggle not to laugh.

 

I didn’t expect any head-twisting, levitation or anything like that, but if William Friedkin waited 40 years for this, he is in his full right to tell what he really thinks. Well, he does not. And someone in the sound-department had obviously played the zombie-mode of Call of Duty and thought the sound effects from the zombies would be a great idea for a double-toned demon voice. This is an element that many viewers with a brain and common sense have pointed out, and Friedkin was asked directly in an interview with Vulture if there was some manipulation of the voice in post-production. His reply was “I wouldn’t fuck around with that! That’s ridiculous!” Ha ha, yeah right, Mr. Friedkin. With all due respect, we’re not that dumb and naive.

 

So watching this with an open mind is just plain impossible. It’s also quite amusing that this thing actually “baffled” medics when it was screened at the Venice Film Festival, and a group of doctors watching the exorcism  of Christina in a meeting room with a straight face. Like we’ve never seen anything like this before. Bob Larson, anyone? He’s one of the many television evangelists who’s done the same thing for decades, and even though he’s batshit crazy, there’s not much difference in what we see here. But when some ancient dude from the Vatican enters the screen and swings his cruicifix to someones forehead, it’s suddenly somehow believable? Meh..

 

Spoiler warning: The ending makes it even more questionable and shady when Friedkin sets up a final interview with Christina in a small village outside of Rome. We’re being told that he meets her in a church, which he describes as “trapped in a living nightmare”. And as if all the credibility hasn’t been flushed down the toilet already, he didn’t even take his camera inside… How could this get even worse? To top the level of cringe, he retells the scenario from his memory and adds some dramatic music and sounds of the demon voice in a desperate attempt to give us a climax, or a sort of. So there you have it. “The Call of Duty Zombie-Devil and Father Amorth”. What a joke. It’s hard to tell if this is a mockumentary or not, you’d expect more from a director like William Friedkin, and not a lazy nothingburger like this.

 

Just before Father Amorth could perform Christina’s tenth exorcism, he dies. Rest in Peace. Now it’s time to call Sam and Dean. Friedkin then gives a quick humble epilogue while standing in front of The Exorcist Steps in Georgetown as a reminder that he at least made one of the greatest horror films of all time.

 

Suspiria 2018

 

Director: William Friedkin
Country & year: Italy | USA, 2017
Cast: Gabriele Amorth, Robert Barron, William Friedkin
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6883152/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guardian (1990)

The Guardian (1990)As I had always thought that The Exorcist was William Friedkin’s one and only pure horror movie, I didn’t know what to expect from this slightly obscure little film called “The Guardian” when it finally came into my radar. So let’s check it out.

 

The movie opens with the text: «For thousands of years a religious order known as the druids worshipped trees, sometimes even sacrificing human beings to them.» After viewing this text introduction, we’re in the home of a high class family where a boy reads Hansel and Gretel to his little infant sister while his parents are getting ready to go on a business trip for some days. As soon as they drive away, the nanny they hired grabs the baby and take her to the woods. The parents returns to the home since the mother forgot her glasses, when they realize that the baby and nanny is missing. The nanny has already sacrificed the baby to a tree where its face is embossed in the tree bark. The nanny gets away, and three months later in sunny California we get introduced to a couple who has a baby on the way. And with their busy career, they of course need a nanny. They have some auditions, and amongst them is the nanny we saw in the beginning. Unaware of her dark intentions, they hire her. The neighbour falls madly in love with her, and one night he follows her when she goes into the woods. There, he witnesses her laying down nude on a tree branch and beginning to fuse with the tree bark, and he realizes that this woman has no business being around children.. or anyone else for that matter.

 

Sam Raimi was first hired to direct due to his recent success with “Evil Dead II”, but dropped off to make “Darkman” instead (which is awesome, by the way). In came William Friedkin who was going through a tough time and apparently took whatever got handed to him. He also had a scary experience with a nanny himself who put his son in danger, and thus could relate to the two parents and their feeling of hopelessness. So with the director on board who was known for the scariest movie of all time, “The Exorcist” , what could go wrong?

 

“The Guardian” had a shooting schedule set to two weeks, but ended up in twelve with a chaotic production. The british screenwriter Stephen Volk was hired to write the script, but was never satisfied with the story’s progress. He and Friedkin figured out that the film would be better without the fantasy elements, but the studio disapproved of that idea. The Guardian was heavily promoted as “From The Director of The Exorcist” and his big comeback to the horror genre in seventeen years. And since The Exorcist was a supernatural horror movie with a huge success, they thought Friedkin could just snap with his fingers and repeat the magic. Well, that didn’t work at all. Stephen Volk got a mental breakdown, left the production and made the mockumentary “Ghostwatch” for british TV two years later. Friedkin was left behind with an unfinished script that was rewritten every day while shooting.

 

Jenny Seagrove, who plays the Nanny, was also unhappy with the fantasy elements and wanted the movie to be a down-to-earth psycho thriller about a nanny who kidnaps babies. She called the movie awful and told the studio that it would be just wrong to have a nanny who’s a druid and becomes a tree. Well, who could blame her.. When “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” was released two years later by Warner Bros, which became a huge financial success, she rang a friend at Universal who simply said: “Don’t. Don’t even talk about it, you were right”. Ouch. The film was cut for theatrical release and for Cable TV. In the TV version the director was credited as Alan Smithee, the pseudonym directors use when they’re so unhappy or embarrassed of the final product that they don’t want to be associated with it. However, Friedkin has stated on a commentary track on one of the DVD’s that he didn’t even know about the TV version, and views The Guardian as his most personal film.

 

Seagrove has said in retrospect that the film is “good fun”, and that’s a great way to summarize it. It’s no masterpiece, but far from boring. It’s a rather bizarre movie with full of cheesiness, some great gore, nudity, a scary tree that gets mutilated with a chainsaw in Evil Dead-Ash-style while tons of fake blood is pouring out. Makes me wonder if Sam Raimi actually had some input on that aspect. And of course we have an authentic birth-giving scene.

 

The Guardian

 

Director: William Friedkin
Country & year: USA, 1990
Actors: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown, Carey Lowell, Brad Hall, Miguel Ferrer, Natalija Nogulich, Pamela Brull, Gary Swanson
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099710/

 

Tom Ghoul