This film should have been terrifying. It had all the ingredients for being the kind of film that really scares me. It is filmed like a documentary or “found footage” film, it is about a possessed girl (possessed girls or little girl ghosts are the MOST terrifying) and it is produced by Eli Roth who was behind films like Hostel. It could have been brilliant. It isn’t though.
The problem is this film doesn’t know what it wants to be. It begins by introducing itself as a “found footage” documentary on a priest’s Last Exorcism. Normally these are rough cuts of a film, shaky camera action and it manages to completely involve the viewer because the cameraman is one of the characters. Instead, they don’t really allude to the fact it’s “found footage” at all. They even put a soundtrack over the top of the action to create tension. If it’s found footage, there shouldn’t be a soundtrack. If it’s found footage done well, it shouldn’t need a soundtrack!
The idea behind the whole film seems confused too. You are following a priest who has had a crisis of faith. He is going to show the viewers in this documentary how to fake an exorcism, exposing the fraudulent practice and how it is done. This part of the film is done brilliantly, if not a little bit far-fetched. Even after the fake exorcism, the girl still acts erratically, almost as if the priest is actually coming up against his first ever real possession.
At this point the film had to make a choice, do they go down the route of a proper possession, make this a real demon and have the priest go up against it or do they go down the path of mystery? Is she really possessed or reacting to a past trauma? Is she actually possessed or mentally ill? Either film could have worked brilliantly and would have still been scary and interesting. This film tries to do both!
It leads you down the path of demon possession one moment, with seemingly psychic abilities and the weird body contortions of the victim but then also tries to imply that it is all fake and actually mental illness. This leads to a confused film that doesn’t make much sense in trying to convey either explanation for the girl’s actions. The ending of the whole film adds to the confusion further. It feels as if the film makers didn’t know how to end it so went with something extraordinary and slightly ridiculous.
Another moment that confused me was the image used for all the advertising. It’s on the posters, the box for the Blu-Ray and the Blu-Ray disc itself. I didn’t actually see it in the film though. The image is of the girl crawling up the wall, something she would only be able to do if actually possessed. The fact that this scene doesn’t even make it into the film leads me to believe the idea behind the whole concept was confused from the beginning.
It is a real shame because there is a great film behind this confusion. The build up of tension and the way in which the girl switches from innocent and sweet to evil and demonic are delivered fantastically. Every actor seems natural and you never believe that they are “acting,” just the way it should be for a “found footage” film. When the film wants to be scary and jump-filled, it does so with great effect. When it wants to convey the confusion of whether this really is demonic possession, it does this brilliantly too. Trying to put both together is where the film falters because they do neither of them enough justice to really achieve what I think they set out for.
Overall, I watched this film expecting it to be as scary as the first time I watched Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Instead it felt confused, lacked any real pace or conviction with what it was trying to achieve and just managed to disappoint me. All the ingredients for a fantastic film are there, just in the wrong measures.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)