Fantastic Fest Review: Alejandro Hidalgo’s ‘The Exorcism of God’
Exorcism movies are a dime a dozen these days, so to find one that generally works is a satisfying feeling. Alejandro Hidalgo’s sophomore feature The Exorcism of God doesn’t fully deliver in the narrative department, boasting an extremely unlikable main character that the viewer is pitted against from the opening scene, but it’s got some solid tension with great scares that are mostly executed via a heap of pretty solid visual effects. These visuals look really convincing for the majority of the film and can be genuinely unsettling at times, with only a handful scenes where it’s noticeably fake due to a weird camera angle or inconsistent lighting. As the film opens it gives off massive William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist vibes, even going so far as to replicate the shot of the exorcist standing outside the residence of the possessed to great effect and throwing in some split pea soup vomit later on for good measure.
The exorcist in this film, an American priest named Father Peter Williams (Will Beinbrink, It Chapter Two), is possessed by the very demon he’s exorcising during the process of expelling it from a young woman and commits acts of adultery against her while under the influence of the demon. This scene is extremely tense but really starts the viewer’s relationship with the main character off on one of the worst possible notes, and the inconsistent tone with which the filmmakers handle this aspect going forward doesn’t do it any favors. Father Williams acts as if he knows it was his fault and wants the chance to redeem himself, but when given several opportunities always ends up choosing the selfish path that keeps his terrible secret in the dark. It’s clear by the time the credits roll that this was highly intentional though it will surely add to the frustration many viewers have with the character over the course of the film’s one hundred minute runtime.
This is a fairly fast paced film with the horror rarely letting up and only minimal dialogue in between to move the narrative forward, which keeps it engaging moment to moment despite the grievances you might have with the main character. Following the opening the film fast forwards about eighteen years as the demon returns to the orphanage that Father Williams is now working at, only this time it’s much more powerful than before and has its sights set on the soul of every child in the orphanage as well as a stranger in the local prison with ties to Father Williams’ past that will shake his faith to the core. There’s some really well executed sequences, especially in the back half once Father Lewis (played by Joseph Marcell who most will recognize from his time as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Geoffrey Butler) shows up, and although it feels quite pulpy on multiple occasions it’s a ton of fun to watch these moments play out if you’re in the mood for something over the top. It’s not going to blow anyone away who’s seen many other exorcism films prior to it, but there’s some inventive twists in the final act that take things in a fresh new direction for the genre. The Exorcism of God has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Saban Films (XYZ Films is handling international distribution) and will have release information added here as it becomes available.