The Exorcism of God review – a big gaudy altarpiece of demonic horror | Movies


“Sometimes I think the devil’s in the Vatican’s own ranks.” While the true-life horror of Roman Catholic child abuse probably wouldn’t sit easily in a genre film, this bombastic but occasionally surprising Mexican-Venezuelan exorcism flick does engage with ecclesiastical sexual abuse in a more general sense. Right down to its blaspheming finale, The Exorcism of God burns with a subversive desire to rip back the veil on the church’s earthly corruption – but the iconoclasm is somewhat undermined by the daft horror mechanics Venezuelan director Alejandro Hildalgo props it up with.

Rookie American priest Peter Williams (Will Beinbrink) ill-advisedly takes it upon himself to give a yellow-eyed demon its marching orders from the body of a nun, Magali (Irán Castillo). But, faced with the succubus tied to a bed, he is temporarily possessed by the entity himself and loses control. Eighteen years later, he has apparently recovered and is revered at a Mexican orphanage. But, the children dying in his care hint at the secret festering beneath this veneration; when he is called to a hellhole penitentiary to examine a disturbed prisoner, he must suddenly confront the past again: “She doesn’t need a doctor. She needs a priest.” (A trailer-ready line, if ever there was one.)

Recreating the lamplight poster shot from The Exorcist, Hildalgo doesn’t exactly disguise who he is in thrall to – though his film is to William Friedkin’s classic what hair metal was to Led Zeppelin. He gilds it thick – from a “sexorcist” opening sequence, whose tinge of exploitation flouts most of the underlying point about malfeasance, to Joseph Marcell’s mezcal-swigging super-priest, to the evil, crab-walking Christ in Williams’ nightmares. Trying to improve on the basic priest v demon spiritual showdown by having the film enter quasi-slasher territory, with a prison full of possessed inmates, really is jumping the sacrament, though. The closing section has an undeniable cynical swagger, but this is a big, gaudy, overblown altarpiece of a horror movie.

The Exorcism of God is available on 28 March on digital platforms.

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