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Renfield, The Pope’s Exorcist, Evil Dead Rise, Motion Detected, The Offering, Enys Men, and The Devil and Father Amorth
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 228
This week, we’re skipping our usual short film and just blasting away with SEVEN full-length reviews!
This week, we’ll watch a whole stack of brand-new movies released just this month. We’ll start with the comedic “Renfield,” move on to the less-comedic “The Pope’s Exorcist,” battle with more demons in “Evil Dead Rise,” get locked in a smart house in “Motion Detected,” and then deal with more demons, just this time with a Jewish exorcism in “The Offering.”
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For our bonus reviews this week we’ll watch “Enys Men” from 2023, an artsy, yet thought-provoking horror film as well as “The Devil and Father Amorth” (2017), a documentary about the real priest who inspired “The Pope’s Exorcist,” and it includes a video of a real exorcism.
We’ve got two announcements this week pertaining to our books:
1. FREE! Horror Bulletin Monthly Issue 20 is now out. This, as always, has all our previous month’s reviews inside, but this month, we’re offering the ebook version (in PDF and ePub) absolutely free! Check out https://brianschell.com/collection/free-books for this one and more!
2. FREE! The Horror Guys Guide To The Halloween Films is available now, exclusively at our web store, https://brianschell.com/collection/free-books. The eBook version is completely free. Enjoy! Note that it’s also available as a paperback, but that one’s obviously not free. Also note, that there are a couple of other free books on the site as well!
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
Here. We. Go!
• Directed by Chris McKay
• Written by Ryan Ridlet, Robert Kirkman
• Stars Nicholas Hoult, Nicola Cage, Awkwafina
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was heavy on action and comedy, but it’s got Dracula, so, of course, it’s still horror. And there’s a large, violent body count. It’s over the top with blood and gore. Through it all, it’s entertaining and a very fun watch.
We open on Robert Montague Renfield sitting in a support group. It’s the Dependent Relationship Anonymous Group.
We cut back to the 1931 Dracula movie, only with Nic Cage and Nicholas Holt in the black and white roles. To us, he relays his role as the familiar of the Prince of Darkness. He says that he can get super powers from eating bugs and uses those to assist Dracula. We get a scene that shows Dracula is pretty hard to kill. It’s always up to Renfield to clean up the mess and set up their lives after the vampire hunters do their things.
The leader of the group session asks Renfield to share his situation. It’s all very supportive and wonderful. Renfield takes down names of the people who hurt the people in the support group; “Get rid of their monsters by giving mine what he needs.” Caitlyn complains about her boyfriend, Mitch.
The next scene has Renfield take on Mitch, his friends, and the assassin sent to kill Mitch. We see that Renfield is also hard to kill, especially when he’s supercharged on bugs.
Chris and Rebecca Quincy are two cops at a drunk driving checkpoint, and they arrest Tedward Lobo, the assassin’s boss and a major drug dealer. He’s soon released by shady lawyers. Rebecca’s sister Kate is with the FBI, and she wants revenge on the Lobos for the death of their father. Ted’s mother, on the other hand, is a bit of a monster herself.
Renfield tries to talk Dracula into “settling down” so they don’t have to run and re-base so often. Dracula reminds Renfield that his job is relatively simple: bring him bodies.
Rebecca and Chris go to Mulates, a club where Renfield is looking for his next victim. Teddy and his gang storm in with guns at the same time, terrorizing the place. Renfield watches as Rebecca stands up to Ted, and he’s impressed. Then Renfield eats bugs and messes up the baddies, saving her life. She calls him a hero, which is a new thing for him.
Renfield goes home to Dracula, who has developed a plan for world domination. He wants to take his malevolent evil to a new level.
Renfield goes back to the support group and is willing to talk this time. They think he’s talking about codependencies, but Renfield’s boss is the real deal. They give him a new feeling of confidence, and he starts setting up a “real life” in the real world for himself. He combs his hair, cleans his fingernails, and buys modern clothes.
Meanwhile, BellaFrancesca Lobo, Ted’s evil mastermind mother, wants Renfield killed. Ted and his gang show up in the old hospital where Dracula's lair is. He sees them before they see him. Ted tells Dracula what Renfield’s been up to, and Drac’s not happy. He lets Ted go.
Dracula and Renfield have a heart-to-heart about which of them is the real victim and the real monster here. Renfield reads to him from “How to Defend Yourself Against a Narcissist,” which Dracula finds hilarious.
Renfield dashes to the church where the support group holds meetings. He warns everyone that they need to leave now, but then Dracula shows up, and they invite him in. He introduces himself rather dramatically before killing them all.
Rebecca and Chris come in, and Renfield’s the only one there, so they think he’s involved in the killings. The Lobos and police show up, and Chris shows that he’s a traitor. Rebecca has little choice but to go on the run with Renfield.
Dracula talks to Ted and tries to start a partnership. Ted offers to let Drac meet his mother.
Renfield tries to explain things to Rebecca. Kate calls and says that DNA shows Renfield is an 80-year-old serial killer, maybe the most prolific in history. The cops/gangsters show up, and Renfield stops to look for bugs- he eats an ant farm, sand and all. He then beats up and dismembers dozens of assorted bad guys in the juiciest way possible.
Mother Lobo gets a visit from Ted and his new best friend, Dracula. They seem to be thoroughly charmed with each other at first sight. And they have much to discuss. Renfield and Rebecca find out that the gang has kidnaped Kate, and they want to go after her.
At the bad guys’ base, we see that most of the gang has now become familiars. They’re a lot tougher than humans, but Renfield works with it. Renfield and Ted fight as Dracula works on turning Rebecca to the dark side.
Eventually, it comes down to Renfield versus Dracula, and Renfield remembers his lessons on codependency. How do you kill Dracula? All the ways!
Renfield sets up a new codependency support group. No– he brings back the same group using Dracula’s blood, and they’re not too thrilled with that.
It's obviously more of a comedy than a horror film, but hey, it’s got Dracula, so it’s here.
Nic Cage is an awesome Dracula. Obviously, he’s hammy and over-the-top, but he’s still great. The Romanian accent comes and goes from scene to scene, but that’s forgivable considering how many years he’s been living among the British and Americans. I’d totally be up for a remake of 1931 with Cage and Hoult, but only if it’s in black and white.
The gang and corrupt cop stuff was hit and miss, but the story needed someone to get between Renfield and Dracula. It uses most of the Dracula tropes and is a lot of fun. It’s not perfect, but it was definitely worthwhile.
The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)
• Directed by Julius Avery
• Written by Michael Petroni, Evan Spiliotopoulos, R. Dean McCreary
• Stars Russell Crowe, Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 43 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s inspired by true events and based on a real man. But to say they bumped up the drama, action, and horror is an understatement. The acting is fine in all roles and the effects and makeup are excellent. Some viewers might think it was a little long and stretched out, but others might be good with the pacing.
June 4, 1987, in Italy. Father Gabriel Amorth arrives in the village to investigate a report on a man’s possession. He goes in to see the man, and he’s a real mess, tied to the bed. They have a brief conversation, and the father tricks the demon into possessing a pig instead. Then the farmer blows the pig away with a shotgun, much to the surprise of the junior priest standing next to it. Credits roll.
July 1, 1987, Castile, Spain. Mother Julia, and children Amy and Henry are Americans moving here, but none of them seem too thrilled with the plan. They meet Father Esquibel and Carlos, who are locals. The family just inherited this old abbey, and they’re all working hard to restore it. It’s a dingy, creepy old place, but it’s home for now. Henry hasn’t spoken in almost a year, since his father died.
Father Amorth attends a hearing in Rome about the Exorcism he did a few weeks ago. Amorth says he used the power of suggestion to help a confused boy. He’s the Chief Exorcist, but he acknowledges that most of his cases don’t really require real exorcisms; they’re mental cases. He says that 98% of his cases aren’t supernatural, but that last 2%— well. The panel wants to dissolve his position; even the bishops don’t believe in possession. He doesn’t react well; he says he reports only to the Pope and tells them to talk to his boss as he leaves.
At the abbey, some workers hit a gas deposit and are injured. In reality, they released something they shouldn’t have, and little Henry starts going into weird convulsions, and now he can talk again. “You’re all going to die!” Medical tests all look normal. The doctors say it’s some form of psychosis.
From the family’s point of view, it’s pretty obvious that Henry is possessed. They call in Father Esquibel, but that’s not the priest Henry wants to see.
The Pope calls in Amorth and sends him to Spain to deal with Henry. That abbey has given the church problems before. He warns Amorth that “This demon sounds dangerous.”
Father Amorth soon arrives at the abbey and Father Esquibel briefs him on what’s been going on and introduces him to the family. He very quickly heads upstairs to check out Henry. The demon says he’s come here for Amorth and knows things he shouldn’t.
Julia gives Amorth permission to do the exorcism, but he needs to know the demon’s name before he can drive him out. He gives Esquibel instructions, but the young priest doesn’t know much about demons. Their first encounter goes badly, with the demon bringing up both priests’ moral failings.
Amorth goes outside and finds an old well with the seal of the Vatican over it. What’s down there? Lots and lots of skulls of the victims of the Spanish Inquisition.
Meanwhile, Julia, Amy, and Esquibel all have bad encounters. Back in Rome, the Pope reads old reports of the demon and abbey and then has a heart attack.
Amorth finds a secret door in the basement, which leads to catacombs full of more bodies. There are signs that they did an exorcism that failed way back in 1475. The exorcist became possessed himself. It’s the King of Hell, Asmodeus, and he feeds on exorcists. He wants to possess Amorth and use him to infiltrate the church.
Both priests confess their past sins, and then it’s time to return to work. Except now, it’s in Amy as well. Amorth begs the demon to take him and leave Henry, which he immediately does.
Everything gets calm all at once. Henry sits up and calls for Julia. Amorth tells Esquibel to get the family out quickly.
Father Amorth is obviously possessed now, with black eyes and blood everywhere. He tries to kill himself, but the demon won’t allow it. He enters the catacombs, followed by Esquibel, who tries to exorcise him.
The two priests eventually drive the demon back to Hell. They both go back to Rome and report to the Pope. The Vatican buys the abbey and dismantles the whole thing, artifacts and all.
Who knew a Vespa could be so practical?
Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, as Henry, is really good as the demon-possessed boy. He’s very convincing. Russell Crowe is fine here, alternating between tense seriousness and telling jokes. There is some gore and obvious body makeup involved here, and all the special effects are good and fairly minimal until the end.
Kevin thought it was slow and stretched out, but I thought it was paced pretty well. There’s not a lot of action here; it’s a possession/exorcism movie. If you liked “The Exorcist,” then you’ll probably like this. It doesn’t offer anything new, but it’s all well done.
Evil Dead Rise (2023)
• Directed by Lee Cronin
• Written by Lee Cronin
• Stars Mirabai Pease, Richard Crouchley, Anna-Maree Thomas
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It looks good with loads of gore and realistic special effects. But it stalls and stays stalled, leaving us as trapped as the people in the film, watching variations on the same thing happen over and over. We didn’t think it was nearly as entertaining or captivating as the franchise’s previous movies or television series.
We open with a POV shot as something zooms through the woods as credits roll. Oh wait— it’s a drone, controlled by Caleb. Teresa asks him about Jessica, who’s back at the cabin, sick with something. Caleb is Jessica’s boyfriend, and Teresa’s feeling like a third wheel at the cabin in the woods.
Jessica starts quoting from “Wuthering Heights,” the book that Teresa is trying to read, but then she rolls right out of bed and vomits all over. She’s not looking too good, but good enough to rip Teresa’s scalp off. Jessica goes out to the dock and grabs Caleb’s drone, and she rips his whole head off. Jessica is clearly possessed. Credits roll.
One day earlier, Beth is in a club’s restroom taking a pregnancy test; she’s not pleased with the results.
We cut to Bridget and meet her whole weird family. Beth arrives and makes Ellie jump. Beth tells little Kassie that ghosts aren’t real. Ellie’s husband, and the kids’ father, has left them. Suddenly, there’s an earthquake, and it leaves a deep hole under the parking garage. There’s an old bank vault down there, so Danny climbs down to investigate. He finds a box full of old records and photos as well as a creepy old book.
Danny shows the book to Bridget, wondering if it’s worth anything. It’s got jagged Venus-flytrap teeth that open when he bleeds on it. Inside, there are pictures of demons and weirdness. Bridget insists that Danny take the book back in the morning.
Later, Danny plays one of the records, and it’s got strange chanting followed by a priest introducing the “Book of the Dead” to his followers. The recording tells all about the book. It then reads a resurrection ritual, and we see something coming toward their apartment building and possessing their mother, Ellie.
Beth, Danny, Kassie, and Bridget immediately see that something’s not right with their mother. She says, “It’s in me, “ then goes full Exorcist. They soon find out that they can’t leave the building due to the earthquake damage. Or maybe it's the dark forces conspiring against them.
Ellie soon dies. Neighbors Gabriel and Mr. Finds pray over her body. Then she gets up, not dead anymore, but clearly not quite human either. She bites out Gabriel’s eye and makes neighbor Jake choke on it. Mr. Fonda shoots Ellie, but that barely slows her down; she kills him too.
Danny shows Beth the book of the Dead. Ellie cuts Bridget’s face, and she’s soon “infected” as well. Beth finds her eating some glass and looking all demony. Kassie impales Bridget’s head with a pointy stick.
Beth listens to more of the recordings, and it says the demon can’t be stopped. As she listens to the recordings, Bridget infects Danny in the kitchen before stabbing him to death. Somehow, Ellie gets back inside and attacks Beth. Soon, Ellie and Bridget appear dead, at least for a while.
Beth and Kassie try to get to the fire escape by way of the hallway, and all the dead neighbors get up. The two get into the elevator and try to go down, but the elevator soon starts filling up with blood. The blood’s weight causes the elevator to fall to the lobby and explode (a scene straight out of “The Shining”).
Beth and Kassie make it out to the parking garage but aren’t alone. The now-merged-into-one monster grabs Kassie, and all Beth has to work with is a chainsaw. They all, somehow, end up on the back of a “tree doctor’s” truck with a built-in wood chipper. This gets really messy, but the monster definitely isn’t coming back from that.
Beth consoles Kassie, and when they leave, they take the chainsaw along… just in case.
We watch as one of the building’s tenants comes down from a different floor. It’s Jessica, and she invites Caleb and Teresa to her lake house for the weekend…
It’s got the demonic point-of-view shots and the Book of the Dead from the previous films, but that’s really about the only connection to the previous “Evil Dead” films. If you look into the trivia, there are several homages and callbacks to the other films, but they’re so subtle that you won’t notice them in the film itself.
The makeup and gore effects are absolutely great. That said, we were honestly bored through most of it. There’s no mystery here; Ellie gets possessed and spends the rest of the film trying to kill her trapped family. It’s just a matter of watching one battle after another until it’s over.
It’s well made and looks good, but it’s awfully bland and doesn’t even begin to approach the quality of its predecessors.
Motion Detected (2023)
• Directed by Justin Gallaher, Sam Roseme
• Written by Justin Gallaher, Sam Roseme
• Stars Bob Clendenin, Roland Buck III, Katelyn MacMullen, Natasha Esca
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It mashes up a few ideas that have been explored before and does a nice job with it. Ghosts in the machine and an evil AI meet mental illness and isolation. This was a cast and crew with relatively little previous work under their belts, and it was a win overall.
A girl sleeps in her bed, and the door opens, revealing a strange red blinking light. She goes outside to play, and sees the window of her house “glitch.” The smart house detects the little girl walking around inside. The girl gets sucked into the red light, and the smart home says, “All Clear.”
The Realtor shows a young couple the house, and it’s really fancy. The previous tenant just vanished for some reason. Eva and Miguel like the place, but she wants a place in a gated community. Their house in Mexico City was supposed to be safe, but that didn’t work out well. The Realtor “overhears” that, so she shows them the security system. They agree to take the place and leave.
The Realtor goes to leave, but the security system says there’s still someone on the third floor. The system won’t allow her to leave, and she gets a little creeped out. We watch newspaper headlines about a serial killer as the credits roll.
Almost as soon as they enter the new house, Miguel has to fly back to Mexico City for business. He’ll be gone for a week, and Eva doesn’t feel safe in the house alone. But he assures her it’s a safe neighborhood. Plus, there’s a nice security system. Once he leaves, Eva explores the whole house.
That night, she can’t figure out how to turn the alarm on. The next morning the guy from Diablo Controls arrives; he’s the alarm technician. He shows her how to set up a passcode. He sets up her phone to sync with the system. He says that it’s all controlled by an AI that watches and learns her patterns. He mentions that the neighborhood is super quiet, and nothing ever happens there anyway. When she goes to bed, the house watches everything.
We see something glitchy on the security footage, almost like a ghost coming up the steps. Eva gets up to check it out, but the system says “All clear.”
Miguel calls, and she sets off the alarm accidentally. We see that the security system even watches her FaceTime calls. She goes out for a jog, and the system warns her on her phone that “motion detected at front door.” Turns out it’s the next-door neighbor bringing her cookies. She also mentioned that Eva should join “Neighbor Network” on the web to find out events. Still, the front door is wide open— could someone have gone in?
Eva replays the footage and notices the “glitch person” we saw last night. It’s obviously not a real person, so she thinks it’s just an error. She joins the Neighbor Network and reads about the burglaries in the area. The neighborhood is not as safe as they’d been told.
She has a nightmare that night about the intruder back in Mexico City, El Diablo. She calls her therapist the next morning to talk about it. Eva has survivor’s guilt; the doctor says that’s perfectly normal. When Miguel calls to say he needs two more days, the system deletes his voicemail.
Eva makes a fancy welcome-home dinner for Miguel. When he calls still in Mexico, she gets angry and drunk. She runs into Ray, the security guy, outside. He says there’s a system outage in the neighborhood; he’ll be by in the morning to reset things.
The security system somehow analyzes Eva’s dreams, so it knows what she fears. Ray stops by and sets up her system again. She tells him about the glitch, and he mentions seeing a young girl on the screen, but that’s only “artifacting.”
But after he leaves, the artifacting is still there. On-screen, she sees a small ghostly figure walking around inside the house. She goes to the Mexican church and buys a “Santa Muerte” statue for protection.
She gets a message from a crazy-sounding man who says he’s had lots of problems with his Diablo Controls security system. “Maybe there’s still time for you.” Later that morning, she meets up with the man on the sidewalk in front of his house. He tells her to leave and never go back; he can’t do it, as the system is watching him. A while later, the man’s house catches on fire.
That night, the security system creates the serial killer from Mexico City in Eva’s room. She doesn’t wake up, but it’s all on the footage in the morning. She thinks she’s going crazy, and her therapist seems to think so too.
Miguel calls to say he’ll be home tomorrow morning. He also mentions that El Diablo, the serial killer, has been killed in Mexico City. If that’s true, then who is that on Eva’s security footage?
Eva screams at the security system and watches as El Diablo appears before her eyes. She runs upstairs to the computer closet and starts smashing things. She pulls out the CPU just in time.
That night, “El Diablo” returns and stabs Eva. They both disappear.
Miguel comes home, but he doesn’t see Eva anymore. She’s a glitch now too.
It’s mostly one character alone in the house slowly going insane. The set is perfect, the cinematography is excellent, the special effects are appropriate, and the acting is good too. It starts to drag just a little when the man calls her about his own house, but not badly.
The story isn’t especially innovative or new, but it’s well-executed and entertaining. I liked it!
The Offering (2023)
• Directed by Oliver Park
• Written by Hank Hoffman, Jonathan Yunger
• Stars Nick Blood, Emily Wiseman, Paul Kaye, Allan Corduner
• Run Time: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a well-made movie in every way, and it was entertaining. But much of it didn’t feel like anything we hadn’t seen before, just repackaged.
We open at a house with “Don’t feed it” painted on several of the walls. Yosille, an old Jewish man, kills a chicken and spreads its ashes in a big circle. An old woman comes in and tells him to stop. He reads in Hebrew as the unseen demon makes noise all around him. A young girl comes in and says he knows what happens when she doesn’t feed. He says he’ll never feed her again. She says she’ll reunite him with his wife, so he lets the demon possess him— and then he stabs himself in the heart. Credits roll.
We cut to Borough Park, in Brooklyn. Claire and Arthur talk in their car. His father is super Jewish, and he was rude to her the last time they visited. Arthur says the old man will lighten up now that Claire’s pregnant with his grandchild. They go inside, and there’s a religious service in progress; it’s a funeral. Art’s father is a mortician.
Old Saul doesn’t seem so bad this time. He apologizes for not coming to their wedding. We also hear by phone that Art needs to use his father’s house as collateral for a loan taken out for their in vitro procedure, or they’re going to lose their own house. Saul’s got a photo of Sarah, a child, and he says something bad happened to her.
Heimish talks to Art, and it’s clear that Heimish doesn’t approve of him or his non-Jew wife. They’re morticians, and they have to prepare Yosille’s body. The knife is still stuck in the old man’s chest. Heimish warns Saul that Art probably came home because he wants something; he doesn’t trust Art.
Art pulls out the knife and breaks the amulet the old man is wearing. The lights flicker for a minute, and Art is really jumpy. Saul comes back in and finishes with the body himself. He sees the writing on the knife and realizes something is up, but it’s too late.
Upstairs, Art gets a headache, and we hear the same demonic sounds from earlier. Claire has a nightmare about Yosille, whom she’s never met.
Saul calls Chayim about the knife. The words are one of God’s names written backwards, but Chayim says it’s used to seal a demon in a body. Was there an amulet with the body? Saul says no, because Art threw it in the sewer and Saul doesn’t know about it. Saul checks out the body one more time and finds some oddities.
Heimish intercepts the bank’s call to Art about getting his father’s house. Claire sees something strange in the house. Heimish storms in and tells what he knows, and Saul is offended, but Claire is confused— she didn’t know anything about the real estate deal. Art tells her why he hates his father so much.
Downstairs, Saul reads Art’s real estate contract; he’s thinking about signing it. Suddenly, the lights flicker, and he sees a strange creature in the hallway. We don’t see what the demon does to him, but it’s not nice.
In the morning, Art goes downstairs and finds that his father is dead. Heimish blames Art for breaking the old man’s heart, but the contract is signed. There’s a big funeral, and Chayim asks Heimish what happened.
Claire sees Sarah, the dead girl, at the funeral. She tries to tell Art about it, but he’s in a trance. That night, he cuts a complex sigil into the wooden floor. No, he wakes up, and it’s just carpet.
Art goes to Yosille’s place, and it’s all covered in sigals and ritual stuff. He finds an audio recording labeled “Summoning attempt.” The old man talks about a trickster, a shapeshifter, an ancient predator, a taker of children. There’s a video of Sarah, and Yosille thinks he’s conjured an angel into her. It’s not an angel. As the obviously-demonic thing appears, the tape cuts out.
An old woman claiming to be Yosille’s husband, comes to see Claire. She calls Art, but the phone disconnects. Claire takes the old woman down to the mortuary, where Yosille’s body is still in the cooler. Claire opens the drawer, and it’s the man from her dreams. “Soon your child will join countless others,” the old woman says. She sees the amulet in the drain, and the old woman orders her to burn it.
Clair burns it, and Yosille’s body bursts into flame. She sees the wife become the demon in true form and runs away. She goes upstairs, and everything is falling apart. Art arrives, and Claire is missing. He encounters Sarah, who says she wants a child.
Art calls Heimish; they are furious at each other, but he’s the only one who knows anything. Heimish calls Chayim, who comes to look at the sigil on the floor. “It’s a sacrificial altar for those who enter it. I must finish what Yosille started.” The demon’s name is Abyzou. Chayim makes a new pendant to trap it. Art will have to use the knife like Yosille did. The demon appears out of nowhere and kills Chayim.
Saul appears, and he tells Art to “Do what it wants.” The demon attacks and kills Heimish next. Art does the ritual, same as Yosille did, and the demon takes him. He grabs the knife and— loses it.
Heimish returns, and he’s got the knife. He puts it back in Art’s hand and stabs him. Art dies. They both look at the circle, which is now broken. That wasn’t Heimish.
Claire wakes up under a table. Art is there, and everything is OK. No— he’s the demon, luring her onto the sigil, right where it wants her and her yummy unborn baby.
The creature is very effective. It’s like a Jewish version of the “Autopsy of Jane Doe.” There are a lot of loud-noise jumpscares in this, which is pretty lazy, but the sets and cast are excellent.
It’s a basic possession movie, but this time with a more Jewish angle. It’s interesting and good, but there’s not much new here.
Enys Men (2023)
• Directed by Mark Jenkin
• Written by Mark Jenkin
• Stars Mary Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe, John Woodvine
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It looks good, downright beautiful in fact. It’s gentle and slow-moving. There’s a story hidden in the visuals, and things get stranger as it goes along. You’re likely to either be fascinated or bored.
Credits roll over grainy, 1970s-looking film. We open on a woman on a rocky beach looking at flowers and birds. She walks past a castle and lots of scenic places, eventually dropping a rock down an old mine shaft. She walks on to a house. She goes inside and writes flower conditions in a logbook. We see from the dates that it’s 1973.
She gets a call on the radio, “I’ll be there by the end of the week. Over and out.” The next morning, she goes out again for her observation of the flowers. She gets on the radio and complains that she’s nearly out of tea. She looks in on a sleeping girl in one of the bedrooms.
The following day, she listens to the ground and hears an odd thumping noise. She finds an old railroad track, probably for use with the old mine. She drops a rock into it every day. She tells the girl to quit climbing up on the roof of the house; it’s not safe up there. We see a bunch of women in old-style dresses marching as she works to dig up a sign that says “Oven.”
She runs out of tea. She reads at night and dreams of a preacher. The next morning, the flowers seem to reach out for her. She imagines hearing a crying baby on the radio. She’s only been here about ten days; is she losing her mind?
She can see a big stone obelisk on the hill from her window, and she stares at it a lot. She imagines hearing voices near it at night. She stops answering the radio calls. She notices lichen growing on the flowers, and then she notices it growing on her as well.
She eventually goes down into the old abandoned mine. She “sees” miners down there. She wakes up one morning and finds a man on her toilet reading her book. He picks up his mining equipment and heads back out to the mine; he wasn’t real. She gets another vision of a bunch of singing children in front of her house, but the house is old and falling apart now. She blinks, and the house is back to normal.
We get more visions of the woman having a party with the boatman, and of the boatman floating dead in the ocean. The lichen on her belly is growing by the day.
The boatman arrives on the island for real this time, and he’s brought more petrol and tea. We noticed the name on the boat looks just like the “oven” sign she found in the wreckage. He asks if she likes it here on her own, and she answers that she’s not on her own. She gets a “mayday” from the boat “Govenick.” She invites the boatman to stay, but he says, “you know I can’t.” We hear the mayday on the radio again.
We get a vision of the preacher singing to a baby. The young girl sings along, as does the older woman.
We see the young girl jump off the roof just as the obelisk comes for the main woman, and the mayday plays on the radio again. The girl gets a big cut on her stomach just like the scar the old woman has — they’re the same!
The woman runs to the shore where there’s a big rescue helicopter. They pull the dead boatman’s body out of the water. She throws rock after rock into the mineshaft, but none of them make a sound at the bottom.
Time passes, and the woman becomes the stone obelisk. Or perhaps she always was.
There is a lot of very nice scenery and imagery here. It looks really good— the cameraman obviously loved the island where this was filmed.
It’s super slow but gets weirder and weirder as it goes along. There’s really no plot at all until the last fifteen minutes, but the atmospheric nature of the movie is really unique. Just don’t expect action; there’s a lot to think about as you’re watching, and there is a story in there somewhere.
You’ll either love it or say it’s the most boring thing since “Skinamarink.”
The Devil and Father Amorth (2017)
• Directed by William Friedkin
• Written by William Friedkin, Mark Kermode
• Stars William Friedkin, William Peter Beatty, Jeffry Burton Russell, Gabriele Amorth
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 8 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
We watched this right after “The Pope’s Exorcist,” which is inspired by the life and work of this real person. It’s a documentary about him, and it shows an actual exorcism that he performed. There was much less blood, gore, and violence in the real world compared to the horror movie, but it was still interesting.
We open on William Friedkin, the director of “The Exorcist.” He talks to Jeffry Burton Russell, author of “The Prince of Darkness.” Credits roll.
We’re told that 500,000 people go to see an exorcist every year.
We hear about a real 1949 case that inspired William Peter Blatty to write “The Exorcist” book and eventually, the film. The exorcist in that case was William Bowden, who was interested in telling the story, but the family involved wasn’t interested. Bowden swore it was “the real thing.”
Father Amorth said that “The Exorcist” was his favorite film because it helped people understand his work. He became the Chief Exorcist of Rome in 1986.
We’re introduced to “Christine,” who is said to be possessed. Father Gabriel Amorth, “The Pope’s Exorcist,” has exorcised her eight times, and Friedkin has been invited to watch the ninth attempt.
First, we talk to Nadia, a former victim of possession, who tells her story. We hear about Father Amorth doing her exorcisms— it took several attempts.
They interview Christina, and she says Amorth is the best in his field. She didn’t believe it at first, but over time, she figured out that psychiatrists couldn’t help her. Despite being possessed, she seems like a pretty regular person sitting there.
Father Amorth himself tells us the symptoms and signs of possession. There are certain behaviors and responses that only a possessed person does.
There’s a big room full of people to witness the exorcism, and Christina prays along with them. She screams and thrashes a bit, but there’s nothing that would require special effects— or demons, for that matter. It takes ten or fifteen minutes— and fails in the end.
Afterwards, they show the footage to neurosurgeons and psychiatrists and talk about what they see in the film. It looks like delirium to them. They don’t think it looks like brain damage. They also say they wouldn’t have this problem if they didn’t have a religious background. It’s only a behavioral phenomenon in their eyes. Another doctor talks about tumors that cause brain seizures.
The Archbishop of Los Angeles talks about letters he receives, but he also usually recommends psychiatrists. He says he wouldn’t want to get involved in an exorcism. “I don’t think I’m ready to deal with the devil.”
Friedkin then arranges to meet Christina at a church in a small religious village. She roars and demands her footage back. This part has no camera, so it’s just Friedkin narrating his memories. Father Amorth got pneumonia and died before he could do a tenth exorcism on Christina.
If you ever wanted to see a real exorcism, here it is. It’s a lot less dramatic than in the movies, unfortunately.
“I am unimpressed,” — Kevin.
The interviews are mostly in English, but the actual exorcism is in Italian (and Latin?) and are subtitled. The documentary is well-done, it looks good, and the interviews are mostly pretty informative, but Friedkin clearly wants to promote the idea that demons are real and doesn’t really entertain any skepticism.
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