★★★★ out of ★★★★★
🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸for raw intensity and domestic abuse, and a rough exorcism.
Directed by Nick Kozakis
This is a horror movie that examines exorcisms, not from the horror of the demonic possession itself, but that of the zealotry and shoddy practices of non-sanctioned exorcisms as exercised by charismatic charlatans. It recognizes the fragility of those who are mentally ill and the unfortunate abuse that they receive when those who are supposed to love and care for them instead seek help from the questionable practices of religious hucksters.
I found myself balling my fists through large portions of this film and was fully wrapped up in the execution. There is an exponential curve to the intensity of this film, though. It starts slowly at first, with Ron (Dan Ewing) attending his Pentecostal church service, trying to determine if they might be able to help out his wife, Lara (Georgia Eyers) who has been struggling with memory lapses, naked night dancing, and most alarmingly profane rants and sees demons while in a fugue state.
Lara has also been seeing a psychologist, Dr. Walsh (Eliza Matengu) who has prescribed a regiment of pills that according to Lara, seem to be working, but the ordeal is taking much longer than Ron would like. Ron would like Dr. Walsh to close out her checklist in order for him to get a Vatican-trained exorcist. Walsh, in her medical wisdom, wishes Lara to stay with the prescribed medical course, which removes the Catholic exorcism from the options. Lara leans toward following this plan, but after a rough schizophrenic break, Ron is convinced that he needs to go back to, Daniel (Tim Pocock) a man who his pastor recommends as a non-sanctioned Pentecostal exorcist.
Daniel is a handsome, charismatic man convinced of his abilities as a conduit from God. His confidence inspires Ron, that he is the man for the job. Ominously, Daniel tells Ron that Lara is not to be trusted in her current form, that she is a spawn of the Devil, and that she will lie and deceive with her every word. Lara has been restrained in the garage, and she is not to be fed, bathed, or given water, as the demon needs to be weakened.
Lara, of course, struggles and pleads for her husband to stop the abusive treatment, but Ron heeds the exorcist’s instructions and allows the amount of abuse to mount as more members of the church have been brought in to assist in the ritual. As the beatings and screaming escalate, it becomes clear that to escape from this ordeal, Lara is going to have to hope for an intervention, but the further the proceedings go, the less likely the rescue seems to be.
The Eastfield Exorcism is based upon a real botched Australian exorcism, where the violators managed to evade serious consequences, while the victim perished. These rogue exorcisms often victimize women and children who have not been given any voice in their fates, usually with tragic consequences. Freedom of religion is often a crutch that is utilized as an excuse to allow some truly heinous acts to be performed on the mentally ill or misunderstood members of society.
Clearly, this is also a dilemma of domestic abuse. In the case of Godless, the abuse is indirect and neglectful, as the active abuse is at the hands of the exorcist. However, Ron has turned a deliberate blind eye to the husband’s responsibility to preserve and protect his beloved. I commend Kazakis’ restraint in allowing the physically powerful Ewing to be a coward and a weak character. At many points in this film, the desire for Ron to come out and do the right thing arrive, and it becomes a frustrating element (Though essential to the story.) Those wishing for immediate manly justice will be sadly disappointed. And again, that helps hammer the point home.
For those who want to see levitation, spinning heads, or telekinetic projections, this is not that kind of exorcism. This is grounded in reality, and the apparently possessed young woman is a woman who is struggling with mental illness, and though she sees demons, there are NO demons in play, and the terror comes from watching short-minded zealots switch their brains off and let this poor woman suffer horribly.
Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism had its world premiere at the Overlook Film Festival, and we had the opportunity to interview Kazakis and the cast, so stay tuned for that Podcast episode, it was a real treat to meet and talk with them at length. This movie deserves a watch, and Kazakis, the writers (Alexander Angliss-Wilson, Sarah Baker, and Jason Buckley), the cast, and the crew deserve plaudits for hammering home the emotional resonance of this movie.
The movie is scheduled for streaming release later this spring. It is not rated, but would certainly earn an R-rating for profanity and intense abusive conditions.
2 comments ›