My biggest surprise and biggest disappointment all in one night…
I’ve struggled this year with having time to write reviews for films, but after my back to back viewing this evening, I feel as I have no choice because I was able to experience both my biggest surprise and my biggest disappointment of 2018 (so far) in just one night.
As of writing this (27 April), I’ve been incredibly impressed with the caliber of film we’ve had so far. I was able to catch A Quiet Place last week, and was blown away by it. I’ve had intense connections with some films, such as Before I Wake, and then some that were just the worst, but I’m having a great time with films so far.
While it has been tough for me to both watch and review lately, I need to get down to business and get content out there. So, I finished two movies tonight, so let’s get them down.
And what a complete mix of emotions between these two; one I had never heard of, and one I had been looking forward to for quite some time.
As I’m writing this review, I’m honestly struggling to remember how I heard about this one. From looking back in Facebook, I think I saw someone else post about this, but don’t quote me on that. Regardless, the Googles or somewhere on the internets told me that this was on Hulu, and I dialed it up tonight.
Thelma stars Eili Harboe as Thelma, an attractive girl-next-door type who we first meet as a young girl who is out hunting with her father. I’ll try and keep the spoilers to a minimum, but the end of the first scene in the movie starts the atmosphere of the film and it never really stops.
Thelma is off at school and is studying biology, and a strange affliction starts to overcome her. We also learn of her conservative Christian upbringing, which plays out in a great scene where science and religion are pitted against each other (if you’ve listened to us before, you know this is a topic I’m happy to debate at any time) in a bar. She develops a friendship with another young woman named Anja, which seems to amplify her affliction, and strange things start happening.
Clearly, much more happens than the way I describe it, but I want for you to experience the movie, so I’m keeping it vague. So, let’s just get on to my review.
I loved this film. From the title of this review, you can obviously guess that this one was the biggest surprise for me so far this year. I knew nothing of this, and was completely blown away. From the getgo, I cared about our main character, had a desire to learn more about what was happening with her, and what her strange relationship was with her parents.
The cinematography is phenomenal, with beautiful tracking shots throughout. Sound design is excellent in helping create and guide the mood of the film. And I don’t want to be graphic, but there is a scene between the two young women that is so sexually charged that it reminded me of Mulholland Drive.
If you know our show, you know I talk about being a parent. As we work through this film and start to understand our lead character a bit more, there is a scene that as a parent was so hard to watch that I cried hard. Not like a few manly tears down my cheek, but out loud sobbing.
I’m so glad I found this one, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it again throughout the year to see how it holds up for me. But I loved it.
My Rating: 8.75/10
The Devil & Father Amorth (2018)
So, if you couldn’t guess by my glowing review of Thelma, it must mean that this one is my biggest let down of the year so far.
On our third episode, we talked about The Exorcist extensively, and you’ll note that I love The Exorcist. Not only do I think it’s one of the finest horror films ever made, it’s one of the best films period.
So, naturally, I was excited for something new from Friedkin, and the topic was right up my alley: exorcism. I love studying theology, and I’m engaged deeply in my faith, so the idea of demonic possession is both fascinating and terrifying.
The documentary features William Friedkin talking about his experience on making the Exorcist, but how he has never seen and experienced the real thing. There is some great footage of William Blatty, and I thought was off to a decent start.
We then meet Fr Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome, who has performed thousands of exorcisms and has invited Friedkin to witness and film an actual exorcism.
After we witness an on-screen exorcism, the footage is then presented to various parties, such as neuroscientists, psychiatrists, authors and a Catholic bishop. At the end, we’re presented with a fairly fantastic retelling of a final confrontation with the possessed woman, and then it wraps up.
So, now let’s move on to the review.
Have you ever heard the rumor that Paul McCartney isn’t actually Paul McCartney? That he died, and the one now is an imposter?
I honestly feel like William Friedkin in this documentary cannot be the same guy that gave us one of the finest films in cinematic history. I’ve seen better production value on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries than in this, and honestly, that’s what it feels like.
From the terrible sound quality (not actually mic’ing people on camera), to really strange up-close shots during interviews of not only the guests but himself, I was so confused and almost in disbelief that it’s the same director I loved.
As for the actual exorcism: it is incredibly unnerving, especially for someone of faith, but it seems that Friedkin wanted to try and up the scare and did some sound design to make the things that the possessed was saying scarier. It was plenty scary enough, and I just don’t buy that the sound was authentic. There’s no question that (in my opinion) that the woman undergoing the exorcism is being tormented, through her physical reactions, the strain of those who are holding her down, etc, so it just wasn’t necessary to try and change it.
The next part that lost even more credibility with me was when Friedkin interviewed a man that I know and respect: Bishop Robert Barron; here’s a shot of the Bishop and myself:
I knew he was interviewed for it, and he did well in it, but right away it listed the wrong title for the Bishop, and it listed him as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, which he is not. Here’s the actual Archbishop of Los Angeles, who I’ve also met (that’s right, I’m name-droppin):
Here’s why this bugged me: credibility. When you’re working to present an actual account of something which some people don’t believe as real, you need to be honest, present the evidence and try to appear credible. When you don’t have the correct titles for people in the documentary, it makes me question that if they’re correct for the others that participated. Just like Fr Amorth, who in some of the advertising was listed as the “Vatican’s exorcist”, which he wasn’t; he was a priest in the diocese of Rome, and wasn’t attached to the Holy See.
The ending of the documentary is where we get the biggest feeling that the actual presenter is going to be this guy:
Friedkin talks about a final confrontation with the possessed but didn’t have his camera with him, and it turns into some weird terrible reenactment of what happened, and I honestly just didn’t believe it.
Ok, so that’s enough from me on this. I’m feeling let down and could keep going for a while. This is clearly a topic of interest and something that I have some personal knowledge on so I couldn’t overlook some of those mistakes, especially when it’s being presented as fact.
Again, I admit openly that the exorcism itself is scary and unnerving, but the obvious sound editing that happened only cheapened it. If it was real, then I’m sure the documentarian would have commented on it, because you would have to know that it was going to be hard to swallow for a lot of people.
So, I do encourage people to watch this, but to set your expectations before going in. And if you do watch it, don’t let that be the end of it. Research the topic more, ask questions and honestly, go watch The Exorcist.