Trying to exorcise a demon is hard enough, right? Now imagine having to deal with a whole legion! Better fill up on that holy water. The Exorcism of God takes a classic exorcism story and pushes it to its absolute limits in a showdown between the forces of good and evil. The religious horror is the second feature for Alejandro Hidalgo, who previously directed The House At the End of Time (La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos) in 2013, which is considered to be the first Venezuelan horror film. This is his first time attempting an English-language project. Hidalgo also produced the film and co-wrote the script along with Santiago Fernández Calvete, who has made Latin American religious horrors of his own with The Second Death (La Segunda Muerte).

Father Peter Williams (Will Beinbrink, It Chapter Two) is an American priest living with a dark secret. To compensate for his sinful past, he has been doing charity work in a small Mexican village for 18 years. The locals call him a saint, but deep down, he is weighed down by his guilt. He helps the local farmers and looks after the children at the orphanage. But something strange is happening in the village.

 

“…takes a classic exorcism story and pushes it to its absolute limits.”

 

The orphans are suffering from a mysterious illness and traditional medicine isn’t curing them. Father Williams is then contacted by the local prison, where guards believe one of their inmates, a young woman named Esperanza (María Gabriela de Faría, Deadly Class) is possessed. They request an exorcism, but Father Williams has only performed an exorcism once before and promised himself he would never do it again. But when he learns that Esperanza has a connection to his past, he agrees in the hopes it would free him from his own personal demons.


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Father Williams calls in a favor from a friend from London, Father Michael Lewis (Joseph Marcell, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), a priest renowned for performing multiple exorcisms. However, they are dealing with a powerful demon, capable of possessing multiple bodies at once, from a considerable distance. Father Williams and Father Lewis are locked in the prison, forced to go up against an army of escaped inmates under the control of the demon. But in order to overcome the demon’s mind tricks, Father Williams must confront his past and confess his sins.

 

 

The Exorcism of God has all the tropes of a possession story: the layered evil voice, the projectile split pea soup vomit, the aversion to crucifixes and prayers. It wears its influences on its sleeves. In the opening scene, there’s a clear homage to The Exorcist when a priest carrying a briefcase briefly stands outside a home underneath a lamp post. The selling point is that the possession formula is dialed up to a nerve-wracking scale in the prison scenes, with little breathing time in between the action sequences. However, what I was hoping for was a subversion of the genre, which eventually came near the end with a reversal of roles, though it required treading through familiar waters beforehand.


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Will Beinbrink excels in the lead role. Aside from being strikingly handsome, at least in his bearded form, he has a talent for showing an inner conflict. Also, his Spanish skills are quite impressive. Yes, he has a bit of an American accent, but his words are fluid. María Gabriela de Faría deserves mentioning as well. As I’ve learned, acting possessed and demonic is quite easy, but there’s a certain level of control and cunning in her performance. This demon has motives outside of spewing on a priest’s robes.

 

 

The looks of the possessed look very creepy thanks to the contact lens and scarred makeup. Too much of the action is reliant on CGI effects. From a distance, it’s forgivable, but up close during the jump scares, it looks significantly less impressive exposes the film’s low budget. That being said, I believe there needs to be more movies with a spooky Jesus, either as a hallucination or a possessed statue. The only other movie I can think of with a scary Christ is Belzebuth. We need to realize how disturbing it is that more than 2 billion people worldwide worship a zombie.

In the final moments of The Exorcism of God, Hidalgo reveals his personal feelings about the Vatican. So although he tries to paint the protagonist as a corrupted yet well-meaning priest, he’s less sympathetic towards the institutions of religion. As an ex-Christian myself, I can definitely relate. Do not expect a story where God’s love triumphs over all. The Exorcism of God has all the ambition of Hollywood epic, and had it obscured its special effects with a bit more darkness, it would have almost had the appearance of one.

 

The Exorcism of God has all the ambition of Hollywood epic, and had it obscured its special effects with a bit more darkness, it would have almost had the appearance of one.”

 

Alejandro Hidalgo’s the Exorcism of God will be released to select theatres, as well as On Demand and Digital on March 11th. Do you love religious horrors? Do you think Jesus is creepy? Let us know on TwitterRedditFacebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.

 

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