★ / ★★★★
Emma’s unhappiness for being home-schooled has reached a boiling point. Being fifteen years of age, Emma (Sophie Vavasseur) feels that it is only right for her parents (Richard Felix, Jo-Anne Stockham) to allow her to attend secondary school like a normal teenager. Because they do not budge, she rebels.
On her spare time, she hangs out with her cousins, Rose (Isamaya French) and Alex (Tommy Bastow), as they experiment with drugs and play with a Ouija board. Incidentally, several days after her fifteenth birthday, Emma starts to have intense seizures. The doctors are unable to explain what is going on considering all the tests are negative. As her condition worsens, Emma becomes convinced that she is possessed by the devil.
Based on the screenplay by David Muñoz, “La posesión de Emma Evans” is an enormously misguided horror film. Its attempt to highlight family drama against a possible demonic possession feels clunky because the actors often rely on exaggeration to make each scene seem important. Perhaps they would not have felt the need to overact if the script had been clearer about the rules regarding what a demonic possession was, the steps that needed to be taken before concluding that a possession was, in fact, happening, and how an exorcism was to be performed.
I was shocked that Emma’s parents, who are supposed to be very educated, immediately jump from a psychologist to a priest (Stephen Billington), who is conveniently Emma’s uncle, in order to alleviate their daughter’s affliction. If more thought had been put into the material, the parents would have questioned if their child was on drugs. It may be difficult or embarrassing to face, but all other alternatives must be confronted before the audience can understand why the parents felt they must result to extremes. And why isn’t a psychiatrist ever summoned to help?
I am no expert when it comes to exorcisms, but what makes William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” and Scott Derrickson’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” so terrifyingly effective is that the filmmakers are able to guide their audiences through a dark unknown, whether they believe in the devil or not, without mistaking confusion for supposed shocking plot twists.
Here, the third act is plagued with revelations so unlikely, it feels like it has exhausted one cheap shots too many. Not enough clues are planted throughout to warrant such unbelievable conclusions. The only scene that I found unsettling was when Emma attempts to drown her younger brother (Lazzaro E. Oertli Ortiz) in a bathtub.
About half of “La posesión de Emma Evans,” also known as “Exorcismus,” involves high pitch screaming and altered deep voices. If that is enough to scare you, maybe you might enjoy it. Surely more is required to pull off an effective and interesting exorcism picture.