Director – Alejandro Hidalgo, Screenplay – Santiago Fernandez Calvete & Alejandro Hidalgo, Producers – Antonio Abdo, Alejandro Hidalgo, Karim Kabche & Joel Seidl, Photography – Gerard Uzcategui, Music – Elik Alvarez & Yoncarlos Medina, Visual Effects Supervisor – Gonzalo “GG” Gutierrez, Visual Effects – GG VFX, Special Effects Supervisor – Jose Angel Cordero, Makeup Effects/Prosthetics – Ian Von Cromer & Lasander Washington, Production Design – Alfonso De Lope & Enrique Echeverria. Production Company – Epica Pictures/Kabche Film Production/Hakuhn Sa de CV/Terminal/XYZ Films.
Will Beinbrink (Father Peter Williams), Maria Gabriela De Varia (Esperanza), Joseph Marcell (Father Michael Lewis), Iran Castillo (Magali Velasquez), Hector Kostifakis (Dr Nelson), Juan Ignacio Aranda (Bishop Balducci), Evelia De Gennaro (Camila), Uriel Bravo (Warden Uribe), Luciano Martinez (Felipe)
Mexico, 2003. The Catholic priest Peter Williams is called in to tend to the possessed Magali Velasquez. Believing her life to be in danger, Peter elects to go ahead with the ritual of exorcism on his own rather than wait two days for his superior Father Michael to arrive. Things go wrong as the demon Balban preys on Peter’s desire for Magali and makes Magali offer herself to Peter sexually, causing him to become possessed. Eighteen years later, Peter runs an orphanage and is regarded as saint-like for his work with poor communities. Peter is then called to a prison to discover that the possessed Esperanza is being held there and is inhabited by Baliban, the same demon he faced earlier.
The Exorcism of God was a Mexican-American production. It was shot in Mexico with a Mexican cast and an American lead actor, the hardly known name of Will Beinbrink. Dialogue alternates between English and subtitled Spanish. The film was the second directorial outing for Venezuelan director Alejandro Hidalgo who had previously made the horror film The House at the End of Time (2013) in his own country.
The Exorcist (1973) is a landmark film. It laid down the essence of the Possession and Exorcism film and a series of tropes that have been endlessly repeated since then – the possessed in cracked face spouting obscenities in a deep voice and projectile vomiting; the Catholic priests chanting “the power of Christ compels you” as they conduct rituals of exorcism. The Exorcist was followed by a number of copies for several years afterwards. The genre was revived in the 2000s, and there have been a large number of films that draw on its essentials with the likes of The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Blackwater Valley Exorcism (2006), Back from Hell (2011), The Rite (2011), The Devil Inside (2012), Deliver Us From Evil (2014), Backmask/The Asylum/Exeter (2015), The Vatican Tapes (2015), Incarnate (2016), The Crucifixion (2017) and The Pope’s Exorcist (2023). For a more detailed overview see my essay Possession Films.
The disappointment of the Possession and Exorcism film is that it is a genre that is stuck fifty years in the past, repeating the same tropes over and over with only the most minute variation. The Exorcism of God is no different. Here we have the same possessed girls with cracked face and glowing eyes, mouthing obscene taunts and projectile vomiting on the priests; there are the same Catholic priests come in to conduct the exorcism (no other religion ever gets a look in); there are all the effects with levitating beds and objects psychokinetically flung about; there is the same all or nothing fight for the soul of the possessed, even the senior priest who has a recurrence of health issues in mid-exorcism. It becomes tedious watching yet another film that drags the clichés out all over again.
The Exorcism of God comes with some slight differences to the usual that seem interesting. If nothing else, the title suggests some interesting possibilities. There is the priest who is tempted by the woman he is trying to exorcise and becomes possessed, before the later revelation that the new possessee he is brought in to deal with is none other than his daughter from that tryst. The ending also goes in some interestingly different places. But for all that, the film comes with the same old theatrics and bag of tricks everywhere else that makes it tedious.
Alejandro Hidalgo talks about how he was raised a Catholic and the film represents much of his experience in it. No particular problem in itself, but one also has some issues with this. One of these is where the film talks about the priest’s great sin where he was tempted by the woman he was exorcising who acted lasciviously and how he was then possessed because the demon exploited that weakness in him. No problem with that but the film then keeps referring to this as his big sin. However, in Catholicism a sin is knowingly going against the commandments of God (or the church). But if Will Beinbrink had sex with Iran Castillo after he was possessed ie. once a demonic force had taken control of his body, how can that possibly be regarded as an act where he deliberately made a choice to disobey the supposed commandments of God?