Monday, January 23, 2012

Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes and the Possession Phenomenon: A Movie Review

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Director: Jude Gerard Prest.

Cast: Nikki Muller, Gerold Wunstel, Kai Cofer and Christopher Karl Johnson, Nikki Muller.

Nearly every year, an exorcist/possession inspired film is guaranteed. Some productions are loosely based on actual cases of demonic possession and others are fiction.

Set in the 70's, Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes (also known as Paranormal Entity 3) is a very period-looking piece about priests from different faiths attempting to exorcise the devil out of a young girl. The real life case of Anneliese Michel is the basis for this product, but after she was exorcised, the cause of her death was heavily scrutinized in the legal system.

Some parts of her exorcism were recorded and if these audio recordings are authentic, no detail is provided as to whom purchased the rights for cinematic exhibition. For reasons unknown, the audio recordings are now in the public domain and they can be found on the Internet (i.e. Youtube).

While certain warning bells are raised, the rest of the movie purports to be an actual account. Even though this film is a mockumentary, a willing suspension of disbelief is required in order to continue through with this product. There are moments where this film gets under one's skin with the audio clips. On the video front, observing how Anneliese (Nikki Muller) writhes about is nearly as painful, but that is not what this product is about.

The attempt at making this film as realistic as possible is very good. Either the filmmakers used period equipment to get the soft focus in order to pull off the visual style or they selected the right digital filtering software to make the presentation as celluloid and low-fi as possible. The contrasting edits from colour to B&W certainly helps add to the schizophrenic style. Also, the pacing is appropriately slow to chronicle the months long exorcism. Some may feel more inclined to fast-forward to find the juicy bits.

Anyone who knows the real life details of this case will know how this movie will end. The girl is not really central to this film's scares. Instead, what is appropriate with this movie’s challenging theme is in how various doctors and pastors from different churches are at odds with one another. They do not agree in the methods of ridding a demonic possession and every denomination also has its own belief in why Anneliese was disposed. At least this film affirms an age-old problem that plagued the late Middle Ages and Renaissance Period in Europe: which method of exorcism is best, Protestant or Catholic?

Pastor Ernest Alt (Gerold Wunstel) and Father Renz (Christopher Karl Johnson) are often bickering, and doctors Frederick Gruber (Kai Cofer) and Kenneth Landers (Robert Shampain) are not helping the situation any.

They argue over what is the best method to treat Anneliese’s problem and question if she should be taken to a proper hospital. That also includes physical violence and starving her as a form of penance. But to see these representatives at odds with one another is like watching a "Jerry Springer" show in action. And blend in some Geraldo Rivera style exposé, this film is like waiting for a Al Capone’s vault to open. When will the fun begin? Will the devil expose himself? Anneliese certainly did, and when this movie begins with a media crew barging in to the home and never leaving, the curious fact that the family and priests do not care really needs to be asked.

If this product only had a better direction of providing a story than creating a long dragged out news piece, then the movie would have been a more satisfying watch. When considering how this film is structured, some pauses are required to digest it. Not every detail is accurate. Gruber and Landers were never involved in the actual case, and they were fictional add-ons.

Also problems in editing made this film a tough one to watch. Some pauses are required as this film barrages viewers with anguished screams from the audio clips. In a library, all can be silent and the curious can hit up newspaper archives about the real life case. All this movie does is to sum up general knowledge than to offer a new interpretation.

Overall: 4.5 out of 10.

To learn more about the real case, with actual audio clips, check out the accounts as reported on by Chasing the Frog:

Emily Rose at Chasing the Frog

*two other movies are also made which are inspired by the case of Anneliese Michel The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and Requiem (2006).

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