Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Haunted Boy, The Secret Diary Of The Exorcist: A Movie Review

Directors / writers: Christopher Saint and Philip Adrian Booth

Writer: Raymond Bishop (original treatment)

The Booth Brothers made a name for themselves amongst certain groups within the paranormal community. They produce feature length film documentaries that explore some of America's famous haunts, like the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, and they take their time in constructing a compelling case. In Spooked, the old asylum takes on a new life. In The Haunted Boy, the demons said to be still lingering get tackled. Not many people will realize that the real life case of the St. Louis Exorcism was the inspiration of William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist.

Much like the book, this movie can easily be divided into parts. The opening act looks at the origins of what caused the young 13-year-old boy to become possessed in 1949. Although his name was never revealed, certain aspects of his exorcism slowly became part of the local folklore. In the years following, The Church and family decided to protect the young lad's anonymity so he can live out a normal life. How the producers managed to find a relative must have been a huge challenge, and even this person requested to be digitally masked before speaking out. Sadly, the information revealed is neither hearsay nor truth.

In some media reports, the boy is simply known as Robbie Doe. His possession supposedly came from the fact his aunt played with the Ouija board and saw no harm in teaching him what she knew. But in what came afterwards were noises that could not be explained and poltergeist activity that needed to be seen to be believed.

This documentary primarily focuses on William Bowdern, a Jesuit Roman Catholic Priest. His attempts of exorcising the demons out of Doe were recorded in a journal, as required by the Church, but as for why a copy was found in an abandoned hospital wing, that really needed explanation. Not even Father Francis X. Cleary, Senior Jesuit Priest and Exorcism Historian could provide it. This octogenarian is sometimes hard to comprehend, and this DVD does not offer subtitles.

And nor did any of the interviews reveal why the book was left behind. Another copy does exist in the archives, presumably at the Vatican, and this sidetrack does not help for establishing any coherency in this documentary. Some viewers may be left puzzled as to why Robbie was taken from one isolation center to another as attempts to rid his body of the demonic continued on.

The main reason is that a thousands of demons are inside the boy and no one building can contain them all. LEGION was one of the names Robbie uttered in amidst his screams. Only Occultists and Demonologists will know that 'name' consists of 6,666 agents sent by Satan to infest, oppress and possess the lonely victim! Quite often, true to Biblical tradition, these infestations are tests of faith, for everyone involved. Bowdern certainly has his work cut out for him.

After what he has seen after World War I and experienced in protecting what his family calls 'his boys,' the students he taught in school, not even the army of demons that he had unleashed can shake the foundations of his faith. He believed that he could rid the beasts that are in Robbie. In what he banished out of Doe, they had to go somewhere, and most of them remained trapped in the gates of a purgatory made by human hands. Those places include Robbie's home, the Alexian Brothers Hospital, and St. Francis Xavier Church.

With the exception of the church, which is now demolished, these structures are still haunted and the Booth Brorthers, along with a small group of paranormal investigators, go there to find the shadowy entities said to still exist.

Some mention is made by Bishop James Long about the need to bless all the rooms where the exorcism took place. This way, the demons are trapped and, like it or not, they are forced to manifest. But is this magical spell permanent? When considering all the folklore that has been said over time about the locations, these entities are indeed still present. The Exorcist House has become a tourist attraction now, and that begs the question of who are the real greedy beasts.

Most of this product does move at a sensationalist type of pace. Edgy music, heavy drum beats, sharp editing and moody dual-tone cinematography can be found throughout. That style is the Booth Brother's way to keep viewers glued to the screen. Even their period recreations evokes the same kind of mystery as the movie, The Exorcist, right down to the music.

And the extras found on the DVD offers all the juicy bits that only the die-hards will want to watch. These clips give the details that are missing from the feature film product. Some of which should have been kept locked up. They enforce the fact that dabbling with the occult is indeed a dangerous hobby.

Although much of the product believes that the St. Louis Exorcism case is real, the counter-argument of it being a case of Tourette's syndrome—or a case of a boy in desperate need of attention—is very miniscule. At least this movie gives Father Bowdren the treatment he deserves. He is a hero because he gave Robbie the same treatment as the schoolboys he saw off and watched die during the war.

The debate over fact or fakery really does not matter here.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

For further reading (Strange Magazine’s “The Haunted Boy”):

The Haunted Boy at Strange Mag

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