Saturday, February 11, 2012

Deconstructing the Possession of David O'Reilly, A Movie Review

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Directors: Andrew Cull and Steve Isles.

Writer: Andrew Cull.

Cast: Giles Alderson, Francesca Fowler and Paul McGuinness.

Very rarely will audiences find a protagonist who will know how to prevent a dark force from entering a house. Equally impossible is finding a variation of the possession theme that does not get explored. The Possession of David O'Reilly is a movie that thankfully gets a male character possessed rather than the traditional female.

Quite often, the gentler sex is perceived as the weaker soul that can succumb to the whims of the Devil. French Historian Michel de Certeau and anthropologist I.M. Lewis suggest possession happens because women were quite often denied a representation and a public voice during the Late Middle Ages.

But the Devil is an equal opportunist when it comes to other cases, especially those reported ones dating from the 20th century on, like Robbie Doe's, the boy who inspired Blatty's novel, The Exorcist. Outside of Europe, men are often targeted; all demonologists have to do is to consult the Bible. One of the earliest tales in the Gospel of Matthew showed Christ expelling demons out of man and into pigs.

In the movie, the only place David O'Reilly has to run to is the flat of his mate, Alex (Nicholas Shaw). After finding some erotic pictures that he did not photograph, he believes his girlfriend, Sarah, has cheated on him. Instead of confronting her, he runs away. Or did he commit something heinous that required him to leave the scene of the crime?

Although the performance by Alderson is largely uneven, he does offer some interesting moments that are technically effective. He can play up the paranoia and his fear to get his mates in on the act. Some viewers may not be sold until they see the movie literally through his eyes and see the demons that are everywhere.

That's when this movie gets schizophrenic. The changing perspective is easy to follow and it adds to the madness of this film. The soundtrack on the DVD is decent, and if only the voices had the rear amplifiers in a seven-speaker setup to place the viewer into the fray, then there would be more of a unique product.

Also effective is the use of the scraping trills. These sounds create a sense of unease. Even the journal O'Reilly brought along to show his best friend, Alex and his wife Kate (Francesca Fowler) becomes a cleaver plot device to show what lurks beyond their door. But they do not buy into his delusions right away. They have to experience it for themselves and become part of O'Reilly’s madness. Was he possessed before visiting their home?

Strangely, despite one good screenplay, the story direction is odd. Alex never once suggested that O'Reilly should go see a psychologist. Where this film hurts is that the events all take place within the home and at the back porch, in a somewhat busy neighbourhood. To think that O'Reilly cannot seek help beyond his two friends, or to see the couple not seek advice from their social circle, is highly unusual.

Had this product been more open to the world, The Possession of David O'Reilly would have been far more interesting. While he certainly acts like he's possessed, it's not the devil that is in him. It's his attitude of not wanting to be free.

Overall: 5 out of 10

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