When a rash of possessions spring up across the globe, the Vatican sends a specialized team into the heart of the epidemic to determine the cause. Father Jan and scientist Daryl Lux follow their investigation to a mysterious remote lake where the possessed are being drawn. The two fear there is something in the water that is far more dangerous than anything mankind has ever encountered.
On the surface, in writing, Exorcist Chronicles is an ambitious and frightening horror thriller. However, in its execution, the film fails to deliver on its promising premise. Films like this are frustrating and maddening, ripe with imagination and intention, but so clumsy and amateurish it creates a scenario where the audience is wanting to watch the result the film wants to be instead of what they are actually enduring. Exorcist Chronicles from director Philip Gardiner and writers Warren Croyle and Joe Micallef is chaotic, all over the place and awkwardly paced. The film bounces, seemingly randomly, from scene to scene. While each transition is related to the theme of the over arching world building, they rarely have anything to do with the main story surrounding Father Jan and Daryl Lux. It ends up confusing and dull. The film is further marred by bad lighting, bad effects, uneven acting and foul sound design. Exorcist Chronicles is a horrific misstep.
The story behind Exorcist Chronicles mainly follows Father Jan (Rudy Barrow) and Daryl Lux (Liz Mente Bishop) from the time they are invited by the Vatican to participate in the investigation to their deadly encounter with the coven of possessed souls set to resurrect an ancient being upon the Earth. Their investigations and the people they encounter along the way are interesting uncovering the mysteries and secrets of the larger threat. However, the film also involves a variety of other, far less interesting, characters encountering or participating in the global event. Many of these events are presented in a series of recorded events cataloged in the Vatican’s vaults. It becomes hard to distinguish who is involved in the story and who simply is encountering the possessed. The odd structure and shatter shot editing create mass confusion instead of any sense of dread or horror. By the time the big conclusion arrives, the interest is so waned that very little is making any sense with the impact and the investment long lost.
While the main thrust of the story behind Exorcist Chronicles is interesting drawing the viewer in, the film itself manages to excel at driving the viewer away. The lighting is ofter so poor that distinguishing what is happening on screen is far too big a challenge to be rewarding in any fashion. Characters are often hidden even when they are the main focus of the scene. At other times, the lighting, combined with the odd camera positioning make it difficult to realize where the characters are or their relationship to the other events in the story. Are they near by? Are they across the globe? Are they an immediate threat or just more coloring of the larger world event? To make matters worse, the sound design further undermines the film. Quite often what is being said is reduce to muttering or garbled chatter behind a loud score. It is simply poorly mixed. The problem with these results, beyond the distraction of enjoying the film, is each occurrence takes the viewer further and further outside of the film, realizing they are watching a film instead of being drawn into the film enjoying its story, drama and conflict. Frustrating.
The film’s wonky constructs also make it difficult for the two main stars to deliver better performances. Rudy Barrow portrays Father Jan and Liz Mente Bishop is Daryl Lux. Their introduction scenes work best as each is given a quick back story. The dynamic between the two is interesting and promising. The two actors also do a great job of bringing the characters to life. Then nothing happens with their characters as they walk through the rest of the film. The static camera work for their scenes, especially a longer dialog between the two as they begin to realize the extent of the threat, is so stilted and dull that their best efforts are lost. Nathan Head is interesting as an unnamed character that may know more than he lets on bringing his scenes a sense of dread and foreboding. Emma K. Robins plays one of the possessed who has an effected transition scene as the evil spirits consume her.
Regrettably, Exorcist Chronicles is chore to sit through, a frustrating mess of execution and intent. The ideas behind the film are intriguing and interesting but the film struggles to address them in a competent, structured manner. Heavily flawed with low budget effects, poor lighting choices and troubled sound design, the film fails to remain focused and engrossing. The film often invites the audience to tune out or leave altogether. Many scenes are head-scratchers, while their relation to the overall story is intact, their direct involvement to the story behind the leads, Father Jan and Daryl Lux, are hard to fathom. They often seem inserted for insertions sake, because it seemed like a good idea. The frustration grows because behind all the wrong turns is a story worth exploring. Exorcist Chronicles is a possession tale the stumbles over its own ambitions, a story that exceeds its grasp.
1 out of 5