Exorcism-themed movies are so plentiful in horror that they’re practically their own subgenre. Don’t believe me. Check out Netflix’s current horror titles. I’m willing to bet there’s several movies with some possession story element. Veronica, Deliver Us From Evil, The Rite, The Taking of Deborah Logan, The Possession – they’re all still floating around Netflix. At the start of December, Netflix added director Xavier Gens’ latest effort, The Crucifixion. You can be forgiven if it doesn’t ring a bell. The Crucifixion had a limited theatrical release in late 2017. But does Xavier Gens do enough to distinguish his possession flick from the demonic host?
In Bucharest, Father Dumitru attempts an exorcism on Sister Adelina Marinescu that ends tragically with her death. Subsequently, the church abandons Father Dumitru and the authorities charge him with murder. Meanwhile, a young New York journalist, Nicole Rawlins, takes an interest in Dumitru’s case. Rawlins has her own personal interest in the dangers of faith that drives her. But as her investigation into the failed exorcism intensifies, Rawlin’s lack of faith becomes seriously tested.
The Crucifixion Possessed by a Familiar Story
Loosely inspired by the Tanacu exorcism case, The Crucifixion is a dull and incongruent mix of genres. Writers Chad and Carey Hayes very much want The Crucifixion to feel like a sort of pseudo docu-drama. Yet while The Exorcism of Emily Rose successfully straddled the fence between legal drama and horror movie, The Crucifixion comes up short. In fact, the Hayes seem to lose interest in their source material.
Quite frankly, much of the story feels forced to produce cheap jump scares.
It’s too bad because there were some interesting possibilities open to the movie. The real-life Tanacu case could have produced a creepy and ambiguous exploration of faith and superstition in a secularized world. Instead the Hayes cast aside subtly and embrace just about every movie exorcism plot point ever committed to film. Yes, we get some interesting details about exorcisms. But these more cerebral story elements are lost in overused demonic tropes. Quite frankly, much of the story feels forced to produce cheap jump scares. We even have the ‘skeptical protagonist‘, Nicole Rawlins, whose lost faith is supposed to add some depth. But it’s such a contrived background that one wonders why the writers didn’t have confidence in the real case upon which the movie is based.
Director Xavier Gens Needed Two Priests
Director Xavier Gens showed potential with his feature-length debut, Frontier(s). Sadly, The Crucifixion doesn’t evidence much of that potential. While there’s a workmanlike quality in the pacing and scares, The Crucifixion can’t escape feeling utterly familiar. Both exorcism scenes that bookend the movie are pretty derivative of much better movies. Contorted bodies and distorted voices will remind you of The Last Exorcism, The Conjuring movies, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Though Gens may remind you of these movies, he never approaches their genuine scares. And don’t even think of referencing The Exorcist. Not even close.
While there’s a workmanlike quality in the pacing and scares, The Crucifixion can’t escape feeling utterly familiar.
This is a movie that relies almost entirely on cheap jump scares. Some of these jump scares are marginally effective. But you’ve seen them all before. There’s nothing here that will resonate beyond the closing credits. Perhaps even worse, these scares are shoehorned into the movie in moments that don’t make much sense. Again, The Crucifixion would rather manufacture convoluted chills than tells what is an interesting story. Even the climatic exorcism is a letdown, feeling rushed.
Decent Performances and Serviceable Effects Add Little
Kingsman actress Sophie Cookson headlines The Crucifixion in what is a largely thankless role. The Hayes’ screenplay saddles Cookson with such a contrived and lazy backstory that it drains the young star of most of her charisma. In regards to the rest of the cast, everyone else is fine neither dazzling nor dragging things down. Some of the effects occasionally look cheap but never descend to a SyFy movie level.
The Crucifixion Does Enough to Possess Your Attention, But Not Much Else
Overall, The Crucifixion does little to distinguish itself from the host of demonic possession movies. A few of the ‘bump in the night’ scares are serviceable. To his credit, Gens also keeps the generic story moving along. The Crucifixion isn’t likely to bore you, but you’re not likely to remember much about it when it’s over.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C