Monday, January 17, 2011

Film Review: The Anti-Christ - 2009

Yet another horror film review, for one of the odder films I've ever seen...

This month's selection is The Anti-Christ, an Italian film that was...well, ok, let's face it: it's a cash-in on the wave of exorcism films that were made in the wake of William Friedkin's classic The Exorcist.

There--now that we've admitted that up front, we can now proceed and see what thrills this film has to offer. And, as you'll see, the makers of The Anti-Christ clearly decided they needed to go even further than The Exorcist.

Here's the very spooky title card:

The film's main character is named Ippolita, played by Mia Farrow-ish actress Carla Gravina, who will be put through the ringer in this movie.

But before we meet her, we are thrown into the middle of a religious gathering, as throngs of people come to a statue of Mary to be healed of their afflictions or repent for their sins. Some people are there are for other, less clear reasons:

Anyway, after much writhing and speaking in tongues, Ippolita arrives, along with her father, played by Mel Ferrer. Ippolita is crippled, and she seeks to be healed by Mary:
It doesn't quite work, and she falls onto the floor in a crumpled heap. Her father takes her away, but not before she sees another person, who seems deathly ill, turn against Mary, which angers the crowd.

He runs away from them angry mob, up onto a cliff, and he comes face to face with some really bad matte work:
Its clear that Ippolita has some Daddy issues, because she is enraged and hurt to see that her Father is now seeing another woman. This woman tries to be kind to Ippolita, but she's having none of it.

Meanwhile, there's talk a devil cult lurking in the area, leaving sacrifices to the devil around, like a headless frog (ew! again) on a church's altar (discovered by Bishop Oderisi, played by American actor Arthur Kennedy, who appeared in such films as The Desperate Hours and Lawrence of Arabia, picking up some easy lire here).

There's also a creepy monk guy hanging around, played by George Coulouris (who played Mr. Thatcher in a little film called Citizen Kane):
Anyway, Ippolita is so distraught that her family and friends take her to a hypnotist/psychiatrist, and we learn that in a previous life, she was a witch burned during the Inquisition. We get to see glimpses of that life in some scenes that features extraordinary set-design:
Ippolita gets worse and worse, getting more and more hysterical. She turns against her friends, and in a sequence of, well, questionable taste let's say, she gives in to the demons who want to take control of her.

That is represented by a sequence featuring a cult, the head of which wears a goat mask and climbs aboard the Ippolita Express:
There's also a scene where Ippolita has to, um, return the favor to an actual goat, and while we don't see exactly what's happening, the movie doesn't go out of its way to try and obscure it either. Man, do I hope Ms. Gravina got some decent money for this.

Now that she has accepted Satan into her body, she is seemingly cured of her paralysis. Surely there will be no downside to this.

Now cured, Ippolita steps out on the town, and one of the first things she does is eye up a (very) young man on some sort of school trip:
While there, she sidles up to him, puts her hands all over him, and soon enough they're doing it in a back alley.

But of course, the great sex comes at a cost for our Italian Leif Erickson:
...I hope his parents signed a permission slip.

Anyway, from here on, I have to admit, the movie meanders a lot. There's more footage of Ippolita getting weird, moaning on and on, and I was desperately hoping we'd get to the part(s) I knew were coming, the Exorcism Scene.

After about thirty more minutes of footage, Father Mittner (Coulouris) arrives to perform the exorcism. We get the customary Projectile Vomit Scene:

There's lots of furniture thrown around, paintings flying off walls, loud sounds, and pretty soon Ippolita is looking pretty bad:

Eventually Ippolita bursts out of the chair she is strapped to, and her Father grabs her and ties her to a giant cross that is outside in the courtyard. Lightning flashes, thunder strikes, rain pours:

...but eventually the demon is driven out, and Ippolita is no longer possessed. A happy ending for all involved...sort of., would I loved to have been able to take this film into an editing bay. It runs just a little under two hours, which to me was just way too long.

I guess the argument could be made that all the non-goat-sex scenes were building character, and that makes sense in the beginning. But once Ippolita is possessed, I think it would've been a lot more fun to keep ramping up the tension and craziness that Italian horror films do so well. Once you've had your character willingly have sex with a guy in a goat mask, don't waste my time with more dialog, you know?

That said, The Anti-Christ was fun to watch, and some of the effects and sets were quite creepy and well done. Poor Carla Gravina really gave it her all in this movie--I hope this movie bought her a nice villa on Lake Como or something.

The film was directed by Albert de Martino, who also directed the wonderfully goofy Italian superhero movie Puma Man, as well as Operation Double 007, an Italian James Bond movie starring Sean's brother Neil Connery. No, I'm not kidding.

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