NOVEMBER 26, 2010
One problem I had with The Last Exorcism was that they sometimes did "too good" of a job filming it, and I'd forget it was supposed to be a documentary. The Possession Of David O'Reilly (formerly The Torment) actually suffers from the opposite problem - I kept forgetting it was a straight narrative, because for some goddamn reason they filmed half of the movie in jerky POV shots, even though no one seemed to be holding a video camera (despite the fact that a camera is even introduced!).
Worse, the POV will switch mid-scene, so until the other two characters were accounted for, it became confusing whose perspective we were seeing things from. This would be a problem for ANY movie, but the biggest red mark on this movie is its muddled, pace-challenged script, so even if the entire thing was shot from a single stationary camera in the corner of the room, it would be a bit of a mess.
Perspective is an issue right from the start, however, even before the camera POV problems become apparent. The film opens on a couple who have been having trouble with an intruder, so the male has set up a few security cameras around the apartment that will turn on when motion is detected. He wants to watch the tapes, his girlfriend wants to cuddle and watch a movie... eventually they do, and chat, and then there's a knock at the door.
So far, so good, right? We meet our heroes, develop them a bit, hint at the horror movie contained within, and provide a scare. Well, the guy at the door is just their friend David, who just broke up with his girlfriend after finding out she cheated on him. And for the next 20 minutes, we're seeing everything from his perspective, with the couple more or less reduced to bit players. It's a very awkward shift, and it proves to be fatal once the "Possession" stuff starts up, because with each passing minute, the couple becomes less and less important to us. By the time they return to the "intruder" issue, I had forgotten all about it, and it turns out to be just a plot contrivance to have video proof of something David may have done earlier in the day.
There's also an extended sequence where the monsters come after David and a girl who lives upstairs. Not a bad scene on its own, but its almost comically unrelated to the rest of the film, as she's basically never mentioned again. It also doesn't quite jive with the rest of the movie, which takes a "is it in his head or is it real?" approach. If you are going with the "it's all in his head" version, we're led to believe that he is causing the others to see things too, due to them being subject to his hysteria for an extended period of time. But he didn't spend any time with the neighbor, so how would she be "starting to believe" the monsters were real, when she never had the opportunity to do so?
But if they ARE real, then why can't they come out in the day time? Why are they so focused on just these specific people? It's one thing to leave a movie up to interpretation, but in order to do that successfully, you have to make sure all bases are covered, so that either answer is 100% plausible given the information we have. In this movie's case, neither really makes any sense.
There are some good moments sprinkled throughout, however, making it at least a decent enough time-killer. I particularly liked the "Makeshift Ouija" scene, where a glass moves around on a newspaper, spelling out words in a "more or less" fashion. So there are extra, or missing letters, but if you sound out the syllables that the glass focuses on, you get the word. It allows for the otherwise standard scene to hold a bit of suspense for once; I hate in real Ouija scenes where the thing is spelling out, like, SUSAN, and no one seemingly catches on until the final letter, like: "S...U...S...A...N! Oh no! Susan!"
I also liked the art that David drew (I assume), which reminded me of Clive Barker's pencil sketches. And while they never come out and say the name of the game, there's something charming about the couple playing Gears Of War together - I remember trying to play with my wife once, and deciding then and there that Lego Star Wars (or any of the other off-shoots) or Rock Band would be the alpha and omega of the co-op gaming part of our marriage from now on. Bonus points for using the real game soundtrack too - I notice in a lot of movies they will show a real game but toss in some generic sounds over it, or use the very distinct Donkey Kong sounds over some random made up game. It gave the film a bit of realism at an early point; too bad the writers totally botched it not too long afterward.
The only extra is a trailer, which is odd since IFC usually provides some decent extras and the director had done a lot of interviews for the film prior to release, so it's not like he's shy or that he doesn't WANT to talk about the film. Perhaps some explanation of the film's more muddled moments (or why they changed the title to something that makes it sound like it's just some Asylum knockoff) could have helped matters. However even if I totally understood the ending and other moments of the film, it would still be a misfire due to the completely unnecessary POV shots that dominate the second half, and the fact that the people who I thought were our main characters had the bulk of their development confined to the opening scenes.
What say you?