William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is arguably the pinnacle of horror cinema. Linda Blair forcefully spewing pea-soup colored bile and crab-walking backwards down the stairs terrified audiences and earned the film a rare best picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Although it would go on to lose to The Sting — a travesty in my humble, horror loving opinion — it’s a historic achievement that only works to bolster the film’s reputation. So, it was that admiration that perhaps caused me to approach Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism with a guarded sense of expectation. Afterall, possession films are among the most difficult sub-genre of horror to perfect.
Lara (Georgia Eyers) is suffering. Whether that suffering is caused by mental illness or demonic possession is the question. Her husband Ron (Dan Ewing) is a man of strong faith and a distrust of modern medicines. It’s his belief that Lara has strayed too far from God and, as a result, made herself susceptible to evil biblical forces. When Ron can’t get approval from the church, he orchestrates an unauthorized exorcism, led by Daniel James King (Tim Pocock). However, King’s methods are unorthodox and may prove to be even more dangerous than possession.
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Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism wears the badge (or perhaps the curse) of having “Inspired By True Events” perched upon its poster. It’s a bold claim that many horror films cling to in an attempt to add another layer of fright to the viewing experience. In most cases there’s little, if any, validity to these claims, and any real sliver truth is stretched so thin it loses any merit. However, this one seems to be the exception to the “True Story” horror bluff. The story that unfolds on screen appears to share a strong resemblance to the actual story that unfolded in a small town in Victoria Australia.
While it’s far from the first film that has toyed with line between insanity and possession, Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism approaches the subject in manner that feels grounded and plausible, making it all the more unnerving to witness. The demonic visuals and creature design are frightening, but the true fright comes from witnessing the violence and degradation performed on Lara by other people. It’s the small escalations that help to build Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism to its most accomplished levels of discomfort.
It’s no The Exorcist, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s exploring the blurred lines between faith and fanaticism and how allowing those lines to be crossed can result in tragedy. Through beautiful visuals and a gripping story that hangs tightly to its source material, Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism manages to squeak past the competition and keep its head above water as one of the better “True Story” demonic possession films.
Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism will release on Video On Demand and Digital Platforms April 6th, 2023.
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