Monday, 24 October 2016

Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes (2011)

Anneliese Michel was a young German woman who suffered from epilepsy and psychiatric conditions.  She and her parents were convinced she was afflicted with demonic possession, and appealed to the Catholic church for an exorcism.  Their requests were refused ... at first.  Eventually the local Bishop authorised the rite, on the proviso that it remained secret.  Two priests spent ten months attempting to exorcise Anneliese, before her death from dehydration and malnutrition.  Her parents and the priests were subsequently convicted of negligent homicide (though their prison sentences were suspended).

This film presents itself as "real footage" of the exorcisms, and I have to grudgingly admit that the people behind it have gone to some lengths to maintain the illusion that it's real.  There are no actor credits, for instance.  Of course, the illusion isn't very hard to pierce: the footage clearly isn't 40 year old film stock, there's a (single) very ill-advised special effect involving CGI insects, and they can't keep their dates in order (if "day 1" is the 13th, then "day 16" is the 28th, not the 29th, guys).  Plus you know, there's the whole "performed the exorcisms in secret" thing, which is pretty hard to do if you've got an international film crew camped out in the subject's bedroom.

I have to say that even if this film was good, I would have pretty mixed feelings about any movie which takes the unfortunate death of a mentally-ill person and then makes them the villain of the piece.  In depicting Anneliese as having definitely murdered at least one person, and strongly implicating her in the death of another - neither of which events, of course, has any basis in fact - the film does exactly that.  "Fortunately" the movie is terrible, so I don't need to feel conflicted at all.


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