Director: Xavier Gens
Writers: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Starring: Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Brittany Ashworth
When Nicole comes in contact with Father Anton more and more inexplicable events occur. The pair begin to believe that the priest lost the battle with a demon.
French director Xavier Gens (FRONTIER(S); HITMAN; THE ABCs OF DEATH) returns to directing after a brief hiatus with this Romanian set satanic mystery which was written by American duo Chad and Carey Hayes (HOUSE OF WAX; THE REAPING; THE CONJURING; THE CONJURING 2) who bring with them a recognisable if slightly safe horror pedigree.
Like many supernatural or satanic horror films the film claims to have been inspired by true events, in this case it is the 2004 “Tanacu Exorcism” in which a nun died and Father Daniel Corogeanu was convicted of murder. Inspiration taken this results in the opening pre-title sequence comprising of a priest and a group of nuns forcibly handling a distressed woman, pinning her down onto a cross as the priest attempts to deliver an exorcism which we soon learn went wrong resulting in the death of the afflicted woman and the arrest of the Priest who performed the unsanctioned act.
It doesn’t take long for news to spread across the globe and journalist Nicole Rawlins (Sophie Cookson) seizes this opportunity to push her own anti-religion agenda by begging her editor, and inconsequently Uncle, to give her this story to which he reluctantly agrees on the basis that she maintains at least some journalistic objectivity.
Arriving in Romania, it is clear that Nicole is a fish-out-of-water but thankfully this approach isin’t one that is pursued but rather a more intriguing retrospective investigative narrative. This choice for the opening act works well as it provides all of the relevant exposition without having to have just one character sit down and talk at us for a good five minutes as sometimes happens with this sub-genre of film.
Furthermore it is refreshing for a film to not just be all about the cattle-prod scares and rather than being just another low-substance, high-jump throwaway horror, there are elements that are more reminiscent of demonic mysteries such as CUSTODES BESTIAE or THE NINTH GATE. That is not so say that THE CRUCIFIXION is not packed with jump scares, only that they do not define the film and are at least supported at times by genuine tension.
As the film starts to progress it relegates the incarcerated priest and the dead woman to the background shifting focus to Nicole’s own crisis of faith and as her sanity seemingly decreases the jump scares increase, but thankfully on the whole they work even if a few are a little telegraphed at times. No doubt the increased frequency was to ensure that mainstream horror audiences, that most likely picked the film up due to the marketing blurb pushing recent hits ANNABELLE and THE CONJURING being plastered all over the films promotion, did not feel shortchanged.
Overall thanks to the initial investigative approach and moments of real tension, THE CRUCIFIXION manages to differentiate itself enough from its peers and in the process provide a more engrossing and complete viewing experience than had it relied solely on its use of derivative jump scares and its generic look, in which even the rural Romanian setting could not make the cinematography stand out – after all there is always a farm, a barn and a church in these films.
If you are looking for a decent modern entry into the exorcism genre then THE CRUCIFIXION is for you, it won’t make your top ten of the year but equally won’t be a complete waste your time.