While the Dowdle brothers recently released their own religious horror shocker As Above, So Below, it’s Asmodexia that deals with the concept of an opposite, parallel “world” existing with more intrigue and tact. Where the Dowdle’s found footage thriller loses touch with biblical weightiness in favor of shaky-cam tactics, filmmaker Marc Carreté rests heavily on the shoulders of exorcisms, bible readings, and a 2012 apocalypse that never was. The whole film becomes a rather trippy adventure that plunges us head first into a world full of possessed henchmen and a blessed daughter, forcing viewers to pay close attention without providing much of an informative backstory. An exorcist, his helper and a demon walk into a bar for reasons we don’t necessarily comprehend, but then people start dying and sinners are dealt with through righteous divinity. It’s a tradeoff that works sometimes, while stumbling others.
Asmodexia starts off with the birth of an assumedly cursed child, based on the reaction of exorcist Eloy de Palma (Lluís Marco) while watching the delivery of his granddaughter Alba. But after a fast-forward through time, we meet the two traveling together as an exorcism team. Alba (Clàudia Pons) most certainly has a darkness to her, but she seems to have controlled it in an effort to support Eloy. Traveling around and vanquishing the evil spirits inhabiting the bodies of a few unfortunate souls, the duo steadily count down until the end of days when everything is to change. They’re looking forward to new lives – that’s if they can live long enough to see Resurrection Day.
As stated, Carreté nonchalantly throws his viewers to the wolves by introducing the tail end of a holy war that Alba apparently plays a big part in, choosing not to dwell on beginnings containing vital information about the current religious happenings. It’s easy enough to figure out, as title cues count down towards Resurrection with the passing of each day, but stateside audiences will be thrown by Carreté’s foreign filmmaking style that doesn’t pander to spoon-feeding. Do we need to know why a black van follows Eloy and Alba around, driven by a hooded figure who obviously has threatening motivations with his constant creeping? Sure, it’d be nice, but we’re forced to trust that Asmodexia will explain all upon the film’s completion. Carreté is our savior, leading us through the valley of the blind, but you’ll have to stomach an extremely minimal amount of catering towards a straight-forward delivery.
Asmodexia is heavily influenced by religion around every turn, and it requires a strong belief in God to accept Alba’s existence. Characters exist as reincarnations of Jesus’ famous apostles in Carreté’s mind, slowly revealing how each person relates to the other, and there are new rules on possession introduced, like families being stuck inside houses with their heretic child. These are new tidbits to horror fans, presenting obstacles for Eloy and Alba to deal with, but there’s also a murkiness as these challenges are overcome – a murkiness that’s necessary once Carreté’s finale pulls the old switcheroo on us. Asmodexia‘s sometimes underwhelming explanations make sense once Alba reaches her destination, as Carreté justifies his obsession with keeping us in the dark by pulling the rug out right from under us once we assume all have been saved. Angelic? Evil? Savior? Destroyer? The entirety of Asmodexia is challenged by one fateful scene, culminating in a flipped experience that completely defies any logic we believe to be established. Still, it’s a rewarding shift that makes up for being so shady previously.
I can’t let Carreté completely off the hook though, because despite being a generally well-shot film that manages a differentiating balance between darker mental hospital scenes and local rustic outdoor settings, Asmodexia also features one of the absolute worst horror scenes I’ll be subjected to in 2014. In what should be a graphic car-crash-shot-progression, the audio jerkily goes deaf and forgets to add any overlapping accident sounds except a strangely dubbed tire-screech that’s completely out of sync with the crash itself. Nothing happens, and the film sloppily cuts to a car already totaled – a scene that makes me think of the phrase “Baby’s First iMovie Edit.” Its inclusion is utterly flabbergasting considering Carreté ends his film on a beautifully representative, picturesque shot that plays on Brazil’s Christ The Redeemer statue, but the sad scene can’t be ignored and acts as an immediate mood-killer.
For a movie that poses so many answerless questions, Carreté finds a way to close Asmodexia on a high note the ends up being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Seriously, you get props if you can throw an ending at me with ample amounts of surprise, especially with powers strong enough to twist an entire movie’s meaning. For that journey alone, Carreté has created a film worth watching, but there’s nothing really begging to become a classic entry into the religious horror genre. A few spooks are achieved by demonic-looking patients and unexpected cohesion is achieved come Eloy’s holy fighting, but a lasting impression is hardly achieved, equal to getting buzzed off blessed wine. There’s surely better ways to get the job done, but hell, the job still gets done!
Asmodexia isn't exactly a biblical epic, but a rejuvenating finish brings meaning to a movie that otherwise would seem minimalistic and generic - finding a savior in the nick of time.