Spanish title: Asmodexia
Director: Marc Carreté
Produced by Albert Armengol, Jordi Bosch, Marc Carreté, Carles Herrera, Mike Hostench and Emili Pons for Ms Entertainment
Story and screenplay: Marc Carreté, Mike Hostench
Music: Jordi Dalmau
Cinematographer: Xavi Garriga
Editor: Marc Matons
Art director: Llorenç Mas
Cast: Albert Baró (Jan), Marta Belmonte (Inspectora Diana), Pepo Blasco (Jazz), Roser Bundó (Enfermera), Ramon Canals (Dr. Wilson), Marina Durán (Luna), Lina Gorbaneva (Irina), Lluís Marco (Eloy de Palma), Patrícia Mendoza (Susana), Irene Montalà (Ona), Maurice Nash (Cafe’s Client), Clàudia Pons (Alba), Mireia Ros (Carmen), José García Ruiz (Hippy Parque Acuático), Sílvia Sabaté (Enfermera Lola), Mar Serra (Enfermera)
The story is made up of several different but connected plot strands. In the first an elderly exorcist Eloy (Lluís Marco) travels the countryside around Barcelona with his teenage grand-daughter Alba (Clàudia Pons), dealing with an outbreak of possessions. they are shadowed by a sinister, shadowy figure driving a black van and the cops in the form of Inspector Diana (Marta Belmonte), who is becoming increasingly concerned with the corpses that are proliferating as a result. In the meantime her sister Ona (Irene Montalà) is an inmate at an asylum where increasingly bizarre things are happening: the other patients consider her to be a witch, there’s something weird going on in the bathroom and the nurses are dropping down with assorted ailments at an alarming rate. As well as all this, Diana spends her time watching old videos wherein just about all the main characters appear to be part of some kind of religious groups and titles on the screen commence a countdown of days until ‘the resurrection’.
I guess I need to preface this review by saying that, on the whole, I just don’t like possession movies. Even the high point of the genre, The Exorcist, leaves me cold. I don’t know why as I’m a sucker for all other kinds of horror movies (well, vampires don’t particularly interest me, but that’s because the subject has been overrun by teeny-goths). Maybe it’s because I’m an atheist, if I don’t believe in God then the idea of someone having their soul possessed by the devil (or some kind of demonic being) simply doesn’t make sense. But I don’t think it’s that alone. I don’t like the trimmings: the wielded crucifixes, the Latin chanting, the harried looking priests and, yes, the pea soup. I also find that a lot of these films don’t really go anywhere. So you have you family, one of the children starts behaving abnormally, an outsider is called in to cure her, she’s cured. Big whoop-di-do.
Asmodexia, then, scores considerable points for simply keeping me interested, let alone being gripping, effective and occasionally surprising. It does this by tackling the genre from a rather different direction and, once it arrives at its conclusion, completely turning it on its head (to say more would be to say too much). The first feature of director Marc Carreté, this is a confident, brash and exciting film. It’s immaculately shot, making great use of both the country and urban locations and showing a notable preoccupation with architecture and the geometrical shapes of buildings (is this a conscious play on the connections that the Mayan civilization – which comes into play later – has with mathematics?) In fact, it’s at its strongest in the quiet scenes, where Eloy and Alba walk through the fields or sit chatting under a tree, all of which are still inveigled with a discernible sense of tension. The script (by Carreté and Mike Hostench, the deputy director of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival) is well constructed if not free of moments of silliness; but it does a good job of making it clear that something is going on, that events are building up to some kind of millennial occurrence, but exactly what this is going to be and who’s going to be on which side when it occurs is left ambiguous until the end. A very promising debut.
Review by Matt Blake, 2017
What the critics said
“There’s more going on here than one usually finds in possession potboilers, and Carreté and cinematographer Xavi Garriga drench the narrative (scripted by the director and Mike Hostench) in bleak visual style, sending the duo through bleak sepia vistas and well-chosen locations, most notably a graffiti-strewn stadium.” Michael Gingold, Fangoria.
“The atmosphere of rack and ruin is so strong that it takes a while to notice that the story (by the Spanish director Marc Carreté and Mike Hostench) is steeped in silliness — a detail that’s hardly unique in horror movies. Here, though, we have the twin consolations of Xavi Garriga’s dehydrated cinematography and Mónica Murguia’s smashing makeup effects. In her hands, the possessed become bug-eyed, skeletal zombies as difficult to subdue as teenage heroines in dystopian movie franchises.” Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times.
“My references are unquestionably the films I saw in my youth and adolescence, those that have had the most impact. The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby could be two clear examples. And then more commercial films, like those of Wes Craven or John Carpenter films, films that have had an impact on me.” Q&A: Marc Carreté on Barcelona-set Possession tale, Asmodexia, Fangoria.
Notes and further information