Review: LA EXORCISTA, Heroine Nun Races Against Evil in Adrian Garcia Bogliano's Latest

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Review: LA EXORCISTA, Heroine Nun Races Against Evil in Adrian Garcia Bogliano's Latest
Sister Ophelia arrives at the village of San Ramon, on time for a spell of trouble. Father Victor has been trying to protect one of the villagers, Sandra and her baby from a demon intent on possessing the unborn child. After expelling the demon Ophelia learns from Father Victor that she has two days to protect Sandra and the baby then the demon will be vanquished forever. With the help of Victor’s local right hand man, Fabian, she sets out to learn how to defeat this demon once and for all. 
La Exorcista (The Serpent and Sister Ophelia) is the latest horror film from Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Come Play With Me, Haunted: Latin America). It is a sprint to the finish type of horror film with an uncommon approach to possession, which is- wait for it- preventing it from happeningh. With so many possession horror films starting after the deed is done this film takes on a proactive approach. It doesn’t lighten the workload one bit but it does divert from a beaten down path. “We know of your ilk, demon, now kindly fuck off or we’ll be forced to put up a fight. Oh shit, a fight it is then! Okay, where’s my demon fighting bag?”
The grim-faced Ophelia is played by Maria Evoli (We Are The Flesh, The Inhabitant) who gives a head-strong performance with intent and fierceness. There is an advantage to watching horror films where you don’t quite know the actor playing the role. It allows for clearer disassociation of celebrity from the role and you can focus on the performance, and Evoli’s performance is terrific. Their performance was so convincing at times we had to remind ourselves: "Right, not a real nun".  
Thematically we suppose that the strength of Ophelia’s faith is something that some viewers will draw from, to justify watching a possession horror film to their own padre. Through the film Ophelia’s faith does not waiver, she carries on where Father Victor could not. Her past also helps give her the drive to keep this demon away from Sandra and her baby. There’s also the sexism and gender roles in the traditional Church; what fathers and nuns can and cannot do when it comes to spiritual authority. Hot tip, Ophelia’s having none of it when lives are at stake, right through to the very end of this story. 
Don’t worry, heathens, there is not a whole lot about these themes in the film, it’s not… preachy in that regard. Bogliano and his co-writers, Christian Cueva and Ricardo Farias, simply include it to round out the character a bit more. These themes in their screenplay are subtle. Anything more would take away from the excitement of the impending deadline of demonic doom.
While Evoli takes the lead of this film like a bull by the horns two ladies of Mexican horror cinema’s past, Norma Lazareno and Tina Romero, have small roles in the film. Lazareno’s Senora Ramirez shows what happens when you open that door, that anyone can enter. Romero’s Julia has a bout of zealous interference which gives us one of the great moments in the film. 
Water plays an interesting and consistent role in the lore of the film, itself being a precious commodity in some areas of Mexico. We’d have never considered it could play a part in a possession horror film like it was used here, apart from the expected Holy Water. That’s it. We just found it very interesting. 
By and large stylistic choices were very good. The possession effects at the beginning of the movie are very good; khudos for resisting the urge to take the back breaking moments down the now tired trope of bending backwards and walking. What Adrian did with the possessed Sandra was far, far cooler. It is also a commendable move not to show the demon so much. Just as this was unknown territory for Sister Ophelia so was the appearance of this demon going after Sandra's baby. This is a demonic spirit after all.
There's always a however isn't there? The one made about showing the demon giving chase through rustling, tall grass - as a serpent demon should - was cool. But the twisting and turning through the air - as a flying serpent demon… does? We’re nit-picking at this point, but if something took away the heightened moments of terror it was the flying. When did the demon portrayed as a serpent sprout wings? It’s our subjective response to the effect. 
La Exorcista refuses to get bogged down by any of the serious stuff, or linger on it for too long. It moves under a serious deadline and precious minutes are wasted thinking about ‘what was’ and ‘what if’. Once you have set the serious stuff to the side you get a horror movie that is just fun, plain and simple. 
La Exorcista isn’t trying to be the next biggest and greatest possession horror film. It is not trying to be the scariest possession horror film, though it has its moments. It is not trying to be the goriest possession horror film, though some blood does flow in it. Too many of its contemporaries try to be one or both of those, as far as to the point of overwhelming or nauseating. This is not the intent of in La Exorcista
What we have here is a story about Sister Ophelia who has very little experience fighting demons yet despite the odds of the situation and the odds against her in her chosen profession she soldiers on and puts herself in harm's way to save a woman and their unborn child. That is what they call in the Jesus trade, faith in action. If only it were this thrilling all the time. 
[La Exorcista opened this year’s Morbido Film Festival before opening in Mexico this past weekend]
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