The Crucifixion (2017)
Directed by: Xavier Gens | 89 minutes | horror | Actors: Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Ada Lupu, Brittany Ashworth, Catalin Babliuc, Matthew Zajac, Iván González, Ozana Oancea, Javier Botet, Jeff Rawle, Florian Voicu, Radu Bânzaru, Maia Morgenstern, Andrei Aradits
In January 2005, a shocking event took place in Romania. A 23-year-old woman, orphaned Irina Cornici at a young age, moved to the Tanacu Monastery because her friend was a nun there. During her stay in the monastery she showed symptoms that seemed to be related to a psychological disorder. However, the priest of the monastery was convinced that Irina was possessed by the devil. He decided to exorcise the devil, among other things by tying the woman up with four nuns and putting a towel in her mouth. Not much later she died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital… The priest and the four nuns were sentenced (they are now free again).
Two films have since been based on this horrific story. Romanian director Cristian Mungiu based his film ‘Beyond the Hills’ on the book that journalist Tatiana Niculescu Bran wrote about history. ‘Dupa dealuri’, as the Romanian title is, is an arthouse drama about the friendship between two young women and their choices in life. Twin brothers Chad and Carey Hayes, known for the screenplays of ‘House of Wax’, ‘The Reaping’ and the two ‘The Conjuring’ films, took a different, more obvious, angle and approached it like a horror story. Xavier Gens (‘Frontière(s), ‘Hitman’) directed.
When young journalist Nicole Rawlins, who works for the New York Sentinel, gets wind of the misguided exorcism in Romania on Sister Adelina Marinescu, she begs her boss, who is also uncle, for permission to investigate. The uncle’s counter arguments are of little use, but it is important because we now hear that Nicole herself has something against religion and apparently has a deceased mother. Would any of this be related?
Once in Romania, the story —-BOO!!!—- unfolds like a detective story. Nicole visits the priest in prison, meets the doctor who diagnosed the victim with schizophrenia, and —-BOE!!!—- attends the funeral. She befriends the local priest and moves into the hotel in the village. And that’s where weird things start to happen. BOO!!!
Are you shocked? Probably not, because on paper such a scare attack does not work. But they were unexpected, weren’t they? That is something that is not the case in ‘The Crucifixion’. The film starts off calmly and quietly, but once the shock effects have been set in motion, you can bet it’s worth that the makers want you to jump out of your chair every few minutes. And that, unfortunately, happens in the most cheesy ways. Someone is standing with their back to the viewer and the person walking towards it is trying to make contact. We only see the back and long hair of the first person. It’s a countdown to the head to the second person and the viewer is turned and sure enough, there it is. Or what about the standard startle effect of dogs jumping up against a car (while filming from the passenger seat)?
That predictability does take away a lot of the viewing pleasure and the quality of ‘The Crucifixion’. The setting is excellent – the film was really shot in Romania (including in Biertan, Sibiu) and the story remains fascinating, despite the fact that you quickly understand where the filmmakers want to go. The cast is okay, although you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the ease with which the Romanians speak English and the fact that the two characters who have to represent Americans speak perfect British. There also seems to be a moral in the story that says that faith will always save you – it’s a bit like those Christian movies that are released on a regular basis. ‘The Crucifixion’ is not the best exorcism film, not the best of Xavier Gens, nor of the Hayes brothers and certainly not the best film based on Tanacu history, but for the enthusiast who has already seen all the better horror films to do this best.