If one were to make a heaping list of the wannabe Exorcist films, we’d find The Antichrist buried somewhere in there. Not on top, but not on the bottom either. The Antichrist is a film that made the early jump to try and impress viewers with demonic possession just as intense and more demonic than The Exorcist. However, just because it tries to be more shocking doesn’t mean it has topped the king of demonic deities in any way.
Hipolita (Carla Gravina) is a paralyzed woman that is currently coping with the death of her mother, in addition to a slew of mental health issues. Her crisis with faith is becoming more a more apparent as she slowly begins to break away from her beliefs. Her psychologist, Irene (Alida Valli), decides to use hypnosis to dive into her past. However, doing so brings Hipolita to a dark past life where she was a witch during the Inquisition. Opening up this pathway leads to her demonic possession, and exorcism is the only way to bring her back.
The beginning of this film threw me for a loop that I thought I was never going to escape from. Whether it was a very elaborate dance, ritual/ceremony, cosplay — I just don’t know. It took too long to escape from whatever was happening on my TV set. Luckily, we’re at least shown the main character during this part, and the only thing setting her aside from the rest of the crazy people is the fact that she’s in a wheelchair. Anyway, from here on out, we are introduced to Hipolita and the people in her life. Thankfully, the film remains crisp from here on out. Director Alberto De Martino appears to have a distinct style with the way he shoots. Even though the beginning didn’t make much sense, it was still gorgeous to look at.
The Antichrist moves along at a decent pace in terms of its plot — what little there is. There are some very interesting things that happen to Hipolita during her pre-possession. One of which involves a Jesus card morphing in a very…eye-opening way. Another scene involves goats. You gotta see it. If there’s any reason to see this film, the goat scene is it. Wow. Just…wow. It’s been two weeks, and I still don’t know whether I’m impressed or severely disturbed.
The characters aren’t anything special. Hipolita becomes possessed and starts killing all the men she gets to try and bed her. Interesting? Eh, it’s entertaining, but it doesn’t draw us in because she’s just evil. Irene seems constantly helpless, and everyone else is just concerned. Unfortunately, these characters are so cardboard that it’s hard to really empathize, sympathize, fear, or love anyone. Again, the film is mostly moved forward by its beautiful shooting style. Backgrounds compensate where characters and plot lack. If there’s nothing interesting to be said or no plot to be forwarded yet, you can at least be assured that there’s something pretty to look at.
The Anti-Christ isn’t an amazing experience, but it’s not a bad one either. What the film has made itself famous for, the goat scene, is worth the price of admission. There really isn’t any gore in here, and the violence isn’t real strong. The film does pick up once the possessed Hipolita goes to dinner, and from there on, it doesn’t let up. Still, there’s a lot of building-up to that point. Check it out if you want to see a lesser Exorcist, but there are better horror films you can trouble yourself