‘You don’t play with the Lord.’
The début feature from Marc Carreté is a horror for our modern age, full of genre familiarities that link to the past thematically but which embrace current horror conventions with its shocking opening scenes and some dark humour that keeps the viewer engaged right through to the multiple revelations in the closing act.
The film opens with fuzzy VHS video cameras showing the events from 15 years previously with a bloody and demonic birth that makes It’s Alive (1974) look like a welcome family arrival. Flash forward to the present and the closing days of 2012 reveal predictions of a deep, probably satanic, horror that awaits resurrection in just a few days’ time. Exorcist Eloy de Palma (Lluís Marco) and his equally capable grand-daughter Alba (Clàudia Pons) are on hand to try and rid Barcelona, and hopefully the world, of possessive evils. Troubles are widespread, corpses are appearing, some dead, some dead for decades and some distinctly undead through possession by demons unknown. In a care home the patients are constantly paranoid about tarot dealing Ona (Irene Montalà); her sister, policewoman Inspectora Diana (Marta Belmonte), is very concerned about her condition. What is Ona’s connection with the exorcist? As the day of reckoning approaches, what could possibly save the world… or can it even be saved? Assuming the prophecies are correct and the fanatical religious accolades not merely those of delusional heretics…
Rather like El día de la bestia (Álex de la Iglesia ) Asmodexia couples its religious themes and notable blasphemy with surrealist dark humour, but here matters are less openly comic and more principled in execution. The links to earlier exorcism and demonic films are clear, with nods to such classics as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, but there are also references to troublesome groups of fanatics, satanic cults and zombie-esque scares. With a soundtrack that ranges from traditional instrumentation to scores that reflect 1970’s Italian or Spanish horror films, Asmodexia is original in execution (literally) but acknowledges the genre’s heritage. So this combines the old in the new; as shown in the VHS recordings that depict events from the past to the ubiquitous mobile phones and video recordings of the present. Throughout the film the narrative remains relevant to the prologue, from Inspectora Diana’s concern about her sister and her involvement with cases that result in her discussing pat events with apparent hippy and ex-cultist Jazz (Pepo Blasco). The narrative is enhanced by recurrent themes, such as Alba’s need to plant any mislaid fruit seeds, and stylistic motifs, such as montages of cathedrals, statues of angels and even Christ weeping blood.
For horror aficionados there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the shocks, blood and spiritual elements of Asmodexia, another in the line of recent Spanish horror films that have received very welcome releases in the UK.