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God Sends Me Demons

October 16th, 2010 · No Comments

As days get shorter, nights get longer and All Hallow’s Eve beckons, I can say that I won’t be wandering the streets dressed as Chewbacca begging for candy. What I can’t say is whether or not at my age, horror movies still have any surprises left in them. In the search for originality, it’d be a good idea to start anywhere but Hollywood. For the month of October, I take a trip around the globe to see what’s scaring some of my favorite countries these days.

Requiem (2006)
Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid
Written by Bernd Lange
Produced by Hans-Christian Schmid
93 minutes

Grounded with strong performances and anchored in restraint worthy of a parish priest, Requiem is a horror film on a spiritual fast. Hans-Christian Schmid grew up in a small town in Bavaria and had heard of Anneliese Michel, a college student who died in 1976 after the Catholic Church resorted to exorcism rites to treat her demonic visions. Schmid began sketching treatments in 1997 and partnering with screenwriter Bernd Lange, they finished a script in 2004. Their project secured financing from German public television companies BR (Bavarian Broadcasting), SWR (Southwest Broadcasting), WDR (West German Broadcasting) as well as the Franco-German TV network Arte. In her film debut, Sandra Hüller won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, while critics awarded Requiem the FIPRESCI Prize.

A U.S. production titled The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) starring Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson was loosely based on the court case surrounding the Anneliese Michel story. While that version beat Requiem into theaters, the German production rejects special effects and the supernatural, focusing on mental illness and religious dogma and what would lead a normal college girl to an exorcism. Whether this approach was taken for prestige or for lack of money — most of the film is shot handheld by Polish cinematographer Bogumil Godfrejow — the tension in this “horror movie without any horror” is palpable. In her film debut, Sandra Hüller won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival for conveying something as raw and intense as any team of makeup effects technicians could.

In a small West German town in the 1970s, a 21-year-old devout Catholic named Michaela Klingler (Sandra Hüller) is elated by news that she’s been accepted into university at Tübingen. Her strict mother (Imogen Kogge) uses Michaela’s epilepsy to argue against her leaving home, but appealing to her sympathetic father (Burghart Klaußner) that the pills she’s been prescribed have enabled her to go six months without a spell, Michaela is moved in to her dorm by her father himself. In pedagogy class, she makes friends with a high school acquaintance, Hanna (Anna Blomeier). Michaela takes a parish pilgrimage with her family to the Italian shrine of St. Katherine, where her mother gives her a rosary. Sitting alone in a cafeteria, Michaela’s rosary falls to the floor. Trying to pick it up, she becomes paralyzed with fright and goes into a seizure.

With Michaela’s father covering for his daughter by keeping the spell a secret, Michaela begins to blossom at school, sporting a new hairstyle, new fashions and even finding a boyfriend in a chemistry major (Nicholas Reinke). But when Hanna finds Michaela collapsed on the floor of her dorm room one morning, she insists that her friend visit a doctor. When X-rays prove inconclusive, Michaela visits her parish priest (Walter Schmidinger) and reveals that whenever she tries to pray, hideous faces and voices torment her. The priest refuses to accept this, but is concerned enough to visit Michaela at school with Father Borchert (Jens Harzer), a young vicar who is more open minded to Michaela’s story. As Michaela’s spells grow more intense, Borchert contends that the best way to rid the girl of her demons is through an exorcism.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 1,578 users: 64% for Requiem

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 82 for Requiem

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Tags: Coming of age · Father/daughter relationship · Mother/daughter relationship · Psychoanalysis · Small town · Supernatural · Woman in jeopardy

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