Those of you have read some of my earlier posts will remember be talking about an Irish horror film called Seer and its director, Eric Courtney. (I swear, that interview is coming soon!) Eric contacted me a few months ago asking if I could help him out with a new film he is directing on a somewhat not-often-touched topic; an exorcism.
We all remember that film from 1973. Banned in Ireland from many years due to its content, the film had a stigma attached in many corners, curses, strange things going on set, people dying, and all that hokey pokey good stuff.
The Exorcist is one of my favourite films, something that many friends question. It wasn’t the fact of having studied film in college back in the day or written a piece about what the film represents as a piece of art that drew me to it. It was the fact that when I saw it, 16 years of age, it scared the pants off me. For the 122 minutes the film displayed on my TV, I was glued to my seat in a lather of sweat and white knuckles. I was alive for those 2 hours and William Friedkin ensured that I would remember that film for a long time.
Nowadays, with our desensitised view of the world the film is somewhat dated, as horror films have been permitted by censors to be more shocking that they were in the 70’s and of course, the film has been imitated and parodied regularly. But never recreated. Even John Boorman couldn’t bring his charm to it’s sequel (and interestinly enough, Boorman apparantely turned down the chance to direct the first film, as the story goes, because it was a nasty piece of work). The original novel’s writer, William Peter Blatty, tried his hand at directing the third film, which focussed moreso on a spate of killings with satanic overtones. While the film had its moments, it wasn’t a patch on the original. I’m not going to mention the 2 prequels at this point.
Cut to today, Eric asked me if I could help out with some of the logistically elements of the film so with my background in No Drama Theatre, I set about sourcing potential actors that would potentially meet his criteria. The film will centre around an exorcism of an Irish girl but rather than focus on the horror of the piece, the film will focus on the psychological aspect. A good decision in my opinion.
As part of my research for the project, I read a number of modern non fiction books on the subject material; The Rite; The Dark Sacrement and Hostage Of The Devil. The books brought me into a world that I have to admit, should really only reside on the top shelf of the horror section down at your local Xtravision. The books were fascinated but equally frightening. Unlike Friedkin’s movie, the books didn’t offer tales of spinning heads, mass disfigurations or mutations but instead offered an insight into the modern Catholic Church that appears to have been brushed under the carpet for a long time. But books are books so the production team set out to meet with Ireland’s leading Exorcist. A priest named Father Pat Collins. Fr. Collins was difficult to track down but he did agree to meet with the team and share his insight into his world. Fr. Collin’s tales and explanation as to what happens during an exorcism would make the hairs stand up on your neck. His stories mirrored many of the stories we read about in the books. He wasn’t a troubled man, he came across as a very strong man mentally and spiritually. Perhaps his experiences, as nasty as some of them were, offered him a renewed sense of faith. As William Peter Blatty once said, “God never talks. But the devil keeps advertising, Father. The devil does a lot of commercials.”
I should point out that Fr. Collins did not object to the project nor try dissuade the project from proceeding. He did however warn the team to thread carefully. Almost like your mother telling you to look in both directions before crossing the road. One thing that the research has shown is that the subject matter is distressing and regardless of what anyone’s religious beliefs are, it’s not a pleasant topic in any shape or form.
But the show must go on. Eric and his screen writer, Martin Robinson, are pressing ahead with writing the story and almost a whole production team is now in place. Some actors have been already been cast and there is a sense of excitment already building. Eric plans on showcasing the film in the film festivals, similar to Seer, and hopefully a distributor will pick up film at that point.
The film is yet untitled and shooting is planned for early summer. I hope to blog about it more as things move along.
Oh and to pre-empt the question that is always asked when movies like this are being made, “has anything strange happened yet?” Yes it has. But you’re not really going to believe me, are you?