Film review: The Crucifixion – exorcism drama trades real-life horrors for cheap scares
Inspired by a real-life story in which a mentally ill nun was killed in an ‘exorcism’, this film fails to live up to its potential. Director Xavier Gens overuses jump scares, resulting in a lack of atmosphere or tension
The Crucifixion is inspired by the “Tanacu exorcism” of 2005, in which a Romanian nun died during an exorcism. When it was revealed that she had been mentally ill, the priest and four nuns responsible were convicted of murder.
This horrific true story was previously adapted by Cristian Mungiu into Beyond the Hills (2012), which won the best screenplay award at Cannes. In The Crucifixion, scripted by The Conjuring writers Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes, the premise is merely a jumping off point for a far more outlandish tale of demonic transference.
When a Romanian priest is arrested for killing a young nun during an exorcism, the case piques the interest of Nicole (Sophie Cookson), a New York reporter wrestling with her own faith. At the scene, she witnesses the power the Church wields over the local community, but also senses a lurking supernatural presence with malevolent intentions.
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Director Xavier Gens scored a horror hit with his 2007 debut Frontier(s), but has since struggled to maintain his form. The concept of a demon jumping from body to body, possessing different characters over the course of the film, is an original and intriguing one, but The Crucifixion creates little tension or atmosphere.
Cookson makes for a competent lead, but her investigation is lazily handled, while her burgeoning romance with Corneliu Ulici’s sexy priest is laughably misjudged. Gens repeatedly commits the ultimate horror-film crime, supplanting genuine fear and dread with cheap and loud jump scares. All that he achieves is taking a fascinating story and exorcising all its real-world horrors.
The Crucifixion opens on January 18
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