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The Crucifixion (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

The Crucifixion


Starring Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Ada Lupu, Brittany Ashworth, Matthew Zajac, Diana Vladu, Florian Voicu, Radu Bânzaru, Javier Botet, Iván González, Emil Mandanac, Radu Andrei Micu, Olivia Nita, Jeff Rawle and Alexis Rodney.

Screenplay by Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes.

Directed by Xavier Gens.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 90 minutes. Rated R.

Sometimes we tend to think of French directors as being either arty and brooding, or wildly comic. However, in the last couple of decades, a thriving sub-community has sprung up of directors who grew up on pulp horror and love paying tribute to good old-fashioned gore films.

The director who has probably most stood out of this group is Alexandre Aja, who specialized in local horrors like High Tension and eventually started working in Hollywood in slick updates of geek horror films (The Hills Have Eyes), ghost stories (Mirrors) and marauding animal films (Piranha).

Aja was followed into mainstream Hollywood by Xavier Gens. Like Aja, Gens specializes in slick and violent updates of old American genre classics. Previously in English, Gens has done a not-bad low-rent Bourne/Bond pastiche (Hitman) and a relentlessly ugly post-Apocalyptic survival drama (The Divide). The Crucifixion is Gens’ take on devilry, specifically it is a modern update on The Exorcist.

This “based on a true story” tale takes place in a small Italian village. A young American journalist named Nicole Watkins (Sophie Cookson) – who has rebelled against her late mother’s religious teachings – hears a story of a young nun who was killed while being exorcised. With the fervor of a true non-believer, Nicole sees this as a way of disproving her mother’s faith, so she talks her editor into allowing her to fly to Italy and investigate.

She visits the priest responsible for the exorcism in jail, where he is being held for murder, and he insists that it was the demon who killed the sister. Then she visits the town where the monastery lied and finds that people do not want to talk to her, and most of the villagers also seem to think the death was due to demonic intervention.

Eventually a tragic story of a young nun who was used by a lothario comes to light. And why are there all these spiders around?

The movie title is slightly misleading – the woman who is exorcised is tied down on a cross and laid down across it, not nailed up and not forced to hang.

A kindly local priest (Corneliu Ulici) helps her to understand the murky theological waters around the case, while the late nun’s best friend and sister give a little background on her life and how she was acting to necessitate a religious intervention. In the meantime, the journalist finds herself having a series of very realistic hallucinations which have her doubting her own sanity.

The Crucifixion was written by the same duo who had a hit a few years ago with another quote-unquote “true story,” The Conjuring. Sadly, this film is not nearly as scary, or interesting as the earlier film.

Gens gives the film a slick cinematic sheen, but in the long run it is just another demonic possession pot boiler. He appears to be a very able horror director, but again like Aja, he still needs to get some significantly better source material before we can decide on his actual skill set.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: December 5, 2017.

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