Ageing exorcist Eloy, travels with his teenage granddaughter Alba, around a sparsely populated Barcelona removing demons; police officer Diana investigates the chaos left in their wake; and Diana’s sister Ona, defends herself against the mounting chaos spontaneously erupting within a mental hospital. As the city is assaulted by an unseasonal heat wave, the countdown to a mysterious resurrection may well herald the end of days.
While any film about exorcisms is always going to fall in the shadow of William Friedkin’s immortal classic, Asmodexia is also hampered by both its inevitable comparison to the number of original and quality horror movies to have come out of Spain in recent years, and that the 2012 Mayan apocalypse, that wasn’t actually prophesised anyway, has long since come and gone (while Armageddon is never specifically mentioned, that the zero hour in question occurs on the 21st of December 2012 it’s pretty much implicit). Despite such immediate comparative handicaps, Asmodexia manages to form a distinct identity.
Rather than the sun-kissed Mediterranean tourist hotspot of lively thoroughfares, vibrant parks and artistic architecture, the Barcelona that Eloy and Alba wander through is instead presented as a scorched urban wasteland of empty desolation, while dank and dark interiors lit by flickering candles give any scene shielded from the harsh daylight an oppressive Gothic atmosphere. As the only people they encounter are lonely and isolated groups, cloistered behind ramshackle defences against the supernatural, you can’t help but wonder if the apocalypse has already begun.
It’s in the actual story that the film falters, being far too obtuse for its own good. Very little is made of the encroaching resurrection, and it’s only in the periodic reminders of its inexorability that it appears to have any importance. Despite the nominal connections between the various plotlines, their lack of intersection results in there being no real relation between them. Everything appears to hark back to when the major players were all part of a hippie-like commune, as evidenced by a grainy VHS recording of a flower-power singsong dated some months before Alba’s visceral birth that opens the film, but like pretty much everything else its true significance is hidden for much of the story.
Outwith the gruesome physicality of the exorcisms (which actually look quite impressive), viewing the film requires a degree of concentration to take in the story’s numerous and seemingly unrelated events. It’s not until the very end that the disparate strands truly join together, and at this point a revelatory spin is put on everything that seems to have previously occurred. While the ending is a neat idea, that injury-time exposition is required to explain what’s actually been going on, means that ultimately the film is sabotaged by its own subtlety.
ASMODEXIA / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MARC CARRETÉ / SCREENPLAY: MARC CARRETÉ, MIKE HOSTENCH / STARRING: LLUÍS MARCO, CLÀUDIA PONS, IRENE MONTALÀ, MARTA BELMONTEW / RELEASE DATE: 28TH MARCH