Chronicles of an Exorcism is a low budget horror flick presented as real documentary footage. Two amateur film makers are hired by the Church to shoot an exorcism in a remote house over a period of three days. They join a local pastor and two priests as they attempt to exorcise the evil spirits afflicting a young woman but inevitably the ritual does not go as planned.
The film opens with a close up of one of the amateur film makers babbling about how everything has gone wrong, this is a scene which cannot fail to remind the viewer of the Blair Witch Project and as such it´s not the best of starts. Things pick up as we go back to the arrival of the film makers at a remote tumble down house surrounded by corn fields in North Carolina. They are greeted by local pastor Bill who takes them inside and introduces them to Father Lucas and Father Michael a hit duo of exorcists who travel the world battling demons. The focus of their attention is a young woman called Tina and initially she shows no real signs of being possessed.
With the character introductions out of the way it´s clear that the hired film makers Lee and Ross and even Pastor Bill are sceptical about whether the girl is really possessed but all doubt is soon removed when she appears floating in the corner of the room. From this point on we flit between their rituals, as the girl writhes on her bed and speaks in a demonic voice, and more interestingly the tension and argument between the priests and the pastor who they feel is getting in the way.
Any film with this subject matter inevitably invites comparison with The Exorcist and there´s no doubt this pales by comparison but considering their budget this is a reasonable stab at a horror film and there are some nice ideas at play.
Low budget films often fall down in the acting department and sadly this is no exception. The best performance of the film comes from Pastor Bill played by Ray W. Keziah and he adds some much needed believability to the proceedings. The two amateur film makers themselves get little time on camera, since they are generally filming the events but its clear neither has much acting talent. Father Michael is an interesting character who seems to have a shady past but this diverting side plot isn´t developed and Matthew Ashford struggles to convince. Father Lucas is played by Nick G. Miller and he is also the director and co-writer, again he struggles to make his character believable. Worst of all is Dara Wedel who plays the afflicted girl Tina, she looks healthy and as though she is wearing make-up, her writhing about is so subdued and self conscious and her lines delivered in such a flat monotone that you never buy into the idea she is possessed by multiple evil demons.
The direction here is typical of any amateur shot "found footage" film, the camera swings around all over the place and the effect becomes tiring as the film wears on. There is a strange warning at the beginning of the film about the poor quality of the footage and the sound which has remained unedited for maximum effect; this really serves as an excuse for poor quality work. Frequently throughout the film the picture warps and the action stutters, this could have been used as a signal that demonic events are about to occur but instead they´ve just done it repeatedly throughout so it has no meaning and adds nothing to the overall effect.
The action builds to a fairly muddy conclusion but there are some nice moments along the way. The argument between Pastor Bill and the two priests is intriguing and it´s a shame they didn´t develop this further. The scene where Tina seduces Lee also had potential but ultimately it was unrealised. The effects are sparse and obviously rather cheap and any potentially scary moment is somewhat spoiled by Dara Wedel´s lacklustre performance.
All in all Chronicles of an Exorcism is a brave attempt but it just doesn´t quite come together. You may get sucked in and spend an hour and half watching this if you came across it on late night cable and as indie horror goes this is one of the better efforts I´ve seen but don´t expect too much or you´ll be disappointed.