Written and directed by David Heavener
I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached the point now that whenever a supernatural horror movie opens with a graphic declaring the film to be based on a true story, the word “bullshit” immediately pops into my head. Legion: The Final Exorcism opens with such a graphic, and at no point does it do anything to convince me that the circumstances I am watching ever took place. Frankly, I’d like to believe any true-life case of demonic possession would be more interesting and terrifying than anything presented in this boring, poorly acted, excessively talky, recycled z-grade exorcist flick.
David Heavener is the writer, director, producer and star of Legion: The Final Exorcism, which was made in 2006 but is only now getting a release – that should tell you something right there. Heavener has been making low budget genre movies outside the Hollywood studio system for nearly a quarter-century. The guy’s do-it-yourself style of filmmaking is commendable even if the results are often less than admirable. Still, not too many Christian musician/martial artists are out there making R-rated action and horror movies that I can think of.
Heavener stars as hardboiled Episcopalian priest Michael San Chica, banned from performing exorcisms after his wife’s went horribly wrong, now being forced out of demon-fighting exile to once again don his frock like a reverend Rambo to save the soul of a teenage girl from a demon he is all too familiar with. If only how it plays out was as entertaining as I probably just made it sound.
Father San Chica endlessly speaks of matters of faith and the facts of this case in matter-of-fact voiceovers as if he were doing narration for an exorcist version of “Dragnet”. I honestly kept waiting for him to say to someone, “Just the faith, ma’am.”
I couldn’t escape the sensation that the majority of the story was being relayed to me via narration rather than actually experiencing it unfold for myself, and some of what he says in voiceover just sounds silly in his monotonous, strictly business Sam Spade tone.
There are a variety of medical reasons for lesions, sores, and hearing voices, but now it was time to find out – did she really have epilepsy?
Why that line made me laugh I don’t know. I do know if it weren’t for those little moments of unintended silliness (blue-tint close-up shots of a pig’s face with an indecipherable demonic death metal voice supposedly emanating from it, a possessed girl whirling in a circle with her arms stretched out for no particular reason, that same girl getting dream groped by a green rubber demon hand), there would be nothing here to speak fondly of, try as Heavener might to make this thing work.
Roddy Piper even turns up at his least rowdy as a troubled alcoholic in dire need of spiritual healing. It’s a small role and not one he’s particularly convincing in. I’d wonder why he would agree to such a thankless role at all except for knowing that his daughter, Ariel Teal Toombs, has the second-to-the-top role as the possessed teenage girl.
The worst moment for Piper comes in an exchange with Father San Chica wherein he tells the minister, “They live. They live.” The line is shoehorned in so obtusely I assume it was meant to be an in-joke; although given the depressed tone with which Piper says it, that line could also have just been him thinking back to a time when his acting career shined brighter.
Just as the credits were about to roll and I felt ready to fully let it rip in a review, up pops a dedication to the memory of Heavener’s cousin, who we are informed was brutally murdered at the age of 12: beaten, stabbed, and set on fire by four teenage girls. Geez, reading that makes it kind of hard to pen a deservedly negative review without feeling a little guilty.
It’s obvious this film was a sincere work on Heavener’s part. It’s also sincerely bad. If not for the moments of gore, the heavy emphasis on spirituality would make it more befitting to Kirk Cameron’s core audience than anyone looking for a few cheap scares. It doesn’t work on either front. Keeping with the religious theme, let’s just say Legion: The Final Exorcism stinks to high heaven.
1 out of 5
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