Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism Movie Review

Written by Ryan Holloway

Released by XYZ Films

godless poster large

Directed by Nick Kozakis
Alexander Angliss-Wilson, Sarah Baker, Jason Buckley and Pablo Zubieta
2023, 83 minutes, Not Rated
Screened at The Overlook Film Festival on 31st March 2023
Released on 6th April 2023

Starring:
Georgia Eyers as Lara
Dan Ewing as Ron
Tim Pocock as Daniel James King
Eliza Matengu as Dr Marisa Walsh
Rosie Traynor as Barbara

Review:

At the time of writing, there must be at least 500,000 exorcism-based films on release, a good thing if that's your sub-genre! Although there have been some very good movies along the way, the problem always seems to be the same - where do you go with it when William Friedkin's The Exorcist, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, got it so right the first time? Sure, you can change the setting, you can change the names, but nothing ever seems even to get close.

Talented director Nick Kozatis is the latest filmmaker to have this, ahem, cross to bear. Mostly known for his short films and music videos, Kozatis has at least been able to bring together a decent cast, with award-winning Georgia Eyers being the standout as Lara, the poor young woman who finds herself the potential shell for a vicious demon. Writers Angliss Wilson, Baker, Buckley and Zubieta too have managed to shine a little new light through the old Prospect Street windows.

Made in Australia, Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism follows Lara (Eyers), who we meet in already deteriorating health, and her husband Ron (Ewing), a man who, through his frustration with modern medicine not being up to the challenge, looks to his congregation for an answer to Lara's problematic behaviour. Not long after we meet the couple during a consultation with Lara's doctor, Lara begins to have dark visions that also cause her to display often violent acts.

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Unable to cope with the worsening effects of her 'condition', Ron asks fellow congregation member Barbara (Traynor) to reach out to a man she says has experience with such things. When the Exorcist turns up, things go from bad to worse as the dichotomy between science and religion is exposed with potentially deadly results.

Godless is a film that will create debate among genre fans as to where it stands on the horror spectrum. On the one hand, it effectively runs through many genre tropes, often feeling fresh and intriguing. Still, on the other, it is a film that has a point about many societal intricacies that, although not broadly speaking horror, are worthy of our attention but need to be fleshed out more.

And the film's main problems lie in that un-fleshing of ideas. It needs to lean more into its many ideas, and there are a lot of great ideas here. Many of them are very apt for our recent history; for example, Lara, played beautifully by Georgia Eyers, is a young woman with a tragic past that is explored as the film moves on, but when talking to doctors, in this case, Doctor Marisa Walsh (Matengu) it's Ron who does all the talking, and this is one of a few scenes where men are very much deciding the fate of a woman's health and what happens to her body. It's a subtle but uncomfortably important strand that echoes abhorrent decisions about women's rights, but it doesn't push it enough and feels like something that could have been explored further.

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There are, however, some very effective creepy scenes, especially when Lara has a very strange conversation with a plumber fixing her sink, a scene that begins to move us into more of a traditional horror direction. It would have been fun to have seen more of this, as Kozakis handles these scenes extremely well. There is also often a tenderness to his direction, particularly when depicting Lara's mental state. It's this sensitivity that makes Lara's worsening symptoms upsetting and creates a good balance.

As we get more glimpses of Lara's manifesting behaviours, it feels like things will pick up and take us on a horrific journey into the demonic. At this point, Kozakis takes his foot off the gas, and sadly for Tim Pocock, although a perfectly fine actor, it's when we meet his 'Exorcist' Daniel King that the film, instead of building pace, slows down. Pocock isn't a grizzled battler of demons that you might expect but instead is a young man who comes across more like a grifter who no one in their right mind would trust to sell them a vacuum cleaner, let alone have faith in to save this poor woman from possession and potential death.

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As the exorcism starts, the plot begins to reveal itself bit by bit, and this builds to an ending that we will not spoil here but is very well done and actually makes the film.

Godless is competently put together, with a great many ideas; it just would have been a much more satisfying experience if one of those ideas was fleshed out with a lot more conviction. The horror moments are too few and far between, and the film's underlying plot gets a little lost, which is a shame because it's really quite wonderful and heartbreaking.

Grades:

Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover

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Ryan Holloway
Ryan HollowayWebsite: https://www.ryanholloway.net/
Staff Reviewer
As far back as he can remember Ryan has always had an obsession with films, and horror in particular. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and ‘Alien’ were the first films that really stuck in the psyche and rather than scarring his tiny mind and running up a huge therapy bill, those films created a fascination with the dark side of life and art. Brought up by Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers (not literally), horror will always fascinate him no matter how absurd, dark, twisted, barmy or just plain wrong. Horror DNA gives him the opportunity, and excuse, to legitimise his macabre tastes and watch whatever strangeness comes his way.
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