Killing God (Matar a Dios)

What to do if a stranger appears in your toilet claiming to be god and that he is going to wipe out every soul on the planet. Save the two that you have to choose. That is the ridiculous, frequently funny and at times profound basis of this Spanish film from Caye Casas and Albert Pintó.

The new year family reunion hasn’t started well as married couple Carlos and Ana are already at each other’s throats due to an amorous message left on Ana’s mobile. It could be a tryst or nothing. Into this arrive Santi and dad. They too have their problems with Santi a serial suicide attempter and dad looking to enjoy what life he has left and not caring too much about anybody else.

The family converse and there are revelations but there is something malevolent in the air - graphically shown in the intro - who makes his appearance through the toilet. A troglodyte that claims to be god, and after a vivid demonstration of his power, convinces them and puts forward the aforementioned proposition. It’s heavy duty stuff and to add to the woes he’s a nasty piece of work with few if any redeeming qualities, which give the family licence to try to deal with him.

What follows is a meditation over a series of discussions between the individuals and collectively that centre on worth, selfishness and the human condition as it applies to them – the film plays out in within the confines of the house. It’s not obvious but God appears to reflect what he created and now wants to destroy, however the film doesn’t delve too deep into his motives. As it is the comedy flits from the witty to the broad perfectly serving the excellent the cast.

4 stars

Heretiks

Heretiks really does start very strongly with a witch trial and an excellent verbal spar between Michael Ironside and Clare Higgins as a prosecuting cardinal and a mother superior who has an interest in saving the accused Persephone (Hannah Arteton) from death. The dialogue is fluent, literate and free flowing as you’d expect from these two seasoned actors. It’s just that as we get to the nitty gritty of the story it starts to wear thin and the whole thing starts to become bogged down in rituals and beatings.

It does have a convincing state of place and time as Persephone is taken to the convent. It’s here that the bulk of the story plays out. The nuns are strict in their methods and Persephone, along with the other saved women have to knuckle down to them. Clearly being prepared for something or other less than saintly she is subjected to punishments and a therapy that forces her to accept a new – god appropriate – name. As the film wearily progresses so we have phantom visions and supernatural breaks. There is even a boy wonder from the village out to save one of the women from her fate though he’s barely in it and his fate is great big meh.

It’s appropriately gloomy and grimy but Peter Hyett’s direction is slow paced and repetitive and the denouement is a trifle standard. To be fair to the cast they generally do well with what they have to work with it just comes over as rather po-faced and a bit silly in the end.

2 stars

The Devil’s Doorway

A found footage film that kicks away recent tired fare with flare and imagination. It’s a supernatural horror set in an Irish home for ‘fallen women’ and while it is fiction the backdrop of the true horror of the Magdalene laundries gives the film a grim authenticity. Partly filmed in 16mm as it is set in the 60’s two priests are sent to a home to investigate the miracle of a bleeding sculpture.

What they uncover is an unsettling combination of supernatural activity and maltreatment of the women sent there for care. The latter’s ‘care’ is witnessed when a young woman playfully performing for the camera, is beaten to the ground. A more gruesome scene is a childbirth and aftermath which has to be one of the most disturbing and upsetting seen on film for some time.

The tension is ratcheted up throughout as sculptures bleed and are smashed, and the attitude of the Mother Superior sours. Testing the blood, they find that it’s of sixteen-year-old Kathleen (Lauren Coe), locked in the basement, and a virgin. This forces the priests’ hands to take drastic measures which in turn unleash seething underlying dark powers.

Director Aislinn Clarke displays a deft hand in her use of sound and vision; relentlessly pulling the viewer into the story wringing out the tension to the final breathless sequence as the terrified priests run through a maze of corridors and caves with the failing camera bulb flickering and revealing apparitions and horrors. A very promising debut.

4 stars

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