The 1973 possession horror The Exorcist became an international film phenomenon. As its reputation spread around the globe, William Friedkin’s and William Peter Blatty’s landmark terror became the unwitting catalyst for a wave of inferior knock-offs. By the time Italian film director and screenwriter Alberto De Martino turned his hand to The Antichrist, he had acquired a long list of such questionable cash-in credits. Studiocanal’s new Blu-ray release allows horror aficionados a chance to reappraise the status of De Martino’s work as both a cheeky pastiche of The Exorcist and as an exorcism horror in its own right.
The plot of The Antichrist is convoluted. It focuses on the life story of Ippolita Oderisi, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, paralyzed at the age of 12 in a car accident that killed her mother. It transpires that one of her direct ancestors entered into a covenant with the Devil before being burnt at the stake. When hypnosis reconnects Ippolita to her previous life, she is repossessed. There are many more strands to the film’s operatic storyline, including jealousy, incest, telekinetic and dissociative violence, and lots of intense religious and satanic symbolism. It would be hard to criticise De Martino for holding back.
Studiocanal’s new 4|K restoration presents the original 112-minute cut, reinstating all of the nudity, sex scenes and (simulated) animal abuse that alarmed the censors back in the seventies. The special effects are predictably dated, and the score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai is unexceptional, but the family home where most of the action takes place has a suitably oppressive and claustrophobic atmosphere. In the role of Ippolita, there’s no questioning Carla Gravina’s commitment, but her unrestrained performance only adds to the sense that everything in the film has been over-cranked and maxed out. A decent selection of special features round out a strong Blu-ray package, but De Martino’s insistence that ‘more is more’ results in a movie that’s both a pale imitation of the film that ‘inspired’ it and an overwrought standalone horror.
THE ANTICHRIST is available now on Blu-ray from Studiocanal.