The "found footage" documentary style of film has had many low lights and some high lights since The Blair Witch Project was unleashed back in 1999. Since then, the field of horror has predominately attempted to take advantage of the "real events" myth that this genre brings to the audience, hopefully reinforcing the scares for them.
Writer/Director Brent Bell follows up his 2006 slasher Stay Alive with this demonic possession tale of a young woman - Andrade in typical plucky "talk to camera" heroine mode - who seeks the truth about her mother and the murders that she committed during an attempted exorcism performed on herself.
For once, the aspect of having a camera present throughout the whole proceedings is somewhat believable as its director/cameraman is after the money shots for his documentary. There's no real reason for you to scream at the screen to "drop the camera and run away" like Blair Witch or Cloverfield as this guy has money and success driving him on to continue filming when most sane people would have run a mile at the first sight of a contorted body spewing profanities in multiple languages.
There's really nothing new here that hasn't been explored before in the likes of the superior The Exorcism Of Emily Rose or the grandaddy of them all, The Exorcist, but that's not to say that there aren't some nice touches thrown in amongst the well-trodden path it walks down. The first meet between daughter and her mental institutionalised mother is a wonderful example of tension-building to the point that when the possibly-possessed mother beckons her daughter nearer and then drags her own chair across the floor towards her, you're whispering to yourself for her to get out of the room pronto.
Where the film lets itself down is its "twist finale" that presumably Brent Bell thought would give this film the legs that Paranormal Activity was given with its final 30 second sequence that opened up the door to it becoming a franchise. Not giving anything away, it makes a huge, hitherto undiscussed leap plot-wise, that is not explained but more shouted out in all the confusion and barely caught on camera for the audience to digest. It's not exactly rocket science or a brain teaser, but it would have been a nice touch if the characters had taken a moment to digest what was going on rather than just scream at each other and make a decision that even busty blonde's in slasher flicks would have questioned.
An idea with merit but stereo-typing and cliches drag down the benefits of the unusual Rome setting and the depiction of the Church trying to bury such things to an overall missed opportunity. And the whole ending, just like the final 30 seconds of Paranormal Activity, ruins everything that went before it, just leaving a bad taste in your mouth rather than a sequel or prequel or an explanation of some kind.
UK release date: 02.03.12