First, the name of this documentary is taken from a 1976 book, by author Malachi Martin, who had trained as a Jesuit Priest in the 1960s before leaving the order and moving to the USA, and some experience a controversial life with others still loyal to his convictions. Martin’s novel written in response and reaction to author William Friedkin’s portrayal of exorcisms and how it is done, from his novel The Exorcist and it continues to sell copies to this day. Therefore, who was Malachi Martin a question director Marty Stalker tries to answer, by using documentation of Martin’s final exorcism, and his dedicated followers, it touches also on his demise fraught with the perils of the devil’s corruption after the 1950 correctness, becomes erased from society. Basically, this film, if the viewer, is one who finds them scared of anything horror-like it asks then are you a believer not only in Devil but the existence of evil. This reviewer is not criticizing anyone’s religious beliefs, but I think everyone can agree evil exists in society, even before the 1950s, it appears in many forms, in disgusting and torturous ways.
The filmmakers wish to get away from the seedier side of things to focus on religious questions, therefore if the audience believes in demonic possession, and the devil influencing children then one might feel chills and goosebumps, and if not then this likely won’t change your mindset. The main focus, surrounds Malachi Martin (in archive footage) a man known for leaving his sacred oath as a priest and became interesting citizen living in American who participated in exorcisms and wrote thoroughly about the Devil and presence in society. One needs to note that most individuals are likely unaware of his famous involvement with the child who became the inspiration for The Exorcist (1973).
This film is not a recreation of that story but a documentary attempting to obtain the truth about the man behind it, yet slants away from the negative and focuses attention to his purity and belief in the Devil’s power. In fact, the movie presents itself in two parts, first about Malachi, his contradictions, arguments, which show fairness, and the second half, focuses on the demonic possessions, however subtle undercurrents sways itself to more of popular conceptual view, that he had a more righteous understanding and saw the devil in people so clearly. Some of the key people who inform the viewers comes from Retired Detective and demonologist Ralph Sarchie (author of Deliver Us From Evil), and former CIA agent Robert Marro attest strongly Martin’s incredible work all in pursuit to rid the world of evil, but necessary through societal means, rather than those possessed. Namely focusing on evidence of Martin’s final exorcism and death in 1999, with Martin predicting he perhaps was upset with the Devil a tad too much.
Martin’s life comes the rise and fall of the Catholic Church along the way, where he served as a secretary to a cardinal during preparations from the Second Vatican Council, a reforming of the Catholic Church in the early 60s in order to make the church more accessible to a changing world. Martin found himself unsatisfied with the organization he once loved, accusing it of abandoning prescribed doctrine. In 1964, he renounced his vows of Obedience and Poverty (while maintaining his vow of Chastity) earning fame and fortune in America. Sarchie who he later met considered him a priest always, regardless of what the church stated, the concept ‘once a priest always priest’ and easily dismissive and argues other points, with no pushback from the filmmakers. The footage shows a conclave dinner which involved paranormal expert Lorraine Warren seated next to him, discussing The Devil and his works of evil in society cascading through the destruction of family and values from the 1960s, and after the fall of the Church and wrongfully dismisses the 50s and previous decades. In addition, the film filters an abundance of trivial details of which some have no relation to the demonic and takes the moment to interview friends such as associate Matt Baglio, author of The Rite, which later became a book. Marro, later travels partially to a snow-covered area, pointing out a house in the distant as the one for the exorcism which only lasted a few hours all involving a little girl and how Martin appeared afraid of this pending battle, but doesn’t elaborate.
Overall, the documentary contains a mixture of archive footage blended with acknowledgments of trusted friends, and a few adversaries though dismissed for their mental problems. A lot of the film fails to answer questions on Martin, avoiding theological debates on controversial topics involving the Church, Pope John Paul II and Martin’s past. Overlooking Martin’s financial worth and self-glorification vanity, evidenced by blurred-out victims screaming into a shaky camera, supposedly real footage of their afflictions. As the film begins gaining a positive foothold, it turns strangely with more odd sensational horror-themed shots of dark hallways leading to ominous doors, leaving any viewers confused. The presentation makes some conclusions that horror fans can identify with, when regarding Malachi, who noted after each battle with the devil and demonic forces reduces health every time, something we all learn through the Warrens in The Conjuring flicks and The Exorcist. However, a problem in the movie, as it becomes less objectionable and the explanations rely more in faith than reason. In the end, it seems to be more of personal convictions, victim blaming and opposition to their focus, no one ever questions from a secular position. Lastly, the order of the film appears jumbled at times, noting the Malachi’s death more of the devil than medical fact, he died from cerebral hemorrhages (1 in 5) cases of cerebrovascular illness in America, bequeath to him from the Devil rather than falling from a stool at the age of 78.
In closing, Malachi to some had a special supernatural gift, and Robert Marro who drove him to his final exorcism involving the strange behavior of 4-year-old, in which Malachi had previously stated that Devil attacks, uses, and possesses children. The reasoning is that children love to embellish, wild fantasies, and have vivid imaginations, all devilish influences. It all follows disturbing victim-blaming, bitterly prejudiced and trivializing the possibility of abuse, as if possession were the world’s only evil. Malachi, once telling if you have anger to the church and their authorities, as well as an exorcist then that’s devil’s influence and one doesn’t seek redemption, in other words absolute obedience without question is the only option. Needless to say, the documentary fails in keeping everything non-bias, but that’s the problem with almost documentaries, one’s beliefs will always steer the production in the direction you want and slant the outcome for the audience. As for the horror fans, you might find some interest on the realities of exorcisms.
IMDb Rating: 5.3/10
Baron’s Rating 4.5/10