Is it possible to be decidedly unsubtle and also maddeningly opaque? Marc Carreté’s exorcism film Asmodexia threads that infuriating needle.
In one of the first scenes, Eloy the traveling exorcist (Lluís Marco) and his granddaughter Alba (Clàudia Pons) discuss the literal meaning of their names — his means “man,” hers means “dawn” — a sure sign that there’s some heavy-handed symbolism in play. And yet it’s almost impossible to tell precisely what’s going on, or why, as the pair perform exorcisms around Barcelona and we’re given a daily countdown to something called “the Resurrection.”
Some of that’s intentional: There’s a secret at the heart of Asmodexia, and Carreté keeps his tarot cards close to the vest. Hints are doled out: A cop is chasing the pair, and through flashbacks it seems she used to be a member of Eloy’s hippie-style church; we learn that former parishioners are among the possessed. Via awkward cuts, we also see the detective’s sister in an asylum that’s erupting into demonic pandemonium (a setting that takes forever to connect with the main plot).
Shortly before Asmodexia ends, it reveals what was really going on…but the trick ending fizzles, sabotaged by the vague, clumsy hour before it. Turning the tables only works when it’s clear how the table was set.