Previous dubbed versions of The Antichrist (L'Antichristo, 1974) have circulated under the titles Blasphemy & The Tempter, which were censored or shortened. The original edit has only recently become available in its entirety.
It's true The Antichrist would not have been made if the success of The Exorcist (1973) hadn't demanded cheap imitations. It even borrows such images as the hopping bed & pea soup sputum.
But it has some originality to it, too, so that it can be regarded as its own movie. Made about Catholicism by Catholics in Rome itself, it is steeped in an authentic cultural atmosphere. It also has a central performance by Carla Gravina as the possessed Ippolita Oderisi, a performance brilliant in its physicality.
Further, when the film finally gets round to the church-sanctioned exorcism, it follows closely the actual ritual, without need of exaggeration. And it has a maniacle score devised by two world-class composers.
Occasionally a special effect is so poor or ridiculous that it throws the viewer momentarily out of the film. Floating out one window & in another is in particular more amusing than it is horrific or awe-inspiring as intended. Yet the general tone of mystical horror is very intense throughout. And the set designs swinging between blue & red motifs are artfully jarring. The red hallway with the gallery of gazing statuary is almost worthy of Cocteau.
Ippolita, confined to a wheelchair since a car accident that killed her mother, had sought miracles through the church, but Mary the Virgin has never answered her prayers. She has become increasingly bitter about her condition as well as frustrated with her health-enforced chastity, having an unhealthy devotion to her father (Mel Ferrer) so that jealousy arises when he has gone through his own period of grief & begun to see a woman. In consequence of her frustrations, Ippolita becomes susceptible to demonic influences.
The most remarkable scene is the recreation of an orgiastic ritual in hell or in a past life, possibly hallucinated & with psychosomatic effects on Ippolita's body. Whether the possession is psychological with telekinentic associations, or a literal being from a hellish realm residing within Ippolita, is left partially to interpretation.
When in the last third of the film the possessing devil makes itself known, the pyrotechnics go a bit wild, & Carla Gravina's phsyicality heightens with a horrific punkishness. The Antichrist becomes quite thrilling sleaze.
Among sundry events is the defeat of a peasant sorcerer (Mario Scaccia); the defeat of a useless & horrified priest (Arthur Kennedy) who finally puts into motion the eventual authorization for an official exorcism; & the arrival of Father Mittner, the exorcist (George Coulouris). Father Mittner holds back nothing in his battle with the demon, & stuff gets mighty wicked for a while.
The film won't win over anyone who isn't already a horror film fan, but with Gravina's performance it is definitely good enough for those of us who get big pleasure from shlock.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl