Instead, Swedish director Mikael Håfström personifies the clash between religious belief and scientific scepticism by pitting naive trainee priest Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) against veteran exorcist Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins, pictured), who takes as gospel John Paul II’s declaration that ‘the Devil is still alive and active in the world today’. Confronted with real-life cases of demonic possession, including that of a disturbed 16-year-old girl who may have been raped and impregnated by her father, Michael is forced to question his faith in science.
There’s no denying director Håfström’s ability to stage individual scary scenes, as evidenced in his adaptation of Stephen King’s haunted-hotel-room story ‘1408’. So whenever the intellectual argument wears a bit thin, he simply stages an exorcism and cranks up the banging, groaning and gurgling noises in the hope that this cacophony will distract us from our bored incredulity. Meanwhile, the perplexing metaphysical and psychological conflicts explored so movingly in Hans-Christian Schmid’s ‘Requiem’ are lost in the mix, as Hopkins acts like a man possessed and newcomer O’Donoghue is as cruelly exposed as his doubting seminarian.