(director/writer: Aislinn Clarke; screenwriters: Martin Brennan/Michael B. Jackson; cinematographer: Ryan Kernaghan; editor: Brian Philip Davis; music: Andrew Simon McAllister; cast: Lalor Roddy (Father Thomas), Ciaran Flynn (Father John), Helena Bereen (Mother Superior), Lauren Coe (Kathleen); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Katy Jackson/Martin Brennan/Michael B. Jackson; 23Ten; 2018-UK)

“A chintzy found-footage occult/horror film lambasting the Catholic Church for its hypocrisy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First time Brit filmmaker Aislinn Clarke, a lapsed Catholic, directs and co-writes with Martin Brennan and Michael B. Jackson a chintzy found-footage occult/horror film lambasting the Catholic Church for its hypocrisy. In 1960, the Doubting Thomas jaded Father Thomas Riley (Lalor Roddy) and his much younger inexperienced colleague, fresh from the seminary, Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn), have been sent by the Vatican to investigate an incident of a statue of the Virgin Mary weeping blood at a remote Northern Ireland Church-run home for fallen women. The investigating priests come with 16mm film cameras to record their findings (a hand-held camera is used in filming by cinematographer Ryan Kernaghan). To their dismay, in the laundry room, the priests come across grainy occult footage of a depraved horror show of sadistic nuns, torture rituals, satanism, and demonic possession, and turn their attention here instead of on the possible miracle. The narrative delves into the supernatural forces at work, finding that to be the work of Satan and not God. The film was inspired by the infamous true histories of Magdalene Laundries (whose last name gave us the word laundry) in which “fallen women” (society rejects: orphans, victims of rape and child abuse, the mentally ill and out of wedlock pregnancies) were held captive as virtual slaves for more than two centuries by the Irish Catholic Church and any children born in captivity were sold for adoption. The film justifiably casts aspersions against the Church that under their watch they mistreated those they falsely called “demonically possessed” women. The slight narrative seemed padded with irrelevant material to keep it lengthy enough to be a feature film. But the religious lessons presented were commendable and were delivered with the proper amount of outrage for such a shocking and deplorable tale. At its best it evokes “Exorcist” like scares (as in the arm of a ghost under the bed), at its most spurious it carries the frantic dialogue between the frisky Mother Superior (Helena Bereen) and the investigating priests, as she berates them for forcing the nuns to hide the dirty laundry while the priests stay far away from such controversy. It could have been a more effective film with a more experienced filmmaker but still has enough potency to be a keeper.