[img]http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--PMiqFd1kt4/UqZewN0ex1I/AAAAAAAACxA/hV5gL1YbMuM/s1600/BIGHB.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Spooked Television Releasing
Disc/Transfer Information: Region 1; 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Director: Christopher Saint Booth/Philip Adrian Booth
Starring Cast: Keith Age, Christopher Saint Booth, Philip Adrian Booth, William Bradshaw, Francis X. Cleary, Stephen Cromwell, Eileen Dreyer, Timothy Dugan
THE TRUE STORY BEHIND “THE EXORCIST”
Don’t even ask how I got my hands on this “documentary” regarding the “true” story behind the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s seminal classic tale The Exorcist, which of course went on to become a motion picture sensation in William Friedkin’s 1973 film version starring Linda Blair – as a diehard aficionado of all things Exorcist, I requested this title from one of my senior editors after looking over some of the discs he had in stock to pick and which were released recently. I don’t know what to make of this “SciFiChannel-meets-hack documentary filmmakers” thing I viewed last night and don’t know whether to call it a film or a pseudo-documentary…but it played like one of those nonsense so-called “true documentation” stories about cases that have occurred in the past, fused with a helping of supposed “paranormal researchers” thrown in for good effect. Perhaps making matters worse was the fact that the producers and directors of this project – the “Booth Brothers” as they are known – are probably two of the biggest hacks selling themselves off as “professionals” in the ghost story investigation world, to the point they have made their own “releasing” studio known as Spooked Television and for which they have already released other “ghost story documentary films” including Spooked, Children of the Grave and The Possessed. To see these guys walking around in their leather trenchcoats and cowboy hats looking like members of .38 Special or perhaps Lynyrd Skynyrd was laughable.
What’s worse is that the title of this so-called “docu-film” is different depending on where you get your information from – the DVD labeling itself claims the film is simply called The Exorcist File while the setup menu on the disc proclaims the title is The Haunted Boy: The Secret Diary of The Exorcist. Huh? I realize this is a bootleg, overtly cheesy and severely low budgeted “studio” but to make the actual title of your project confusing to the point it has two different names? That ridiculous nonsense and cheesiness aside, here is some of the truth behind this stuff before we get into what the Booth Brothers would want us to believe – William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist novel, did in fact base his story upon a supposed true case of demonic possession somewhere outside St. Louis, Missouri. The location, elements and main character were drastically altered for various reasons, but Blatty’s story as we came to know it – and also through William Friedkin’s slightly altered re-telling in the film version – centered around a possessed little girl instead of a boy and put the action in Georgetown, outside Washington D.C. instead of St. Louis. From there, Blatty played with elements involving changing the “possessing” entity to one named “Pazuzu” and which became an Iraqi “king of the evil spirits of the air” in addition to a host of other points that really had nothing to do with the case he based his novel on.
The “true” story of this so-called exorcism took place in 1949 throughout various locations in Missouri (the timeline of all this gets a bit cloudy, made especially so by the Booth Brothers’ ridiculously shoddy editing and all-over-the-map style of storytelling that makes an amateur filmmaker look like Steven Spielberg) and supposedly involved a 13 year-old boy stricken with some kind of possession; apparently, as the stories go, the boy “moved” to a house in Missouri from somewhere and began to exhibit these signs of demonic infestation, when two priests, one of which is a Father Bowdern, are dispatched to investigate the case. The exorcism moves from this house – centered on dramatically in this documentary and which has apparently become as infamous and crowd-drawing as the house in Amityville, New York – to two different asylum/hospitals until the entity was finally cast out. What the Booth Brothers attempt to do here is create a story wherein during an “investigation” of one of the “haunted asylums” in St. Louis they stumble across the story of this boy and how it became known as The Exorcist…but the project itself is so shoddy it ends up coming across like one of these paranormal researcher reality shows so prevalent on cable channels today…you know, the legions of ******** that go into the woods with infrared cameras and goggles and make believe EVP meters looking for Big Foot and his ghostly apparition he travels with.
The filmmaking is all over the place in this, flashing between concentrating on the main priests responsible for the exorcism of the “haunted boy” to the facilities the exorcisms took place in to wild, unrelated flashes of other cases such as The Amityville Horror in which we see pictures of Ronald De Feo, Jr., the murderer responsible for gunning down his family in that case; I don’t know what the Booths were going for here, perhaps to make some connection to the way in which De Feo “heard voices” that “told him” to murder his family, but the whacked-out and sometimes irrelevant editing montages here were off-putting after a while. At one laughable point, the team arrives at “The Exorcist House” as it has become known and which was the original house where the possessed boy stayed, and one of the directors makes some kind of on-camera remark about how this was the place that Max Von Sydow arrived at to confront the evil entity – I could only laugh to myself when he said this, because the comment was taken so far out of context given the fact that Sydow played “Father Merrin,” a fictitious character in The Exorcist who arrives at the Georgetown townhouse doorstep to join “Father Karras” (Jason Miller) in the exorcism of Chris MacNeil’s daughter. It’s as if the filmmakers here had no idea where fantasy began and reality ended; you could really sense the state of amateurish reflections this so-called documentary team were exhibiting.
Further, the “film” is spotted with varying degrees of horrendous-quality “interviews” with so-called real participants or others who were apparently “involved” in the “haunted boy” case, and these range from priests that studied under Father Bowdern, furniture movers from the asylums who claim the stuff they moved around was “haunted,” relatives of the haunted boy including real-life great niece Eileen Dreyer and a host of young and elderly Catholic priests who had plenty to say about the case. Sometimes, you get the feeling these were completely made up; at other times, the footage feels and seems real…but through it all are the Booths’ “professional” team of psychic researchers who crowd into the abandoned rooms of these so-called “haunted” asylums with their Electro Voice Phenomenon machines and thermal measurement devices, acting as if they’re being subjected to ghostly cold spots and demonic touches. While at times admittintingly interesting, the whole thing felt phony after a while.
Most disturbing – perhaps more so than the “real” story – is the way in which the directors jump from element to element in this project, moving from first talking about the house in which the boy grew up and then randomly focusing on the asylums this kid was transferred to and where the priests involved apparently followed; then, they focus on relatives who knew the boy (but who had to have their identities masked and their voices altered, why I don’t for the life of me know) and suddenly get to interviewing the freak that bought the “Exorcist House” and how he bought it knowing it was a “circus attraction” and what had happened there (remind you of the Amityville story?). In between, we get commentary from priests, demonologists and others who provide insight and their own thoughts about what may have happened in this exorcism case, and, in some moments, provide passed-down stories from Father Bowdern himself through these people. It really felt hokey after some time, and given the cheap, amateurish nature of the production (and the “studio” that puts out the Booth Brothers’ junk), it became difficult to believe that there was this much of a sensation surrounding this case…at least not enough to do such a deep “psychic investigation” of it. Sure, Blatty’s book was awesome and so was Friedkin’s film – but can’t we just leave it at inspiration he received after doing some research on the 1949 exorcism case?
Perhaps making things most laughable was the way in which, once the end credits rolled and informed me that the “haunted boy” had gone on to be a NASA scientist (not sure about that one, especially since we are never given his real name in this save for a reference to “Ronnie” and don’t see his face in so-called “real” pictures of him), we are made aware of the fact that several “actors” portrayed certain “people” in this story...a story that was supposed to be made even more terrifying by introducing “genuine” pictures and images from the era this took place in. It reminded me of the History Channel and the way in which they create these “documentaries” such as that of the Amityville case and use “actors” to fill in the blanks of real people who were involved in the story; they must reenact moments of these tales and to do so requires other people, but instead of simply avoiding these reenactments and focusing on displaying real shots of the elements surrounding the cases, the whole production becomes a laughable, quasi-hoax.
As a diehard fan of both the film and book variants of The Exorcist, I was curious enough to sit through this – but I question the motives, experience and wherewithal of the “makers” of this in the form of Christopher Saint Booth and Philip Adrian Booth; I know for a fact that Blatty based his book on the case of this boy in St. Louis supposedly possessed by a demonic entity or the devil himself in 1949, but this docu-film seems to reach too far in “investigating” everything surrounding the real case, especially when they start getting in to haunted furniture from the boy’s room and interviewing the furniture movers who witnessed “phenomena.”
[img]http://horrornews.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/The-Haunted-Boy-secret-diary-exorcist-5.jpg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
After sitting through some really horrific – and not in a “good” way – bootleg trailers for other productions these “Booth Brothers” have made, I came abruptly to a setup menu that allowed only for playback of the feature, scene selections and special features. This is when I was made aware that the title of the film on the DVD itself was not the same as the title on this startup menu; at any rate, pressing the play icon, I was greeted with mostly grainy, soft visuals due to the fact that this was supposed to be a “live documentary” style project; there were some moments of this that opened up to startling, almost Blu-ray-like clarity such as during some interviews with “church members,” but these were few and far between. The majority of The Secret Diary of The Exorcist was somewhat murky and troublesome to look at, with more than a few “camera perspective” shots collapsing into a grainy mess.
I did note some areas that exhibited aliasing, such as words that were rendered onscreen to describe what was being shown or names to accompany interview clips with certain individuals; some of these had jagged edges that were quite noticeable while other blocks of text weren't as noticeable.
Unbelievably, this wasn’t the worst upconverted DVD I’ve ever seen – let’s leave that accolade to Nighthawks or perhaps The American President – but for the most part, this wasn’t a visual treat. I suppose suitable enough given the disappointing nature of the “film” itself.
[img] https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSK_dgOqdpwxjeIh4au5XQ8tECGLZJQ2-bZgDFbKKoemlAEtXuj[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
The cheapskates at “Spooked Television Releasing” equipped The Secret Diary of The Exorcist with a default English two-channel mix in Dolby Digital, which was automatically handled by my receiver’s Pro Logic II circuits; a front-loaded affair for most of the running time, the track actually wasn’t that poorly encoded and offered clear enough dialogue and front stage presence. Like most two-channel mixes – we don’t really see ‘em anymore with modern-esque films – the action remained locked in the front three channels mainly, with some creepy added effects sometimes escaping to the surrounds but in that typical chesty, congested way due to the non-discrete nature of the stereo mix.
While essentially hollow and uninvolving, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix accompanying Spooked Television’s DVD release of The Haunted Boy was mainly appropriate for the questionable “documented” material on display here.
From a pure curiosity standpoint, The Haunted Boy – or whatever you choose to call it – was satisfying. I have always been “into” the Exorcist and Amityville cases, and while the “true” story behind Blatty’s novel isn’t as interesting as the story that inspired Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror, it was eye-opening to get a bit of detailed insight on what drove Blatty to write The Exorcist. That said, this was something I could have easily caught on cable as a “documentary” on one of these offbeat channels that broadcast the equally horrendous and phony “psychic investigator” shows; it seems every moron with a cell phone and access to either a Parker Brothers’ Ouija board or fake EVP meter calls themselves a “ghost hunter” these days and even gets their own TV show (I must be in the wrong line of work, I tell you that).
I say this is for The Exorcist faithful and no one else – but I’d like to hear from horror aficionados on this one, especially if you happened to catch this under-the-radar hackfest.