If you've ever wondered what a cheap knockoff of William Friedkin's The Exorcist would look like if it starred Charles Bronson, Exorcist Vengeance is the picture for you. Actually, that sounds like more fun than the movie really is. The tone here is incredibly self-serious, which ends up defeating the purpose. It should have been cheesier or allowed itself to take a tongue-in-cheek approach. You can have fun with a movie that's intentionally trashy. One that asks you to take its routine, overdone material seriously only wears thin.
Robert Bronzi, the man who has made a career out of being a dead ringer for Bronson, plays Father Jozsef, a gun-toting priest. (When he pulls his weapon in the opening scene, a bad guy exclaims, “Jesus Christ!” to which Father Jozsef responds, “No, but he sent me!” before pulling the trigger.) He's called in for a meeting with Bishop Canelo (Beverly Hills Cop's Steven Berkoff) and given a “dirty work” assignment. He must go stay with a family being terrorized by some sort of demonic force. Once he arrives at the home, it becomes clear that different members of the clan view his presence in varying ways. A couple are relieved to have him, whereas others view him with suspicion.
I kept waiting for someone to say, “Why did the Vatican send us a priest who looks like Charles Bronson?”
Exorcist Vengeance really doesn't have anything new to add to the subgenre of Exorcist ripoffs, aside from its star's physical appearance. We get all the usual tropes: a possession victim puking up black goo, levitating, saying vulgar things in a guttural voice, etc. These elements were firmly established by Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty all the way back in 1973, and they've been used onscreen countless times since. I'm ready for somebody to come up with something new for the devil to do because the clichés no longer have any bite.
In the one stab at infusing the movie with substance, the screenplay informs us that Jozsef encountered the devil many years before, making this new encounter a personal one. That idea fails to pay off, though, because Robert Bronzi has all the expressiveness of a marble statue. His facial expression never changes, regardless of what the scene calls for, and he delivers all his dialogue in a monotone. Maybe that's part of the faux-Bronson act, but it isn't exactly captivating to watch. The supporting actors, including Sarah Alexandra Marks as one of the family members, try to compensate for the black hole at the center of the movie, to no avail.
Production values are decent given the low budget, as are the blood and gore effects. Exorcist Vengeance isn't scary, although it certainly manages to deliver a few gruesome shots. What it doesn't deliver is anything we haven't already seen a million times before. Potential was there to make a big, fun, campy film that imagined Death Wish-era Bronson fighting Satan himself. Instead, we get a dour drama that only serves to remind us of better demonic possession flicks.
Where's Linda Blair when we need her?
out of four
Exorcist Vengeance is unrated but contains adult language and blood/gore. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.