The Horror Honeys: Requiem: Can Subtlety Supersede Special Effects in Possession Films?

Requiem: Can Subtlety Supersede Special Effects in Possession Films?

A Supernatural Honey Review by Suzanne

Requiem (2006)

My heart is always torn when it comes to possession films, especially when exorcisms are involved. Rarely are they done well. Of course, no film will ever live up to the perfection that is The Exorcist. Most films try too hard with over the top special effects, gore, and convoluted demon backstories, which negate the “based on a true story” disclaimers, as far as I’m concerned. Last weekend, while perusing the horror bounty on Shudder, I stumbled upon a German film that got it right.

Requiem tells the story of Michaela Klinger (Sandra Hüller). Michaela suffers from seizures and has been diagnosed with epilepsy, although doctors can’t really pinpoint her exact ailment. Homeschooled and on a revolving door of medication, Michaela decides to take her life into her own hands by going to University, much to the dismay of her super conservative, religious mother, with whom she has a very tense relationship. 

At school, Michaela begins to blossom, reuniting with childhood friend, Hanna (Anna Blomeier), and even finding first love with Stefan (Nicholas Reinke). As the responsibility of real life takes shape, Michaela begins having seizures again and claims to hear voices which will not allow her to focus on her schoolwork or touch her beloved crucifix. Fearing she is being haunted by demons, she seeks the help of her priest who scoffs at the idea and suggests she seek psychiatric help. 

If our moms were right, your face might get stuck that way.
Requiem is based on the story of Anneliese Michel, a German student who died of starvation in the late 70s after a lengthy exorcism, the same inspiration for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but this is a period piece that relies on realism rather than sensationalism. I say that with no disrespect to Scott Derrickson’s depiction, which is an outstanding film. Watching Requiem, you have to question whether or not this is actually a horror film. There is no gore, no speaking in tongues, nothing typically seen in possession films. It’s simplistic in its design and ambiguous enough in its storytelling so the viewer has to decide, based on their own beliefs, if this is a battle for Michaela’s soul or a mental breakdown brought on by the pressures of school and family.

Gore hounds and fans of the jump scare will not enjoy this beautifully shot, sad depiction of faith versus science. It’s a slow moving, character driven film with no explosive climax, but it’s a solid story with exceptional acting by the entire cast, particularly Hüller, who makes her feature film debut here.

Supernatural Honey Rating: 4 faithful depictions out of 5

Requiem is available via Shudder and DVD

Do you prefer your possession films subtle or epic?
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