The Assent (2019)
It feeds on the darkness within.
The Assent has a strong opening with macabre footage of an exorcism and a cryptic voiceover explaining the three stages of possession, the last being the assent. Sadly, the film doesn’t live up to this promising intro and fails to shock or alarm its audience.
The film, which played during the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, follows schizophrenic and widowed father Joel (Robert Kazinsky) as he tries to raise his son Mason (Caden Dragomer) with little financial earnings. After noticing signs of supernatural incidents in his home, Joel, along with Father Lambert (Peter Jackson) and his helpers, soon believes that Mason may be possessed by the Devil.
The film does a good job of blurring the lines between mental illness and possession, and making you question whether the supernatural events are real or just schizophrenic episodes. These ideas could have been further explored, but instead we’re provided with an over-the-top storyline of demonic possession that ends up feeling forced. It’s peculiar how quickly it’s determined that young Mason is possessed; Father Lambert decides that an exorcism must be performed right after being approached by Mason’s babysitter with her feelings of discomfort around the boy. The dark decor of Joel’s and Mason’s home, filled with bizarre creatures and disturbing artwork, is almost too inviting of evil forces. The close-up shots and tight angles help create a claustrophobic ambience, but it feels staged at times.
Lead actor Robert Kazinsky does a considerable job with the material he’s given, and it was nice to see Tatum O’Neal appear in a small role. From viewing the trailer, I was expecting a few hardcore scares from Caden Dragomer’s character but wasn’t given much to sink my teeth into. There are a few sinister happenings, mostly viewed through a door’s keyhole, which aren’t the most effective. Father Lambert’s character is more silly than anything and had audiences laughing during scenes that were intended to be serious. His rambling on about possession and religious metaphors became exhausting and parody-like towards the climax. The demon, which Director Pearry Reginald Teo explains as being made up of burnt bodies, provides jump scares that are lacking from Mason’s character.
The Assent has a few original ideas for the possession horror genre but later introduces a twist that falls flat. More time is spent explaining what exorcisms are through fancy lingo instead of demonstrating with frightening visuals. Don’t come in expecting any Linda Blair head-spinning and it’s a decent watch.