I was introduced to the horrors of exorcism in the early ’70’s when The Exorcist premiered at our neighborhood theatre. That film scared the bejesus out of me, and I have never watched it again. Maybe my fear of demonic possession comes from twelve years of Catholic school where the Nuns told us that Satan was constantly hunting us down. He is, but that’s for another post. How do you fight a demon when there is no priest around? Find out in my review of The Old Ways.
The Old Ways, a Dark Star and Soap Box Film production, is a 2020 American horror film that is directed by Christopher Alender, and stars Brigitte Kali Canales, Andrea Cortes, Julia Vera, Sal Lopez, and AJ Bowen. I don’t normally like to watch films about demon possession, but I am very happy that I watched this film. The Old Ways begins with an exorcism where a child watches in horror as the local Bruja of Veracruz attempts to extract a demon from the mother. In the process of exorcism, the possessed mother scratches her daughter…giving us a hint of what is to come.
We jump forward in time and little Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales) is now an investigative reporter. Cristina is in Veracruz doing a story on the local La Boca ruins where it is rumoured that spirits haunt one of the caves. Cristina’s cousin, Miranda (Andrea Cortes) had warned her cousin not to go to La Boca, but all warnings were tossed to the winds. We don’t know what happened in the cave, but Miranda finds her unconscious cousin and contacts Luz (Julia Vera) the local Bruja. Luz is a Shaman, who combines Christian beliefs with ancient practices that enable her to perform exorcisms. A Bruja interacts with the spiritual world through trances and magic. Luz’s son, Javi (Sal Lopez), helps his elderly mother in her work.
Brigitte Kali Canales is outstanding in this film. Her Cristina is a troubled woman who is also a drug addict. Why would she leave the states and go to La Boca after being warned of the danger? We learn that she purposely went where no one could find her. She hints that she came to La Boca to die.
We learn through flashbacks that when her possessed mother scratched her, that Cristina was marked by the demon. Her going into that cave allowed the demon to enter her. Although Cristina is unaware of what happened in the cave, Luz can see the demon within her. It is in the eyes. Cristina is kept chained to the bed. She is, at first, only given goat’s milk to drink. The milk is a form of purification. The chains are not the only thing keeping Cristina bound to the hut. Luz has surrounded the hut with salt, and if you know anything about demons…they don’t like salt.
What we witness in the film is not the normal exorcism rights done by a Catholic priest, but what Luz does is just as powerful as what the priest does. There are plenty of scares, and there is even psychic surgery done on Cristian where Luz tries to pull the demon out of her body. I’ve seen psychic surgery done before on documentaries, where a Shaman appears to be pushing their fingers through flesh and pulling out all kinds of disgusting stuff, while leaving the flesh intact. The demon in this film is one of the nasty ones, and he can jump from one body to another. Just when you think Cristina is saved, the demon finds another host body.
Although there was no pea soup volcano vomiting scenes, nor any head spinning scenes in The Old Ways, what we were offered was just as frightening. I don’t want to give away too much about the film because I do want you to watch it. Did you know that director Christopher Alender, who did such a great job on this horror film…has also directed several episodes of the Muppets Now? Cool, right?
Like I said at the beginning, the Nuns who taught me for twelve years did a damn good job of putting the fear of Satan into me. It wasn’t until I was much older and wiser that I realized that evil people are scarier than a stadium full of demons. The practice of exorcism goes back to prehistoric times. Nowadays, we normally have a medical diagnosis for what we used to call possession: schizophrenia, epilepsy, multiple personalities, and borderline personality disorder.
With modern medicine, people are successfully treated with medications, and they can lead normal lives…but don’t be too complacent because Satan does exist. Whenever there is a newscast about a serial killer or a terrorist. Just look at their eyes…Satan is lurking there. The eyes are truly the windows of the soul. You can watch The Old Ways on Netflix.