HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL *** USA / Ireland / Italy / UK 2016 Dir: Marty Stalker. 97 mins
Malachi Martin, who died in 1999 under circumstances that have here been elevated to potentially spooky, was an Irish born Jesuit priest who became a famous exorcist when times were a changin’ and the Catholic Church desperately needed to update its image. Some considered Martin himself to be possessed by the devil, while others celebrated him for breaking new ground by publically talking about the paranormal in a serious and committed fashion.
This feature documentary incorporates plentiful archival footage of the charismatic Martin, described by one commentator as “like a young clerical Indiana Jones”, alongside interviews with friends, priests and paranormal investigators. It’s a compelling insight into the changing face of the church during the Flower Power era, though offers little balance in terms of the contentious subject matter at hand, with an over-played portentous soundtrack. For horror fans, there is much of interest, including interviews with “religious demonologist” Ralph Sarchie (portrayed by Eric Bana in DELIVER US FROM EVIL) and the prominent presence of Lorraine Warren in Martin’s 1970’s seminars. The feud between Martin and William Peter Blatty also makes fascinating viewing : Martin slammed THE EXORCIST for portraying exorcism as “a combination of Frankenstein and Dracula…with more green goo” and Blatty responded venomously to further criticism in his book of exorcism transcripts, itself also called “Hostage to the Devil”.
Review by Steven West