Trinity (2016): Surreal and Haunting Imagery (Review)

Sean Carmichael as Michael

Written and directed by Skip Shea (his first feature length film) Trinity is a movie about sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and its aftereffects. Michael (Sean Carmichaelis an artist who does portraits of the dead using their ashes. He bumps into his abuser; Father Tom, (David Graziano) at a local coffee shop. This prompts the remainder of the film which is a surreal trip of vivid and haunting imagery. 

The journey is, in itself, cathartic and revealing. Shea shows us just how many conflicting emotions are hidden in each survivor of sexual abuse by a trusted member of the church.

Trinity, the title of the film, refers, obviously, to the “holy trinity” taught by the church. “The Father, the son and the holy Spirit (or Ghost)” which must be believed in by follows of the Catholic faith. The term could also refer to the three acts in the film. It could also make reference to the triangle that exists between Michael, Father Tom and his mother (Played brilliantly by veteran horror actress Lynn Lowry).

It it the latter instance where Shea shows how deeply wounded Michael is by his encounter with Tom. In the scene, Michael, as an adult, is pushed toward the father. Prior to the “passing over” his mother kisses him suggestively several times. This clearly indicates that Michael feels just as violated by his mother as he does Father Tom.

The entire film owes much to the French filmmaker Robert Enrico and his 1962 film Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. A short film, shot entirely in black and white, it loses none of its haunting beauty or message even today.  

Shea is not aping the film. He is, however, utilizing a similar technique of storytelling. It works brilliantly in this instance. One event triggering another which in turn triggers more and more occurrences, memories and emotions. Enrico’s film is not as in-depth as Shea’s offering but the feeling is the same.

Haunting, most surely. Surreal, most definitely. An uncomfortable, sad, angry and horrible journey faces the protagonist. There are moments where Shea shows us that Michael feels ill equipped to deal with the torturous memories and pseudo explanations offered by those who claim to help.

As shot by cinematographer Nolan Yee (Who also shot the superlative “A Life Not to Follow” and was the DP for Shea’s award winning short film Ave Maria.) the film itself is stunning to look at. The imagery, the subdued and bright lighting, that is used to accentuate the various scenes is nigh on perfect.

Sean Carmichael as Michael does a smashing job as the outwardly calm, serene artist whose internal dialogue borders on the insane. After being triggered by his chance meeting with the priest who sexually abused him, the artist takes a dark and disturbing trip down a sour confusing rabbit hole.

Carmichael is also a fascinating character.  His personal choice of tools to create his portraits, the ashes of the subject is beyond bizarre and yet, oddly, it makes perfect sense.

David Graziano (a personal favorite) oozes a sort of filthy aura masked by his false jocularity and sincerity. Once again, there are clues about how each main character in this story see themselves. When Graziano, as Father Tom, speaks with his now grown victim, he looks down making eye contact with the artist’s lower chest. It is clear that the clergyman still sees   Michael as the boy he abused. 

Kudos to Beatrice di Giovanni who played Beatrice in the film. She manages to be captivating and endearing while playing her part on the story. 

Lynn Lowry manages, in the scant moments she is in the film, to show why she is an award winning actress still very much in demand.  Lowry manages to convey a range of emotions with little more than a glance and those kisses.

Poster for Trinity

Trinity is a full 5 star film. Everything that Shea does here meshes together perfectly to show the inner workings of the grown victim. The overly loud music, which serves to disorient the viewer (in sympathy with the protagonist) does not drown out the dialogue but filters it instead. A masterful touch that many filmmakers have yet to learn.

The film is currently on the festival circuit. Skip tells us that Trinity has been seen in a total of 19 festivals has garnered four awards. The film has picked up Best Director at the Amazon Undergound Film Festival (Brazil), Best Editor at the Arte Non Stop Festival in Argentina, Best Actress for Lynn Lowry at the HorrorHound Film Festival (USA) and Best Special Effects for Phil “Skippy” Adams at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in Italy.

Shea also revealed that this film was the result of his own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

Trinity Trailer from Skip Shea on Vimeo.

Love Is Strange John Lithgow and Alfred Molina Senior Citizen Romance

Love Is Strange John Lithgow and Alfred Molina Senior Citizen Romance

Love Is Strange has John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as two gay men in a senior citizen romance that goes sour once it has been made official. To be fair, only Lithgow’s character is really a senior citizen – in real life at age 69 – Molina is just under at 61. The two award winning actors play Ben and George. The men have been partners for 39 years and after all that time the two decide to tie the knot and get married. The idea, although not mentioned in the film, must have come from the recent legalization of same sex marriage in New York.

Miley Cyrus’ Twitter Versus Sinead O’Connor’s Facebook

Miley Cyrus’ Twitter Versus Sinead O’Connor’s Facebook

It all started out quite innocuously. Miley Cyrus revealed that her Wrecking Ball music video was inspired by Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U music video. The 2 U video earned three Moonmen gongs from MTV making the Irish singer the first female to achieve this honor. But when Sinead offered Miley some heartfelt advice via her Facebook page, the 20 year-old singer got her claws out

The Devil Inside (2012): Demons, Demons Everywhere

Directed by William Brent Bell (Stay Alive , Sparkle and Charm)  who co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Peterman (Stay Alive) The Devil Inside is the latest in a long run of ‘found footage films’ which have been presented as ‘documentaries.’

Considering that this film opened theatrically on 6 January 2012, it is pretty amazing that the film has garnered over 101 millions dollars gross profit to date. The film was made on a budget of 1 million dollars. By anyone’s calculations, that is an excellent return of investment.

The producers of The Devil Inside, were very clever in their marketing campaign and ‘lack’ of preview screenings for critics. This ensured a strong opening, so strong in fact that they knocked Tom Cruize’s latest Mission Impossible sequel off it’s three week run at first place. Despite the strong opening, word of mouth soon decimated the numbers of folks who wanted to see the film. They dropped a very impressive 76% in their audience viewing figures by the following weekend.

I downloaded the film and watched it this afternoon. I was surprised to find that I rather liked it. After the bad press this film got from critic’s retroactive reviews, I was expecting a complete mess of a film. It was a little disorganised, to be sure, but it wasn’t that bad.

The film opens with with a 9-1-1 call and footage from a 1989 murder scene. The first few moments deal with a multiple murder that is covered by local television news and we get to see the police comb the area for clues. The film then jumps forward about twenty-one years and we meet the daughter of the woman who murdered the three people whose corpses we met at the very beginning of the film.

Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) is the daughter of Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley). Maria, we learn, killed the people who were from the Catholic Church and were attempting to exorcise her. It went, obviously, very wrong. Maria is moved to Rome to be cared for by the Church’s medical facilities.

Isabella is taking part in a documentary being shot by Michael Schaefer (Ionut Grama) and they are going to Rome to meet momma Maria.  After arriving in the Vatican city, Isabella joins an exorcism theory class being taught by a Priest to a roomful of theological and psychiatric students. In a move that can only be translated as a huge sign post, the padre circles the last category of his lesson which is Multiple Demonic Possession.

The only thing the priest did not do was to smack the circled word with a pointer and yell, “This is important! I will be asking questions after the class.” We, the audience, see that this ‘important’ possession is going to feature later in the film.

After the theology class, Isabella joins a small group of novice priests and other theology students and they  talk about Exorcism‘s and how you cannot really learn anything about them in a classroom setting. Two of the priests, Ben (Simon Quarterman) and David (Evan Helmuth) are best described as ‘renegade” men of the clergy. Both the men feel that the Church doesn’t do enough in helping folks who are possessed.

Father’s Ben and David have already performed a number of Exorcism’s that the Church had turned down. Both men have the strength of their convictions and take Isabella with them to an on-going exorcism that they have been doing.  While they are performing the ritual on the possessed girl, Michael is filming it and the possessed girl knows Isabella’s name. The girl also walks on the wall and suspends herself over the bed.

Convinced that Ben and David know what they are doing, she asks them to look at her mother as the Church is refusing to perform the ritual on her. After tricking their way into the medical wing where Maria is being held, they set up their equipment and start the ritual.

Maria is possessed by more than one demon and she reacts very badly to the exorcism. After things calm down, they are thrown out of the hospital. Both Ben and David are excited about their ‘findings.’ Ben says that the Vatican can’t deny Maria help now.

Unfortunately that is precisely what the Church does and now they want Maria to be taken back to the US. Meanwhile, David is acting very strangely, eating in the dark dining room and baptizing a baby a little too long in the holy water. Isobella is acting strangely and everyone is upset and stressed out.

The police are after David for attempted murder and he kills himself, Isobella goes into some sort of fit and Michael and Ben rush her to the hospital. While Isobella is ‘resting’ in her room, Ben and Michael are talking to a nurse about how she is doing, the nurse replies that Isabella is stable and resting.

While the nurse is talking to Ben, we see staff rushing to Isabella’s room. She has attacked a nurse and it is taking several members of staff to try and control her. She eventually fights her way out of the room, only to be brought down to the floor. While she is lying face down on the floor, she gets bent so far backwards that it’s amazing that she isn’t broken in half.

Ben and Michael get Isabella in the car and drive to get help to exorcise her. While Isabella attacks Ben, Michael takes his seatbelt off and deliberately crashes the car at high speed.

Fade to black.

Reading various reviews on this film, I noticed quite a few critics slammed the ‘very quick ending’ and pretty much panned the entire film. I felt the ending worked well with what was going at that point in the film.

My problems with the film were many, but, not enough for me to not enjoy it. One problem I’ve already written about and that was the ‘this is important’ clue about Multiple Demonic Possession.  A little too obvious for my tastes, something akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer.

It was also obvious from the first time we meet Father’s Ben and David, that their motives for helping Isabella aren’t for the most selfless reasons in the world. Ben wanted to prove the Church wrong and David wanted to show that they, he and Ben were right. I know that at first glance, it seems like they want the same thing, but there is a difference between the two men and their hidden agendas.

At the end of the film, after they attempted to drive Maria’s demons out, everyone who was in the room became ‘infected’ so to speak. David, Isobella, and Michael all begin changing, with David bring the most obvious and quickest. The film makers also deviated from the ‘verse’ of exorcism films.

From the very first Exorcist in 1973, the demon (or demons) attack only the people directly performing the ritual, the priests. In The Devil Inside the demon attacks everyone in the room with a primary target of death for each person it possesses.

The film was meant to look like a documentary cobbled together from ‘found footage’ and it is to the film’s detriment. Too many other films have used this format and it is rapidly turning into a stilted cliché. It is also just one more film to add to the growing list of Exorcist films already out there.

The Last Exorcism (which actually did the documentary theme a hell of a lot better), The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Rite. All of which were, in my humble opinion, better films.

The Devil Inside was choppy, uneven and the ending did indeed feel a bit rushed, but that did not bother me as much as the illogical direction that the film veered off into. It did have a fair share of scares and creepy scenes in it, but not enough to warrant any further viewings.

The cynic in me believes that the producers decided to abstain from critic previews and teaser trailers to hype up the films opening weekend. This strategy appeared to have worked very well by their box office receipts. I can see why audiences were ultimately disappointed by this film. But really, it doesn’t come near qualifying as the worst film in 2012.

Of course I could be wrong.