'Echorsis' review: Closet comedy
The title of Lem Lorca’s Echorsis is humorously cribbed from William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973), that famous horror film where a young priest on the verge of questioning his faith is tasked to rid a young girl of the devil possessing her body.
Lorca’s comedy puts a twist on the concept. In Echorsis, a young priest, who has long been hiding his homosexuality, is called to rid a small-time swindler of the ghost of the gay man he tricked.
The result is something quite remarkable, even if not fully satisfying.
Lorca takes a while to get to the meat of his film.
Echorsis opens with Kristoff (John Lapus), the closet gay son of a retired military man (Menggie Cobarrubias) and his devoutly Catholic wife (Odette Khan). His only links to the sexuality he has long repressed are his childhood friends who have all grown up to be loud, proud and flamboyant.
He serendipitously meets Carlo (Alex Medina), a charming hustler who seduces gay men of their hard-earned cash to finance his girlfriend’s lavish dream wedding. He then decides to come out of the closet.
A lot happens. Eventually, the plot suddenly shifts perspectives, introducing Father Nick (Kean Cipriano), a priest who specializes in exorcising demons out of their possessed victims.
Right after swindling Kristoff of his money, he returns home, where he starts to manifest peculiar behavior. This prompts Kristoff’s mom (Ruby Ruiz) to recruit the services of Father Nick, who turns out to be Kristoff’s childhood pal.
Core of contention
The film is seemingly structured clumsily, with characters coming in and out – without rhyme or reason.
Echorsis, however, is anchored on characters that hide their homosexuality to placate church-enforced norms and expectations. The screenplay follows experiences of coming out of the closet, with screenwriter Jerry Gracio wittily ornamenting what normally would be intimidating personal experiences with a curious mix of horror and hilarity.
Absent the comedy, the film’s string of narratives, which focuses on gay men on the verge of coming out, offers poignant glimpses of the pains of living a life that has been marginalized by religion.
Through fun and fantasy, the film veils the palpable aches of real life where the repercussions of being true to oneself are met with disdain and disappointment. It subverts the tired formula of demonic possession where the borders between good and evil are crystal clear. It blurs the lines, questions perceptions of morality, and contends with the treatment of homosexuality in a deeply religious society.
Rough and uneven
Echorsis, however, suffers from a chronic case of unevenness.
The film is a parade of gags. As expected, not all of the gags work, but when they do, they are tremendously funny and on point with Gracio’s intended subversion.
Sadly, Lorca peppers the film with more than just a few duds, which unfortunately makes extended portions of the film very tedious to watch. Thankfully, there is enough wit and color to keep things interesting, even at the film’s lowest points.
All in all, Echorsis does what it sets out to do, which is to entertain while deliberately forwarding a pervasive agenda. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.