I remember reading about the case of Clarita Villanueva when I was growing up. The tale of how she was attacked by an unseen creature that left bite marks over her body was widely reprinted in collections of allegedly true paranormal incidents. So when I found out there was a film, The Exorcism Of Clarita, aka simply Clarita, based on the incident and its aftermath I decided to give it a look.
Clarita (Jodi Sta. Maria) is arrested for vagrancy and prostitution. She’s screaming about a strange figure attacking her as she’s tossed into the cell. Mayor Lacson (Nonie Buencamino, BuyBust) takes a personal interest in the case after witnessing the attacks. He’s less worried about her though than what news of this will do for Manila and the country’s image.
After the doctors assigned to her case end up dead Father Salvador (Ricky Davao) and Father Benedicto (Arron Villaflor, Spirit of the Glass 2: The Hunted) are called in to perform an exorcism. Emilia (Alyssa Muhlach, Hellcome Home) a photojournalist is there to document it.
Of course, things do not go smoothly. The men of God will have to delve into both Clarita’s past and their own. And face their own demons as well as hers if they want to save her.
A Filipino production, The Exorcism Of Clarita could have been an interesting film. It should have taken advantage of the local colour and traditions. The Philippines is a very devoutly Catholic country. However, Clarita’s mother was a folk healer. More could have been done with that, for example, than the simplistic connection the film makes.
Director Roderick Cabrido and writer Cenon Palomares instead opt to make a film about one of their country’s best-known occult incidents and strip it of all its local identity. The result is an incredibly generic possession film. The only real difference between The Exorcism Of Clarita and any of hundreds of other available exorcism films is this one is subtitled.
Jodi Sta. Maria does a good job as the possessed woman, evoking fear and sympathy as needed. And the effects depicting her possession, including her biting her own finger off are well done. But that’s all The Exorcism Of Clarita has going for it. We’ve seen this all before. Way too many times and done much better.