Father Malachi Martin is fighting for the soul of those who have been possessed. In his battle, he encounters fake and real cases. One of the latter is the one of a young girl he truly believes is possessed. Hostage to the Devil tells the life story of Father Malachi Martin through interviews and videos of his work. Written by Rachel Lysaght and Marty Stalker with Stalker also directing, the film has a very even style with the interviews all shot about the same and the way they are shown with straight on interview style and overlays on photos and images gives the film a very straight forward feel.
The information is from people who have worked with Father Martin and people who knew him well. Most of the interviews are positive given who the interviewees are. The way the interviews mix with the stylized images and photos adds interest to them and the subject. What really grabs the attention however are the videos of possessed or supposedly possessed people. Some of those videos are very unclear, while some show more and are effectively creepy. However, the film may become a bit monotonous for those who are not fully into the subject. As a person with curiosity about the subject of demons, possession, etc but also weary of fakery, this reviewer is unsure about some of the claims to say the least.
No matter if one believes in the subject of possessions or the supernatural, the film is well shot and put together. The cinematography by Ruairí O’Brien looks very good and even between all the interviews which ties everything together very well. With the editing by John O’Connor, the film is put together in a way that keeps the attention and captures the interest. It’s a bit clinical at times but the subject being something not all believe in, it has to be to bring seriousness to the proceedings. Also assisting in this is the music by Andrew Simon McAllister with Nathan Connolly and Rebekah McCann-Williams which adds a touch of seriousness and makes the film feel better-rounded.
All of this frames the interviews with people such as Ralph Sarchie, Art Bell, and John Zaffis with archive footage of Father Martin himself, Pope John Paul I and II, and Pope Benedict XVI as the film explores the Catholic Church’s involvement in exorcisms and how they may or may not have approved of Father Martin’s work. The whole film straddles the line of what may or may not be and this lends an air of mystery to the documentary. This helps keep the attention and make one want to watch until the end. As Father Martin was writing a book and working with a few people very closely, his way of working and thinking is clearly known to some who are interviewed in the film which gives a good insight into who he was.
Hostage to the Devil is a fairly simple documentary about a complex man and a complicated career path. The film itself is not for everyone as anyone without an interest in exorcism would most likely not be entertained by it. It is a very even documentary that does not offer a lot of excitement but it does have its creepy moments which are worth seeing. However, if creepy is what the viewer is looking for this film only offers a few scenes of it and it not scary or frightening, but it does give an insight into how exorcism works in terms of within the Catholic Church and as to what is considered a possession and their signs.