Hostage to the Devil Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Content Media
Directed by Marty Stalker
Written by Marty Stalker and Rachel Lysaght
2016, 90 Minutes, Not Rated
Malachi Martin as Himself
Eugene O'Neill as Himself
Robert Blair Kaiser as Himself
Born into a poor Irish family in 1921, Martin made a living and name for himself as a Jesuit priest. He served as a secretary to a cardinal during preparations from the Second Vatican Council, meeting high-powered men and influencing their decisions. After the reforms of the Catholic Church in the early 60s in order to make the church more accessible to a changing world, Martin found himself unsatisfied with the organization he once loved. Granted release from his vows, Martin moved to America and gained his fame and fortune as an exorcist. But was his path to glory actually the road to Hell?
If the point of Hostage to the Devil is to redeem the slandered name of Malachi Martin, it defeats its own purpose with one-sided presenting and softball questioning. Every time the film seems to be gaining traction, it slows down and begins again with another part of the legend, pulling another thread that unravels nothing. A bevy of supporters are trotted across the screen to testify to his good nature and wholesome soul. The only trouble is, the harder they fight against the allegations of misdiagnosed possession and adultery, the less convincing it sounds.
When author/former priest Robert Blair Kaiser drops the bombshell that he believes Martin had an affair with his wife, I believed surely the film had a point to follow now. But no, the allegations are barely mentioned again. Yet neither is it mentioned that Kaiser confessed to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in his own writing; for what purpose is that omitted? It's very confusing.
Instead, interviewees all give impassioned speeches about what this man meant in their lives; he was a best friend to the lost and an inspiration to the faithful. But the more testimonies I hear about this man, the more I mistrust what I'm hearing. Why are no other doubters given screen time? What about any of the people he supposedly exorcised during his years outside the church? What about the people he had to “push away” when their friendship grew too close? It's as though the filmmakers concede that yes, he was doubted as any great healer would be, but it would be silly to believe the doubters when they can show us a dozen or so devotees who owe their success to him.
Do you know anyone perfect? Anyone who doesn't have ONE thing about them that's irritating or annoying or troubling?
The cinematography is a little fanciful to be taken seriously; there are some sensational shots of phones left off the hook on the floor, dark hallways leading to ominous doors, and creepy New York subways at night.
Compared to the aching beauty of Beware the Slenderman, Hostage to the Devil is a shallow attempt to question the legitimacy of Malachi Martin's work when it's already made up its mind about the answer.