MIDWINTER OF THE SPIRIT
Midwinter of the Spirit sets in as another exorcism show. However, it quickly makes refreshing difference to most of the exorcism films being churned out in the US. Instead of the possessed growling in deep voices, mouthing obscenities, rotating their heads, engaged in physical contortions, levitations and such theatrics, this comes grounded in theology and takes its spiritual matters seriously. The most we ever get of horror theatrics is Oengus Mac Namara scratching Anna Maxwell Martins hand and appearing to her thereafter as a hallucinatory figure. Indeed, it is quite possible that there are no physical manifestations throughout the mini-series merely hallucinations and people engaged in diabolic rituals. Of course, being British, the other difference is that it dispenses with the Catholic priests holding the frontline against demonic forces that we see as the default upholders of the faith in almost every other exorcism film and substitutes Anglicanism. For one, this allows us with what might be a first for any exorcism film a woman exorcist.
The results are entirely refreshing it feels like an exorcism story that is set in the real world, one where the priest is having to deal with mundane matters like a home life and a problem daughter, has doubts about her calling and is dealing with unresolved issues as a widow. Not to mention that the theology seems well thought through and coherent if maybe a little too much emphasis is placed on Anglican cant. This makes considerable contrast to the majority of exorcism films that are made within the horror genre and seem more concerned with shock effects and where in all probability the writers would be straining to be able to quote a single Bible verse off the top of their heads.
The minus side of this is that the lack of theatrics makes Midwinter of the Spirit much slower than the standard horror film. In fact, what we have feels for all the world like a British rural police drama more so than a possession and exorcism film. In becoming much more of an intellectual exorcism film and leaving all the elements of deviltry as ones that possibly only exist in the imagination, it comes up short when it comes to trying to make us jump possibly imagining an old man clutching ones arm just doesnt rank up there with head-turning, crucifix masturbation and barf bag theatrics. That said, by the second episode, the show picks up considerably and works extremely well with the power of a good script alone. Particularly good are the scenes when we suddenly start seeing that the shadowy cultists are bent on seducing Anna Maxwell Martins teenage daughter (Sally Messham) over to their side. The way all of the elements of the story are wound together at the climax of the third episode make for some fantastically good writing. It emerges as a surprisingly original and refreshing showing. Oh and Anna Maxwell Martin more than clearly demonstrates as she has been in a number of other recent works that she is one of the best of the current generation of British actresses.
(Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress (Anna Maxwell Martin at this sites Best of 2015 Awards).