If Morrison and the sound design are appropriately invasive, then it makes sense that the manipulation of the screen space would at times feel like one of those drug-induced montages from Breaking Bad—imposing an intensely convulsive quality that, in addition to the sound design, serves to shake up the moviegoer. In the film's visual and aural grammar, it puts the moviegoer under attack from Satan, too.
This attack is not without a significant war of words, though. Another compelling formal quality of this film is the texture of its language. While the dialogue is sometimes hokey, the exchanges between Mendoza and the central, possessed antagonist Santino (with a stunningly invested performance by Sean Harris) are mesmerizing. The possessed use the language of deception to influence others—sometimes inhabiting manipulative voices and dialects.
Mendoza draws power from the language of prayer, from reciting the rite of exorcism, and most essentially, from the name of Christ. In the film's drama of perception and availability, much of it plays out on the basis of whose voice we will listen to. In the climactic scene, Santino's spewing nonsense and Mendoza's Latin punctuate the film's dueling spiritual influences.
In all of these ways, there's an artful method to Derrickson's bluntness, and it recalls Flannery O'Connor's quote about shouting at the hard of hearing and drawing startling figures for the near-blind. If Americans have lost their sense of evil, Derrickson's film seems to restore us to our senses with force.
The Bloodied God-Man
In American Cinema / American Culture, Belton also notes,
The genres of horror and science fiction function to manage our anxiety about being human, the potentially porous borders between the human and the nonhuman, and the threat and attraction of the posthuman. As human existence becomes increasingly tenuous in the twenty-first century world of global warming, . . . AIDS (and other pandemics), terrorism, ethnic cleansing, hunger, poverty, and financial insecurity, we rely more and more on these genres to affirm the centrality of the human, to warn us of the dangers to humanity's survival.
Again, Belton goes nicely with Delbanco, who talks about contemporary anxiety in the face of inhuman impositions on humanity in a world in which we don't believe there is a war beneath the war. Such a world would be a hopelessly hellish place. But if the Christians are right then not only does Satan play a role in our terrors, but the bloodied Christ is a compelling image in this genre and in the world we inhabit. A God who is also human and who not only suffers for us but with us is the only compelling balm I know for all of us who've been chapped by the problem of evil.