Thursday, October 18, 2018

I Want to Believe There's A Good Horror Sequel Out There

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
This film was made ten years ago, and it probably wouldn’t be made today, at least not in the same way. The X-Files: I Want to Believe offers a sympathetic portrayal of a pedophile Roman Catholic priest; post Spotlight and #MeToo, that just wouldn’t happen.

It’s horror sequels month at Movie Churches, and this 2008 film is not only a sequel to the 1998 film, The X-Files: Fight the Power, but also a sequel to the TV series (The X-Files began its run in 1993, ended in 2002, and was revived again in 2016.) The television show included horror, science fiction, crime drama, fantasy, and even comedy. It followed two F.B.I. agents who investigated “X-files,” cases that had elements of the supernatural or uncanny. The TV series was among the first prime time series to have a “mythology,” an ongoing storyline and theme, but it also had stand-alone episodes. I always preferred the stand-alone episodes and I Want to Believe is more like the stand-alone episodes (it does not, for example, have anything about space aliens).

The central plot is the F.B.I.’s search for an abducted F.B.I. agent. As the film opens, neither Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) or Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Scully is a physician for a Catholic hospital, and Scully is living off the grid -- he’s technically wanted for breaches of security by the F.B.I. (but the agency isn’t really looking for him very hard).

When the F.B.I. receives credible information from a psychic, the leading agent in the case, Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet), decides she needs F.B.I. experts in the paranormal, so she first contacts Scully, and asks Scully to contact Mulder with the offer of having all former charges dropped against him if he helps with the case.

There is a subplot, relevant to Movie Churches, about Scully’s work in a Catholic hospital. We first see her in amiable conversations with priests at the hospital. One of her patients is an adorable young boy with the name, notably, of “Christian” (making John Bunyan proud). The child has a rare, fatal disease. Scully believes a new, experimental treatment might save the child’s life, but liability issues lead the ecclesiastical leadership to recommend that the child be put into hospice. This conflict continues throughout, and even provides the conclusion of the film.

Back in the main plotline, Scully and Mulder go off to interview Father Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly), the priest who claims to have had visions about the kidnapped F.B.I. agent. Scully wonders whether it will be worth interviewing him, but Mulder says, “He’s a religious man, an educated man.”

Father Joe resides in a dormitory filled with priests, and he says that all the residents despise each other. Father Joe molested 37 altar boys. We see him smoking, we also see him at prayer.

Mulder and Scully interview Father Joe as good cop, bad cop. Not as tactic, but because Mulder is genuinely interested in the priest’s visions, “Can you show us how you do it?”

Scully, on the other hand, is offended by the presence of the molester, “In twenty-four hours we could have a dead agent and find out this priest is a big, fat fraud.”

Scully asks the priest, “What was it you were praying for in there, sir?” 

Father Joe responds, “For the salvation of my immortal soul.”

“And do you think God hears your prayers?”

Joe: “Do you think he hears yours?”

Scully: “I didn’t bugger 37 altar boys. You can ask God for forgiveness, but you can’t have mine.”

The priest has more visions, and not only that, he bleeds from his eyes. A miracle? He leads the agents to the crime scene, but too late. The criminals have left with the hostages. In time, the priest’s visions do lead to the rescue of the agent. Father Joe dies of cancer.

And Scully finds the faith to treat young Christian, though opposed by the administrator/priest of the hospital.

So what steeple rating should we give the church and clergy of this film? The pedophile priest does seem to be used by God in the end. And the Roman Catholic church does provide a hospital for those in need, though they don’t trust the wisdom of Dr. Agent Scully as they should. So they avoid our lowest Movie Church rating, and we give Father Joe and the Catholic hospital a rating of 2 Steeples.

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