Friday, June 05, 2015

DWF ’15: Bad Exorcists

Whether you believe or not, demonic possession is simply no business to trifle with, but kids will be kids. These kids in question are especially inept in social situations. The three high school chums hope to raise their place in the pecking order by taking the grand prize at their local horror film festival with real life exorcism footage. Unfortunately, it all gets more real than they bargained for in Kyle Steinbach’s Bad Exorcists (trailer here), which screens during the eighteenth Dances With Films, in Hollywood, California.

The nebbish Charlie is being led-on by a chick who really isn’t his girlfriend, but she lets him think she is when she wants to exploit his good nature. He also happens to have a crush on the popular and reasonably together Lisa, who has just returned from her junior exchange year abroad. Matt is the Jewish kid at their Catholic school, who often serves as the devil on his friends’ shoulders. As for Dana, he is just a mess.

They have DIY horror movie aspirations, but not a lot of talent. However, Matt is convinced if they steal Sister Helen’s ancient exorcism manual and chant some of the incantations within, the authenticity will take them to the next level. Much to Charlie’s surprise and nervous excitement, Matt even recruits Lisa to star in their film as the victim of possession. Of course, as we can all see coming, by incompletely reciting the powerful texts over Lisa, they actually help facilitate her demonic possession.

There have been no shortage of horror comedies in recent years, but many have been rather darned amusing, by cranking up the energy level and avoiding Friedberg & Seltzer’s painfully stupid level of humor. Happily, Exorcists is one that makes the grade. There is nothing truly jaw-dropping or gut-busting about it, but the film is clearly in touch with both the horror and teen movie traditions, knowingly observing and tweaking their respective conventions. Steinbach keeps it all moving along at a healthy gallop and stage scenes of demonic horror that should satisfy genre diehards (that kid in the barn is pretty darn creepy).

Some cast members look a tad old for high school, but they all exhibit a natural facility for the American Pie-style humor. As Lisa, Claire Berger shows a particularly impressive range, earning laughs with deadpan sarcasm and totally going Regan MacNeil in the third act.

Yes, Bad Exorcists is definitely a bit of a meathead movie and the sexually voracious depiction of Sister Helen is highly problematic and may ultimately lead to a few days in Purgatory for the filmmakers (if demons are real, there is no reason to think it no longer exists). However, for horror fans it is just a fun film to watch, which is more than enough for a Saturday night in June. Recommended for midnight movie regulars, Bad Exorcists screens tomorrow, as part of DWF18.