Oct 18, 2022
By Greg Hyde
Elsie Fisher had an ignominious induction as a horror leading lady earlier this year in David Blue Garcia’s questionable Texas Chainsaw Massacre requel. She continues to make her mark on the genre with her performance as the heroine of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a horror movie of a rather different hue. The film is set at a private Catholic school in an unspecified Middle American location in 1988, and centers on the relationship between two 16-year-old best friends: Abby Rivers (Fisher), a smart girl from a less well-off household who is at the school on a scholarship, and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller), an upper-middle-class girl who is there as the result of her father being a successful realtor.
Gretchen begins displaying strange behavior after they visit a lakeside chalet with their two other friends, Margaret Chisholm (Rachel Ogechi Kanu) and Glee Tanaka (Cathy Ang), as well as Margaret’s obnoxious jock boyfriend, Wallace Stoney (Clayton Royal Johnson). The teens take LSD at the chalet, and Gretchen’s subsequent behavior seems as though it may have resulted from Wallace potentially having raped her there and/or demonic possession. When Abby starts raising her concerns about what has happened to Gretchen with their friends and parents, she finds herself increasingly isolated and without support. Gradually, Abby realizes that she is going to have to vanquish whatever has taken control of her friend herself.
If the above sounds like oddly serious subject matter for a horror comedy like My Best Friend’s Exorcism to be broaching, then that’s because it is. The main problem with the film is its tonal unevenness. Jokes are inserted into scenes that are seemingly intended to be spooky and gloomy, and jump scares occur in primarily humorous scenes. This is not to say that the film is without effective moments; Wallace saying, ‘This is Lacoste!’ when a possessed Gretchen vomits over his shirt is pretty funny, as is the scene of the school’s head nun warning the assembled teens about the evils of wine coolers.
After initially seeming to co-opt the horror movie cliché of ‘If you drink or do drugs, then bad things will happen to you,’ the film ultimately subverts it in a relatively novel way. Director Damon Thomas manages to make the mood and tone of a scene in which a tapeworm emerges from a character’s stomach genuinely horrifying. Additionally, despite production designer Bruce Curtis and cinematographer Rob Givens generally making the 1988 of the film look and feel unrealistically colorful, a scene that takes place in a shopping mall does manage to make the location feel reasonably authentic to the time setting.
However, whilst these individual aspects of the film may be enjoyable (despite anachronistic dialogue featuring phrases nobody used in 1988 like ‘PDA’ and ‘bestie’), they are not enough to prevent My Best Friend’s Exorcism’s attempts to blend two disparate genres from falling flat. Horror comedies need to balance out their horrifying parts with humorous ones, and the way in which Thomas juxtaposes the two types of moment so closely as to make them occur (in many cases) virtually simultaneously means his film feels, for the most part, jarring, incongruous, and uncertain of what it is trying to do with itself. (www.amazonstudios.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Rate this movie
No ratings have been recorded yet.