MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM (2022)
Release Date: 10/07/22 [Prime Video]
Studio: Amazon Studios
"Teen best friends Abby and Gretchen grapple with an otherworldly demon that takes up residence in Gretchen's body."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Every few years, Hollywood gravitates towards one specific horror trend and cranks out movies that feed that fad until fans are fatigued. It happened with slasher films, zombie films, and even the found footage technique. The one sub-genre that has never had its rightful resurgence is demonic possession. And it’s understandable. It’s pretty hard to top the blueprint that is The Exorcist, but films like The Evil Dead, Paranormal Activity, and The Conjuring have come pretty close.
The latest film to subscribe to the sub-genre is Prime Video’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism. But is it a worthy successor, or even a worthy possessor?
Based on the novel of the same name by Grady Hendrix, the film is set against the backdrop of the late 1980s, and revolves around two inseparable teenage girls who find their relationship put to the test when one of them becomes possessed by a demon.
Admittedly, the film’s approach to possession is no different than anything audiences have seen before. When the character Gretchen becomes inhabited by the demon, inevitably her eyes roll back, she levitates, and she also speaks in tongues. What really makes this film stand out, however, is that unlike most other films about possession, this one isn’t a bottle episode. Unlike Regan in The Exorcist or all of Ash’s friends in the original Evil Dead, possessed Gretchen still moves around in the world, and that makes her even more dangerous.
Over the course of the film she poisons two of her friends - in very different and sadistic ways - but even that doesn’t demonstrate how dangerous the character truly is. Andras, as we learn the demon within Gretchen is called, is more interested in psychological torture. As a result, it forces her to lie to her loved ones, steal from her friends, and expose their innermost secrets. Star Amiah Miller does such a fantastic job at shifting between her innocent and manipulative personas that you really do feel Gretchen’s internal struggle, while also not knowing whoever is really in full control of the body.
It’s A24 alum and budding scream queen Elsie Fisher who really anchors the film though with her performance as Abby. Abby is the epitome of what a best friend should be. When Gretchen hurts, so does she. And when she first realizes something is wrong with Gretchen, she sacrifices her reputation and her other friendships to try and help her. That was another thing that really made this film stand out.
Yes, it’s a horror film. And it does have its fair share of comedy. But above everything else, the film is really about the drama in friendships. No relationship is easy, as the audience comes to understand, but you always have to fight for the ones that matter most. Throughout the film, Abby is constantly going against the grain to save her friend. So much so that Chris Lowell’s Jesus-worshiping bodybuilding character eventually refers to her as Gretchen’s “last line of defense” against Satan. That one line alone speaks to the difference that a single friend can make whenever anyone feels alone.
Now, despite being such a distinguished entry in the sub-genre, My Best Friend’s Exorcism isn’t perfect. The first half of the film is really heavy-handed with its drama, and most of the comedy doesn’t really enter the story until Lowell’s character does. Additionally, there honestly isn’t that much horror either. Without spoiling anything, the most memorable moment is easily one of the previously mentioned sequences where a character realizes that she’s been poisoned and begins to heave [redacted]. The titular exorcism is also a bit underwhelming. The film feels like it’s building up to a pretty big climax, but the sequence feels just as long as the average Saturday Night Live skit. While that anticlimax might have been done for more comedic effect, viewers will surely feel robbed of a more meaningful conclusion.
Overall, My Best Friend’s Exorcism might not be the exciting new horror film the world is waiting on, but it is still a daring conceptualization of demonic possession that has not been done before. Where most possession movies focus on simply extracting the entity from the host, this one takes into consideration what the host really has to lose - before and after. It makes you grateful for not only what, but who you have. That alone should compel you to see it.