The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Netflix] - THE OLD WAYS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Netflix] - THE OLD WAYS

the old ways review
A Mexican-American journalist returns to her childhood home, where she is abducted and subjected to an exorcism.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Christopher Alender

Starring: Brigitte Kali Canales, Andrea Cortés, Julia Vera, Sal Lopez, AJ Bowen

the old ways poster

Is there a more redundant horror sub-genre than the exorcism movie? William Peter Blatty and William Friedkin laid out the template in such definitive fashion that in the decades since The Exorcist, horror filmmakers have struggled to find a way to invigorate this format with new ideas. We've seen exorcism movies branch out to non-Catholic cultures, but whether it's Judaism, Islam or Shamanism, they all amount to essentially the same thing – a young woman strapped down in a room while priests, rabbis, witch-doctors etc splash holy water around and read passages from whatever ancient text is relevant to their creed.

the old ways review

Director Christopher Alender's exorcism movie The Old Ways does admittedly offer us something I don’t recall coming across in the sub-genre before. Taking its cues from the likes of Polanski's Death and the Maiden, 1971's Revenge, and recent thrillers like Big Bad Wolves and #Like, it's an exorcism riff on the idea of someone being held captive while accused of a crime they may or may not be guilty of committing. In this case it's not a crime, but rather a woman is held in a room by those who believe she is possessed by a demon.

The woman in question is Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales), a Mexican-American journalist who left Mexico as a child when her mother died during an apparently unsuccessful exorcism. Returning to her birthplace to chase up a story, Cristina is warned by her childhood friend Miranda (Andrea Cortés) to stay away from a nearby cave named "La Boca", but like any reporter with ink in her veins, Cristina sets off for the cave, only to collapse and wake up in chains in a small room.

the old ways review

Local witch Luz (Julia Vera) and her son Javi (Sal Lopez) are convinced that Cristina is possessed by the same demon that claimed her mother's soul and are determined to perform an exorcism. We're initially kept guessing as to whether Cristina is genuinely possessed or whether she's an unfortunate victim of superstitious fanaticism. Of course, this being a horror movie, we know going in which way this is all going to turn out, which nullifies any possible tension from this scenario.

Alender and screenwriter Marcos Gabriel awkwardly bring their subtext to the surface by making Cristina a heroin addict and hammering home the idea of exorcism as intervention. Hammy as this idea is, we never for a minute believe that the improbably healthy Canales is a smackhead. Her enviably toned body is suspiciously absent of train tracks, she never seems to go into withdrawal, and she looks like she gets at least eight hours sleep every night, despite her editor (AJ Bowen) complaining that she's burning the candle at both ends.

the old ways review

Alender and Gabriel try to freshen things up by adding a dash of identity politics as the very Americanised Cristina initially dismisses her captors as primitive yokels, only to gradually embrace the "old ways" she left behind as a child. But ironically, their film just reinforces tired stereotypes about Latin America.

The Old Ways
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.

2021 movie reviews