The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Prime Video] - MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Prime Video] - MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM

My Best Friend's Exorcism review
A teen fears her friend may be possessed by a demon.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Damon Thomas

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Christopher Lowell, Cathy Ang, Rachel Ogechi Kanu, Clayton Royal Johnson

My Best Friend's Exorcism poster

Good horror-comedies are few and far between. The successful ones tend to have one thing in common – they look like horror movies rather than comedies. In the 1930s and '40s, horror-comedies would often be shot on the same sets and with the same crews as straight horror movies. It's far more effective to put Abbot & Costello in a monster movie than to put a monster in an Abbot & Costello movie. The horror-comedy enjoyed a second heyday in the 1980s. I was just a nipper back then, and when I first saw movies like An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead II and Return of the Living Dead, I didn't even think of them as comedies; they were just scary movies that I later realised were also hilarious. Watch any of those movies with the sound down and you know you're watching a horror movie. Too many of today's efforts at combining horror and comedy simply look like comedies, which makes it difficult to take the horror aspect seriously.

My Best Friend's Exorcism review

Directed by Damon Thomas and adapted from a book by Grady Hendrix (who wrote the recent horror-comedy Satanic Panic, a movie that almost pulled off the hybrid), My Best Friend's Exorcism is a horror-comedy that always resembles a teen comedy, even in its most horrific moments. It's set at some point in the mid-1980s - for no apparent reason other than nostalgia and a few catchy pop tunes on the soundtrack – but looks for all the world like a post-Mean Girls teen comedy from the 2000s.

After being miscast in the most recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot, Eighth Grade star Elsie Fisher is given a role more suited to her talents. Once again she's playing a smart but socially awkward high schooler. It's Middle America at some point in the 1980s and life is pretty good for best friends Abby (Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller). The two are inseparable, spending their weekends and evenings either hanging out in each other's bedrooms listening to Culture Club or speaking on the phone. In school they even hold hands while walking through the corridors, which given they attend a Catholic school in 1980s America, seems wildly anachronistic.

My Best Friend's Exorcism review

One Friday night, Abby and Gretchen drop some LSD and venture out into the woods. There they stumble across a deserted cabin, in which they have a vision of what appears to be some sort of demonic creature. The girls put it down to a bad trip, but over the following days Gretchen begins to exhibit strange behaviour. Breaking off her friendship with Abby, Gretchen becomes the meanest of mean girls, exploiting her former friends' weaknesses in the cruelest of fashion. Convinced that Gretchen has been possessed by a demon, Abby appeals for help from the aptly named Christian (Christopher Lowell), a mall performer who integrates Christian teachings with dance moves.

My Best Friend's Exorcism never quite gels its horror and comedy in an organic fashion. Rather we get a few scenes that could be taken from any regular teen comedy, only to be interrupted by a scene of fantastical horror (while never straying visually from its day-glo teen comedy aesthetic). The teen comedy scenes are quite fun, with Fisher playing the sort of role she could probably perform in her sleep. Fisher makes Abby genuinely sympathetic, and we really feel sorry for her when her friend turns to the dark side. Some fun gags are mined through leaning into the political incorrectness of the era, mostly courtesy of a douchebag jock played by Clayton Royal Johnson.

My Best Friend's Exorcism review

The horror moments may play out in Californian sunshine but are surprisingly dark, dealing with relatable teenage fears like having your true sexuality exposed, gaining weight (there's a nice nod to the old urban legend about diet shakes turning into worms in your stomach) and losing your friends. The possessed Gretchen is remarkably evil in this sense, and though nobody is killed they're psychologically wounded in some disturbing ways. Sometimes things get a little too dark for the film to handle, with a subplot involving a possible sexual assault coming off as rather misjudged.

Things run aground in the film's final act, which sees the old exorcism tropes trotted out once again. Despite the interjection of a comic figure in Christian, there's nothing here we haven't seen dozens of times in the decades since William Friedkin's classic. Jaded horror fans who have seen it all will likely be left dissatisfied by My Best Friend's Exorcism, but it may prove a successful sleepover watch for younger teenage girls discovering the delights of the genre.

My Best Friend's Exorcism
 is on Prime Video now.

2022 movie reviews