When a crew of young filmmakers shoots a horror movie in an abandoned house where, almost fifty years earlier, an exorcism took place… well… you can guess the results won’t be good. Blood spatters, ancient evil is awakened, and not even God knows if any of them will survive the night.

As it turns out, the film-within-this-film’s director Rob (Alex Rendall) inadvertently set up problems for himself before the shoot even began. As the intertitles at the beginning of ‘Exorcism’ tell us “Kate, originally cast as the lead actress, dabbled in the black arts” and when she finds out she has been replaced by Rob’s pretty new protege Ash (Aisling Knight) she places a curse on the whole affair – cue Kate (Elise Harris) staring into a bathroom mirror with the lights off and candles flickering, muttering sinister incantations under her breath.

Once they all reach the house it doesn’t take long for the screaming to start, possessed writhing to begin, and all the usual boxes to get ticked: the mention of 666 that prompts a hissing sound which (according to the intertitles) “was only audible when [the found footage] was enhanced”, the gormless crewmember who tries to spook everyone up with a creepy haunted house story (he’ll pay for that later), weird noises picked up by the boom-mike, unexplained audio dropouts, Ouija truth or dare (really?), self-mutilation and growly demon noises, a lot of hysterical running around and dead people telling alive people that they’re going to die. My favourite part is when Phil (Rick Alancroft), who plays an actor who’s playing the part of a priest, tries to exorcise the demon by reading the ritual that is written in his script while waving a prop crucifix and spraying prop-Holy water which, surprisingly (albeit briefly) appears to work. It’s actually kind of Meta (I’ve been waiting so long to use that word in a review).

But seriously, what’s the film like?

Let’s start with the negatives: found footage movies stopped being a good idea a long time ago. Yes, they’re probably cheaper and easier to make and all that bouncy camera-POV can make an audience feel queasy even if the gore-effects don’t, but unless the director and writer have got some very smart tricks up their sleeve, we’ve all seen it too many times before. Found footage is shorthand for ‘We’ve got no budget, we’ve got no ideas, we’ve got no technical skills but we want to make a movie’ which is fantastic if the movie you make is kept to yourself and not let out to waste anybody else’s time. Unfortunately, the ‘keeping it to yourself’ part tends not to happen.

But having said that, here’s where I surprise myself and admit something I’ll probably go to Hell for:

‘Exorcism’, despite being everything I usually hate in a found footage film including chaotic direction, horrible sub-‘Paranormal Activity’ writing, worse-than-usual special FX and with a cast that aren’t especially good actors (although, in one or two cases, they probably could be if they had a better script) is… deep breath… a lot of fun to watch. It also includes one unexpected moment that made jump in a very tiny way which, I’ll be honest, is one very tiny jump more than most bigger-budget horror films have squeezed out of me over the past year. And (I apologise to writer / director / producer Lance Patrick and his cast if this sounds patronising, I don’t mean it to be) the enthusiasm of the actors is so infectious, and the pace (and running time) of the film so rapid, that it makes up for a lot of the movie’s many weaknesses.

I just wish Lance Patrick and his team had proofed some of the intertitle cards before the film was released: “There was not explanation for them to do this” and “only mean’t to be read by a man of the cloth” are small but annoying mistakes that smack of producers who – if they didn’t pick up on errors as basic as that, did they actually watch this final cut after it was finished?

Oh, and the black-screen opening with the soundtrack that creeped me out because it reminded me of the famous ‘Anneliese Michel’ recording was a nice touch.

Don’t go into ‘Exorcism’ expecting much… or anything at all… but switch your brain off, disconnect your “oh come on! you must be kidding me!” default setting and, who knows, you might enjoy it as much as I did.

DVD Review: Exorcism
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white