Review by Cole Groth
For better or worse, Netflix's Stranger Things has changed the course of coming-of-age horror for the foreseeable future. The '80s are hot right now, and My Best Friend's Exorcism leans so heavily into the synth-y style of this era, ending up feeling like a tired series of tropes with some solid coming-of-age action. Led by an admirable duo in Elsie Fisher and Amigh Miller, this film, based on the 2016 novel by Grady Hendrix, hits a series of predictable moments to get to a rather satisfying story of true
My Best Friend's Exorcism is about friendship, first and foremost. At the film's core, we follow two girls who seem like they should be diametrically opposed, but manage to stick through thick and thin for each other. A key issue with this film is that it simply doesn't do a good enough job justifying their friendship. We don't get to see why they became friends, and their relationship seems rather thin on the surface level. Their bond increases as the plot moves forward, and it's a solid
friendship by the end. However, marketing the entire film around these two people who aren't that close of friends seems like a major misfire.
The characters surrounding the leading duo aren't much better. Everybody feels so disconnected from each other that each interaction feels manufactured rather than genuine. Instead of investing in complex characters, the director, Damon Thomas, decided to fill these gaps with '80s songs and hairstyles. The archetypes that he chooses not to flesh out aren't inherently a problem because they work pretty well as generic characters, and most of the time is spent on Abby (Fisher) anyways, so it's negligible to some extent.
As a horror film, this one works pretty well. If you aren't that good with horror, this might be the film for you. Thomas doesn't cheaply abuse jump scares to jump up the fright, so you'll find more disturbing content and lots and lots of projectile vomiting. The demon that takes over Gretchen's body isn't as evil as he is mischievous. This is where
the comedic element of the film comes into play, which is just strong enough to keep the story moving forward. At a brisk runtime of 96 minutes, each joke only serves to keep the film from feeling like a total mess.
Most of the film is set up for the exorcism, which takes place near the end. Without delving into spoiler territory, I can say this is the scene that carries the movie. It's disappointing that so much of the film is spent on rather meaningless bonding scenes when Thomas clearly could've focused on the intense, scary, and hilarious penultimate scenes. Here, Chris Lowell steals the show as a goofy, over-the-
top Christian preacher/singer combination. The stakes don't feel particularly high, even after all the set-up, so while this remains the film's highlight, it comes at the expense of the rest of the story.
My Best Friend's Exorcism is a mixed bag of a comedy/horror film. The coming-of-age elements feel surface level, the comedy is only great toward the end, and the horror isn't all that scary, but it all weirdly works as a better sum than its weirder, grosser parts. If you love B-Tier horror schlock, Elsie Fisher, or the 80s, you might enjoy this strange film.
My Best Friend's Exorcism releases exclusively on Amazon Prime starting September 30th.
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