Review by Sean Boelman
In this new virtual world in which we live, it is possible for people to become celebrities and make a living off of just their charisma and online persona. Damien LeVeck’s satirical new horror film The Cleansing Hour pokes fun at that trend, and thanks to a wicked sense of humor, manages to be enjoyable despite its predictability.
The movie follows an online streamer who poses as a priest, staging fake exorcisms with the help of his producer/best friend, as they find themselves in over their heads when a real demon possesses one of their actors. It’s nothing new for the genre for fake experts in the occult to be challenged by “real” dark forces, so the film doesn’t have originality on its side.
And the commentary in the script by LeVeck and Aaron Horwitz isn’t anything particularly new either. Much of the dialogue is very on-the-nose. “If you mess with the bull, eventually you’ll get the horns.” says the antagonist through the distorted voice of its vessel. The message about not taking advantage of people is painfully obvious as well.
Still, there’s enough terror here to satisfy horror fans, and plenty of wit to make it enjoyable for those less interested in cheap thrills. There are a handful of really solid moments in the movie which deliver on the scares, but LeVeck’s presentation of them is a bit straightforward. If these scenes had been executed as creatively as they are written, the film would have been truly disturbing.
Some of the issues in the execution, such as mediocre and cheap-looking CGI, can be forgiven due to the fact that this is an independent, low-budget production. Others, like less than stellar sound mixing and underuse of the minimal sets, are things that could have been fixed much more easily.
The character development is also lacking. The secondary conflict involves the friendship between the two leads starting to deteriorate. And while we are told several times through the dialogue that they are longtime best friends, we aren’t given much of a reason to believe it, so by the time the movie reaches its climax, it feels like melodrama.
That said, the actors do a solid job in their roles. Ryan Guzman embodies the arrogance of his leading role extremely well. Kyle Gallner is definitely very charming and likable, bringing a lot of emotion and empathy to a disappointingly shallow character. Alix Angelis’s heavily physical performance is noteworthy as well.
The Cleansing Hour isn’t anything particularly fresh or unique, but it’s a lot more entertaining than it could have been. As a B-movie that clocks in at a little over ninety minutes, it wouldn’t be a bad addition to the spooky festivities of the month.
The Cleansing Hour streams on Shudder beginning October 8.