Even though I grew up Christian, none of the religious horror movies ever really scared me that much. I think Rosemary’s Baby is pretty much the most boring, unintentionally goofy horror films and I know I lose a lot of credit with big movie nerds because of it. Similarly, while I think The Exorcist is a very well done movie, the idea of possession just isn’t something that generally fills me with chills. What intrigued me about the premise of a movie that takes place immediately post-possession, as this one does, is that I hadn’t ever really given much thought to it.
The movie starts mid-exorcism as Ava is tied to a bed. Then we get the fallout of what happened while she had been under demonic possession. She has to deal with what she did to her family, her friends, and to society at large because she is charged with multiple accounts of assault, public indecency, and so on. In order to avoid jail time, she attends mandatory meetings funded by the church for those that have been possessed. Like a Demon AA. When Ava starts to confront what happened during that time, she realizes that something terrible might have happened because of her and she begins to dig into the mystery. All the while she must deal with her the fallout of her experience both from those she hurt and in her own head.
More than a horror film, this is really a mystery comedy that has possession instead of amnesia or, much more to the point of a lot of themes in the movie, drugs/drinking that would cause blacking out and not remembering what happened. The entire beginning of the film where she is confronted with what happened while possessed is probably the most compelling part. The idea that there would be severe consequences for what happened even when you weren’t in control of your body was sad to see for the main character since she has to deal with the fallout of what was, essentially, someone else’s action. There’s also this pervasive need for answers not just to the mystery of what happened but why it happened as well. Was this random or was it karmic justice for some immorality beforehand?
The underlying theme to the movie is the dangers of addiction and drug abuse. There are some obvious things like having to go to Spirit Possession Anonymous but the best representation is one of the people she meets there. Ava makes friends with Jillian, a girl that is obsessed with the idea of trying to get her demon back. With Ava’s help, she manages to get repossessed and once she comes down (is exorcised), she tells Ava about how good it feels and she felt so much more powerful and she would do anything to get it back again. Coupled with the whole blackout thing I mentioned earlier and the fact that the way to finish SPA is to literally defeat your inner demons; it’s very clearly a roundabout, lighthearted way to tackle the subject of addiction.
While I didn’t dislike the film, it wasn’t compelling in any of its different genres. Not scary enough to be horror, not funny enough to be comedy, and the mystery was fairly blatantly obvious by about 1/3 of the way through. I’ll give the movie a 2.5 out of 5 for being fairly clever and subtle in the theme most of the time even if it wasn’t amazing in execution. Plus, hey, Carol Kane is in it for a hot minute.
Favorite thing in the movie: Her dad asking her if she was back on the marijuana because “it’s a gateway drug” was a pretty damn good line.
Least favorite thing: The end of the movie is weird because it makes it seem like we get a big reveal that I thought was exceedingly obvious. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. It just felt like the movie went on for about 5 minutes too long just for a reveal that didn’t remotely matter.