Teenage drama seems to never go out of business. The genre has been thriving since the early 80s, and it hasn’t stopped. Following the lives, pleasures, and tragedies of teenagers seems to be addicting for countless members of today’s audiences. It isn’t a surprise. We were all teenagers at some point in our lives, and watching those kinds of stories makes us go back to simpler and better times. At least for some. Because for some others being a teenager is an absolute nightmare. My Best Friend’s Exorcism, the new Amazon film of the week, tries to translate that into reality. Let’s review it.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a film directed by Damon Thomas and written by Jenna Lamia. The film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Christopher Lowell, and Cathy Ang. The film tells the story of two friends, Abby and Gretchen, as they try to survive their high school experience. The two are very close, and they promise to be friends forever. However, things take a dark turn when Gretchen gets possessed by a demon, and then she starts dismantling the lives of everyone around her. Can Abby save her friend from hell?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is very much a standard teenage drama with just some horror elements here and there. As the movie progresses, those elements become more prevalent, but it never manages to become a full-on horror film. The movie arrives in time for the Halloween season, but it might be barking at the wrong crowd, as people are looking for purer horror offerings during this time of the year. Yes, it will surely find its audience, but the movie doesn’t really have anything that makes it stand out from the countless other movies we have seen before.
There is a bit of exploration when it comes to comparing demonic possession with rape. The comparison isn’t anything new, other movies have explored the same instance before, but it still remains an interesting comparison. One is the desecration of the flesh and another one is the desecration of the soul. Both of them are horrific experiences, and the fact that the movie at least manages to go into that territory should be applauded.
However, the main body of the film is dedicated to exploring more mundane stuff. These are the kinds of subjects we see all the time in teen dramas. Boyfriends, girlfriends, betrayals, and such. The normal stuff you see in a coming-of-age story. This is fine, but sadly, the characters themselves are not that interesting. So when the movie tries to go deeper, which it does try, you might find that it is hard to get interested because none of the characters are particularly likable.
The fault falls mainly on the writing, but the actors are also a bit weak. Elsie Fisher made a splash when she starred in Eighth Grade as an awkward girl during her transition between a child and a teenager. However, now that she has had the chance to star in other movies and now that she is older, it might be that Fisher isn’t a very good performer at all. She walks through the movie without releasing any sort of emotion that feels real. She is still as awkward in this as she was in Eighth Grade. The characters are different, but it seems like Fisher’s range is quite small.
At least the filmmaker team from behind the scenes manages to present a very solid if flawed movie. There aren’t any surprises at all, thanks to a script that needs to fall every time into the most cliché plot points. For once, it would be interesting to see a horror movie where people behave like people and not like plot devices. Every single character outside of Abby and Gretchen behaves in such a way that their sole purpose is to be enablers of the plot and nothing else.
The cinematography sometimes goes to interesting places, and the choice of shots, combined with solid production values, helps to sell the 80s setting. However, the movie also falls too much into the nostalgia bait that has served so much for other shows and movies. We know Stranger Things is a huge hit, but that show is big not because it throws 80s songs or references at every chance they get. The show is big because people got attached to the characters and the universe. These are elements that My Best Friend’s Exorcism simply lacks.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism isn’t particularly funny, either. Part of the marketing for the movie tried to sell it as such. This is not the movie’s fault at all, but it is best if expectations are set correctly. This is very much a teen drama horror. It tackles some very serious issues, and none of them are treated as a joke.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism might be good enough for a single viewing, but the characters are quite weak, and so it might be that the movie will be quickly forgotten after its release. It is hard to stand out nowadays with such fierce competition coming from everywhere, but if this is the best some streaming services can deliver, don’t be surprised if people start churning without notice.