My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) Offers Middling Demonic Scares
Title: My Best Friend’s Exorcism
First Non-Festival Release: September 30, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms, etc)
Director: Damon Thomas
Writer: Jenna Lamia, Grady Hendrix
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Christopher Lowell
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A benign trip to a friend’s lake house turns into something terrifying when Abby’s (Elsie Fischer) best friend Gretchen (Amiah Miller) gets possessed by a powerful demon after taking LSD and playing with a ouija board. Not present during the attack, Abby is concerned for Gretchen due to her recently erratic behavior. Her once put-together friend is wasting away in front of her. It’s not long before Gretchen surrenders to the demon and begins lashing out at all her friends, essentially isolating her. With all her bridges burning around her, Abby must find a way to save her best friend before it is too late.
Tonal inconsistencies and poor writing makes demonic teen horror comedy My Best Friend’s Exorcism fall flat.
Pacing kills My Best Friend’s Exorcism before it can get started. A rushed first act bleeds into a meandering second before culminating in a tension-less finale that lacks the grit or comedy it believes it has. By the time it concludes, it provides a solution that does not earn the ending it gets. The struggle is barely fought for, and the characters learn next to nothing about their experiences. The sense of stasis makes it hard to invest in the characters when it is clear little development will factor in their journey, positively or otherwise.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism depends on the central relationship of Abby and Gretchen to establish a sense of danger and drama. Unfortunately, the two hardly get much screentime together to sell that dynamic. It’s clear that they care about each other, but it feels shallow in the writing. Had the film flipped its script a little and took time from its plodding exorcism scenes in the back half to give the two more time to shine pre-demonic entity, there would be a greater sense of urgency and authenticity.
The entire way through, it feels like none of the actors are taking the film seriously or having fun with it. It’s almost like the leads are trying their best not to break character while riffing the stiff dialogue or enduring the wacky stunts. The film also straddles a weird line between horror and comedy that never fully commits to either and shapes itself into something bland and amorphous. This is only amplified by the noncommittal performances from its teenage cast.
The film takes place in 1988 but everything about it feels modern, from the dialogue to the setting and even the responses from the characters. It’s clear some aspects are meant to lambast Regan's America, such as the overly religious parents, the intense fear of drugs, and the general abrasiveness of most characters, but it reads as a modern interpretation of the time instead of a true period piece. Ill placed needle drops pander more than they support the themes of the film and the costuming leaves much to be desired.
Despite its disappointments, My Best Friend’s Exorcism isn’t without its merit. A few scenes toe the line of laugh out loud comedy and it even has a solid scare dropped here and there. There’s a clear sense of vision behind the film, otherwise these little moments would not be as effective. The various locations employed for the film make for nice juxtapositions for the demonic presence to raise hell: a Catholic school, sprawling suburban neighborhoods, quaint lake houses. It works well with the messaging behind drugs and rape that the film is postulating.
While not the worst exorcism film out there, My Best Friend’s Exorcism suffers from its painfully average setup and payoff. The comedy rarely lands, and the horror barely affects, which doesn’t make for a winning combination in a film that can only offer, in remainder, trite teenage melodrama. Inauthentic characterization and puzzling worldbuilding makes this teen horror a chore to sit through despite its solid cast and production values. Those who read the book might be interested in this one, but for all others curious there might be better demonic ventures to get your thrills.
Overall Score? 5/10