★★★ out of ★★★★★
This possession shocker is as all over the map as its three globetrotting vlogger protagonists, which is part of its fun.
Directed by Jérôme Cohen-Olivar
The 16th Episode is a fright fare offering that jumps all over the place and shifts tones throughout, but is always entertaining. Formerly known as Little Horror Movie, writer/director Jérôme Cohen-Olivar’s film combines cinema vérité/found footage style shooting with more traditional cinematography to tell the story of three twenty-something YouTube travel vloggers who find themselves in deadly supernatural circumstances when they go to Morocco.
Vlog host Helen (Rebecca Ramon), cameraman Mark (Cody Heuer) and soundman Einar (Einar Kuusk) travel the world in search of risky adventures and high numbers for their YouTube channel. When they travel to Morocco, a guide invites them to a relative’s wedding, which turns out to be a satanic ritual meant to make Helen possessed by a demon. After some information dumps including how Helen was also possessed as a child, she goes on a vicious rampage against her two colleagues, until a subplot about their AirBnb host Mrs. Frangier (Rosine Young) begins and Helen disappears until the third act.
And what a third act it is! Loopy, goopy, and delirious, right up until the rather toned-down climax. Without spoiling things, suffice it to say that the third act goes places the earlier parts of the film didn’t, with devilishly delightful results, and Young gets to shine as Mrs. Frangier.
The 16th Episode’s efforts at being meta are grating, with lines about how found footage is dead, occurrences being like the start of a horror movie, characters asking each other what they would do if they were in a situation like this in a horror movie, and so on. Also annoying is the adherence at the beginning of the film to the current clichéd trend of having the main characters argue with each other to the point of coming across as wholly unappealing. Thankfully, this gets resolved later in the film, but not without a self-aware reference to character arcs.
Cohen-Olivar attempts to skewer the vainness of YouTubers and the thirst for violence and misfortune that some YouTube viewers have, but that seems all but forgotten for a while once the possession angle starts. His direction of the horror and suspense scenes is skillful, though, which helps balance things out.
Despite the aforementioned flaws, there are good reasons to give The 16th Episode a watch. Solid direction that overcomes the sometimes scattershot plotting and occasionally corny dialogue, performances from a cast that certainly seems to be enjoying themselves, and that manic third act are three of those reasons. There’s fun to be had here, with some engaging set pieces on tap, and Cohen-Olivar and company are not shy about splattering the red stuff.
Gravitas Ventures will release The 16th Episode in theaters, on demand, and on digital on June 28.