★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Damon Thomas.
A “C” is passing, but it ain’t that great in the scheme of things. It’s just OK. Sometimes it’s from lack of trying, sometimes it’s from a poor teacher, and sometimes the student doesn’t have a lot to work from. In the case of 2022’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, it had great source material, a great story, and the backing of one of the biggest corporations on the planet. So what the hell happened to one of the most anticipated films of 2022?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is based on the stellar 2016 novel from Grady Hendrix, and the 2022 CW-esque film treatment largely follows every last element of the book — almost shockingly so. The real problem with the film is that it couldn’t quite figure out its lane. Horror comedy? True blue demonic possession? In this case, the easiest thing to do when presented with this hazy conundrum? Pick the middle ground — AKA, the CW Network.
The film and book, both set in 1988, follow two of the closest yet distant friends girls could ever have. The nebbish and financially challenged, but academically whip-smart Abby (Elsie Fisher, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and her cool upper-middle class pal, Gretchen (Amiah Miller, Lights Out) are absolutely inseparable. They share nearly everything that the late 1980s has to offer, including LSD.
One fateful girls night out, Abby and Gretchen and their pals Glee and Margaret head out for a lakehouse weekend, replete with the aforementioned LSD. Abby and Gretchen wander blissfully though the woods where they encounter a demonic presence in a very demonic cabin that demonically takes hold of Gretchen.
Now full-on possessed, Gretchen must content with zits, boyfriends, the upcoming dance, and DEMONS! Pesky demons. Eventually Abby smartly reaches out to a Christian-weight-lifting-say-no-to-drugs-outfit for their exorcism knowledge. If you didn’t grow up in the 1980s, trust us, there really was a group called the Power Team, and it was a wild and bloody Christian teen scare event. Think Satanic panic mixed with failed pro wrestlers.
In one of the few bright spots of the film, Abby connects with Christian weightlifting outfit the Lemon Brothers, and in particular, Christian Lemon (Christopher Lowell, GLOW). Lowell brings a real comedic presence to the film with his earnest, but terrified and clumsy attempt to exorcise Gretchen. Had it not been for the comedic beat associated with Lowell trying to fake his way through an exorcism, this film would have fallen mightily.
Which is not to say the film didn’t fall, it most certainly did. It’s bland, barely suited for a series of CW spinoffs, and certainly not worth wasting your time on. While it does get a handful of things right, including many of the 1980s references, designs, and costuming, the book is a far better expenditure of your time. Hendrix’s book is not lost. It’s clear, concise, chilling, and fun. Disappointing that a better film adaptation was not in the cards, but at least it’ll always have a great source material.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is Rated R and currently streaming on Amazon.
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