Director: Damien LaVeck
Starring: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Chris Lew Kum Hoi. USA. 1h 34m
I specifically watched this feature as it had such a low rating, generally it seemed to have been panned by critics and a lot of the horror community seem to find it laughable but I really enjoyed the film, it has a lot of qualities that crop up in some of the darker classics, a strong story, a few cheesy laughs, and a dedication in making a film thrilling fun, it’s bold, occasionally charred and gory and providing you switch off a little it’s really entertaining… or at least I think so.
It starts with a kicking exorcism, blood, fire, vomit and Latin being spewed all over the place, it’s dramatic and very satanic, but a hero priest doesn’t give up on the innocent soul being possessed and battles until the bitter end and is triumphant. But as the scene closes, so does the show! It turns out that we have been watching The Cleansing Hour, a weekly web show in which Max (Guzman) turns up and exorcises some random unfortunate soul, but never fear as he has Instagram and twitter, hundreds of thousands of followers and merch for his dedicated following. The reason the exorcism was so brilliant is that it was crafted to be so, behind the scenes we witness his team conjuring special effects and theatrics, this charlatan is nothing but a stage performer, and after filming he spends the nights drinking, singing terrible karaoke and partying with random fangirls, so priestly.
So what could possibly go wrong with this near perfect hoax? Max and Drew have everything under control, with a phone book of interesting people to pretend to be exorcised, fame and fortune are easily obtained. Until.. They face a real exorcism and one very clever demonic force!
As things start to go awry it’s up to the audience to really spot the satanic influence, crew members staring at pictures of the virgin mary like Ray staring at painting of Vigo in Ghostbusters 2 (1989), a transvestite who has been cast to pay the next possessed character is attacked by a disjoined homeless man but Max is oblivious that he’s being line up in a demonic chess match.
After finding a substitute to play the victim, filming begins, and a real demon gets involved and Max and his nearest and dearest have to battle for real. Drew (Gallner) is the researcher/brains of the operation but the demon involved has all those little tricks that we’re familiar with like foresight, knowledge of the unknown and is able to create a lot of devious tricks, a man with flame tattoos suddenly bursts into a fireball when they try to put him out the extinguisher only blasts more flame, the tables are stacked against them as this cruel laughing foe taunts and tortures them with humiliating tasks as it hold them hostage and enjoys being a co host on their live webcast.
Damien LaVeck has crafted a really juicy feature from his 2016 short film that narrates a really interesting story of truth and redemption, studded with great performances especially from , but what really piqued my attention is the special effects, they hit hard at the right time and are particularly gory and cruel going back to the old school horror when effects were supposed to gross people out and they succeed while looking so putrid and glorious.
Despite the bloodshed and sinew the film is more hard to watch than being a genuine horror the repercussions of what is really happening isn’t presented in a way to really keep anyone up at night but it’s still chilling. From time to time there’s a touch of comedy, for me it’s something more in the vein of Evil Dead, at some point the demon looks into the camera and almost says “Like and Subscribe” to the people following the show while Max is naked and stumbling around in broken glass.
The Cleansing Hour doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a straightforward horror movie, it’s clever, laced with humor and quips to legendary horror from the past and just awesome to kick back to, categorically one for the nostalgic horror crowd.
Related: Host (2020), The Exorcism of Molly Hartley (2015), Dwellers the curse of Pastor Stokes (2020), Vatican Tapes (2015), Devils Diary (2007), Borderlands (2013), The Devil’s Doorway (2018)
Lists: A – Z of exorcism movies, Hero Priests