Exeter Review: An Excellent Day for an Exorcism

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From the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious; and created by the director of Friday the 13th and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they deliver Exeter.  “The Exeter school for the feebleminded… The facility’s original purpose was to rehabilitate mentally challenged children. Exeter was not a place where young people found help, but was a place where they were discarded and destroyed.” – A voiceover message straight from the Exeter trailer and the opening scenes of the film sets the tone of what’s to be expected from the plot. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel as if the film was as scary as the backstory. When you begin to believe that the backstory would have made a much better movie, then you have to wonder why that movie wasn’t made. 

Teens dabble in the occult and one of them becomes possessed. They attempt a DYI exorcism but find that they’re dealing with a malicious spirit that they can’t seem to shake. Instead of being a serious horror film like the opening would have you longing for, this was an afterparty plot gone wrong as if Dazed and Confused stepped into the horror genre. However, I will admit that some of the dialogue has good messages weaved into it. There’s one conversation about whether the occult and rituals really work or not and Brian (Nick Nicotera) says, “When you believe in something enough it affects you physically.” In real life your beliefs can often cure you or make you sicker. Without missing a beat Reign (Brittany Curran) replies, “Let’s do it!” Of course we find later that Reign had a hidden agenda for wanting to partake in a ritual. While I don’t know a lot about the occult yet, and I haven’t personally been with a group of people that have tried to call upon powers to assist someone in levitation, I have to believe that the writer and director may not have known much about it either.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 2.29.31 AMThe force to be reckoned with type of scenario that follows the so called ritual just doesn’t seem to add up to me. It wasn’t some kind of seance or ouija board game that was being fooled around with, and I’m fairly certain that I’ve participated in darker rituals than this without any blowback. I know, it’s a movie, right? I guess I’m just a stickler for research and while I knew that there were going to be moments where I was let down, I was really hoping for a tighter plot and for it all to make perfect sense. They did try to cover their asses by explaining things to us (the audience) with their super quick and more than convenient web searching skills via smartphones and tablets that became more of a focus than I would have liked. I try to put myself into their situation as a film viewer because I want them to be successful, I want them to take me on a twisted journey. I want them to deliver what the trailer sold to me, which brings me to another complaint altogether: The dark-toned voiceover that explains the history of the Exeter school leads us to believe that the history of the feebleminded children who were destroyed would have more influence on the plot.  Yeah, there is something relevant that happened at that location but the director and writer had done a very poor job tying it all together. While the demonic makeup and sound effects were done well, I still have to note that I’m not a huge fan of cliche possession scenes, which this film had more than enough of.

Don’t get me wrong, when you scroll through the choices of horror films that have recently been made, Exeter is a lot better than most of them. The idea and concept of a great story is there, I just believe that they could have connected the dots a lot better. The film should have had at least three more rewrites before going in the oven because they may have had a decent recipe but the plot was still missing some ingredients. There were a few pretty brutal scenes that saved the dish from being tossed to the side. For me, I think to have made this good film a great film it should have either leaned more towards the comical side (Zombieland, Tucker and Dale vs Evil etc) 0r if they wanted to be more serious about it, it had potential to go balls out and could have been better than the Evil Dead remake. They just didn’t research enough to make it more believable, and some of the moments were too easily earned. The situation these kids got themselves into was in perfect alignment for a solid horror idea, had the writing been there to support their performances it could have become a film on my favorites list. I really felt like the backstory should have been brought to the front a little more, or like I said before, maybe it should have been the actual movie.

I know it sounds like I had a lot of negative feedback but before renting the new Poltergeist, It Follows or Unfriended – rent Exeter, it’s a much better choice. If you’re looking for something to watch this week I also recommend seeing Wer, As Above So Below, The Midnight Meat Train or The Reef (2010 horror film, not the cartoon). Lately I find that most horror films have become cookie cutter cliche horror that’s striking out in my opinion. Many of the good films are missing out on being a great film by having plot holes or having a horrible ending that just doesn’t work well enough. It has been a long time since I’ve seen something that stuck in my mind after viewing it. When will real horror come back to the screen?

 

Until next time…