Ever wonder why so few demonic possession films are made nowadays? Though some of you could probably come up with quite a few reasons, some of which might include the words “suck”, “shitty” and “they bite my o-ring”, the reality is…most filmmakers know there’s no way they’re going to compete with Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Can you blame them? It’s not on every “Greatest Horror Films Ever Made” top ten lists from here to Mozambique for nothing! Though there’s been a few cool attempts and blatant rip-off’s, nothing has made waves.
Several months back we saw the emergence of a new demonic possession film that caused quite a stir. There were whispers that it might be “The One”, the slam-bang demon flick we’d been waiting for…The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It was no big surprise when the film failed to deliver on the hype it had generated.
When I first became aware of The Asylum’s Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers, I automatically assumed it was nothing more than a quickie cash-in. I mean no disrespect to what The Asylum is doing but King of the Lost World’s timing was no coincidence nor is the upcoming When a Killer Calls or Hillside Cannibals. Groan if you must but you’ve gotta admire their work ethic. Not only have The Asylum stepped up to the plate to provide b-movie horror fans regular film releases but their quality has increased by leaps and bounds.
Gail Bowers (Erica Roby) has moved to a new home with her older sister Anne Pederson (Noel Thurman) and her husband Clark (Griff Furst as Brick Firestone) after the death of Gail and Anne’s parents. It’s a rough transition but Anne is determined to see Gail make the most of this new situation. As luck would have it, Gail meets Francie (Rebekah Kochan) a sleazy girl that lives a few doors down. Its obvious Anne doesn’t exactly approve of Francie but Gail is in need of some friendship and they’re soon hanging together, drinking alcohol and playing with an Ouija board. During this Ouija session, some strange shit occurs and Gail calls it a night.
Later that night Gail gets an invisible visitor and the unknown force leads her outside. Anne is awakened by some strange noises and discovers Gail sitting outside in the cold, still fast asleep. This appears to be just the beginning as Gail begins to grow irritable and rude. Soon Gail takes a turn for the worse. She chases Francie away, begins using foul language and even attempts to lure Clark to her drive-thru for a bit o’ beaver burger. Anne and Clark begin to worry that she may need to see a therapist. Clark contacts old college buddy, Dr. Richard Thornhill (David Shick), and has him come visit Gail for an impromptu session. Things go well and Thornhill is just convinced the stress of her parent’s death and the move is to blame. He makes a few suggestions and leaves.
Upon further review of his notes he discovers strange noises and voices on his handheld tape recorder and makes a surprise visit to the Pederson home. After briefly visiting with Gail he comes to the conclusion that Gail may be dealing with far more serious mental health issues. He’s convinced Gail and Anne’s religious upbringing may have some influence in her psychosis and he suggests they look into an exorcist. He believes the theatrics of the ritual may ease Gail’s belief that she’s demonically possessed. Clark isn’t a religious man though and, despite Anne’s protests, he declines the suggestion and “fires” Thornhill. It’s not long before they’re forced to bring her to the hospital for evaluation. The recommendation is simple…commit her. Hesitantly, they bring her home for the night with plans to bring her back the following day. Their plans come screeching to a halt when they find Gail clinging to the ceiling.
An exorcism is, of course, granted and Thornhill is brought back into the picture along with Father Thomas Bates (Thomas Downey). Now retired and blinded from a previous encounter with the very same demon clinging to Gail, he agrees to come out of retirement to do battle with the forces of evil.
So…we’ve got a demon, a girl and a Priest with a vendetta. Sound familiar? Now, before you go crossing this off your “must watch” list do yourself a favor and reconsider. This film was surprisingly good. Fact is…this is The Asylum’s best picture yet! I’m going to catch major shit for saying this but this humble Horror Pimp actually enjoyed this film more than The Exorcism of Emily Rose! Yeah, I said it! Not only were there a couple nice little jump scares in this but the acting was quite good and the dialogue wasn’t half as bad as one might expect from a b-movie.
Erica Roby was excellent as Gail Bowers and I definitely look forward to seeing her in a few more Asylum films. She has a fresh face and a great body. Thomas Downey, an Asylum regular, is always fun as Father Bates. Though he chewed scenes like a VHS player from 1988 and dropped some stiff dialogue, I still enjoyed his work. I’ve actually found myself disappointed when I don’t get to see Downey or Rhett Giles at least once in an Asylum flick!
Now, this film did have its flaws. The use of color filters was a bit much and needed to be more subtle. The colors in this film felt overpowered instead of washed out. I may be wrong on this but it would appear they also used some type of computer program to give the DV footage a grainy effect that gave the movie an almost film-like quality. It did soften the DV images but it occasionally drew your attention from the characters. For some reason it looked as if the grain moved independently of the images in the film. It’s a bit hard to explain. You’ll know when you see it though. One problem I did have with this film was a few scenes that seem to have been snatched right out of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It brought things down a tad for me and only bolstered my opinion that this was released to capitalize. I also noticed the audio was spotty here and there. There was quite a bit of echo and the occasional clatter from the crew. Luckily the film received a wonderful score by Eliza Swenson. It was creepy and atmospheric and probably helped cover quite a bit more noise.
The FX was passable but definitely could have been better. With the recent improvements in The Asylum’s special effects, I was hoping to see a bad ass “look” for Gail but, alas, it was only adequate. She resembled my fiancé in the morning, slathered in an avocado face mask. I tip my hat to director Leigh Scott, this was definitely his best entry yet.