Movie Review: The Cleansing Hour

I preface this review as I do with all others by stating I am not a professional movie critic; I do not get paid for that. I am simply a professional writer and an avid movie enthusiast.

So I found myself with a rare bit of free time this weekend and decided to check out a movie that had caught my eye, recommended by Alec Gillis, an Oscar nominated creature and MU FX Designer. If you’ve never seen his work, which I am certain you have, check him out, as he is a brilliant talent. At his urging and promotion, I checked out The Cleansing Hour.

The Cleansing Hour is a 2019 horror film directed by Damien LeVeck. The movie is a feature length adaptation of a short film by the same name that LeVeck released in 2016. After success at several film festivals, it was released to the horror movie streaming service “Shudder” in 2020.

The movie is about a live show, streamed on social media platforms that stages exorcisms. When a guest, scheduled to appear on the show, does not arrive, the show’s director/producer talks his girlfriend, Lane, into playing the part of the troubled and demon-possessed girl on the show. The show’s star is Father Max, a lone-wolf exorcist who performs the exorcisms on the guests. He is, of course, a fraud and everything is staged and done in the quest for vanity and celebrity on social media.

This particular show, however, doesn’t follow script and when the faux priest goes through his rites of exorcism, the crew realizes quickly that something is very wrong with Sabrina and not only is she not acting a part, but the script is being driven by a darker force and this show is not actually “staged.”

In an overdone subgenre of horror, theological horror, this movie is quite refreshing. I must admit that as a writer of theological thrillers, I expected this to be a lame attempt to parade a film inspired by The Exorcist as so many others have tried. While it did take a few minutes to get into the first act, it finally caught traction and took off. It is a well-conceived story with some different twists and wrinkles than we see in other possession movies in this subgenre, and it has its own originality to the plot trail.

While I thought the third act was lacking in the physical presentation of the final antagonist, the writing remained true to the original story and concept and, while it was a “scary” film, it was certainly entertaining and had some jump moments. The acting was not terrible and the main character, Father Max, was made to be just enough of an arrogant ass to not feel sorry for him but also just likeable enough for the audience to pull for him. Alix Angelis, who played Lane/Sabrina, stole the show for me. One of the most important characters in this genre is the possessed victim, who has to play two roles and Ms Angelis was excellent in her performance.

Underlying the plot is the revelation of how impoRtant celebrity has become to people on social media, chasing validation and verification of their popularity.

I would recommend this film to any horror fans who have a taste for the possession type movies.

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