My Finest Pal’s Exorcism Evaluate: Elsie Fisher Stars in Horror-Comedy

A teenage friendship is examined by Devil in a slumber social gathering riff on “Jennifer’s Physique” that lacks a lot of that cult basic’s depraved chunk.

A slumber social gathering riff on “Jennifer’s Physique” that chews on a number of the similar materials with none of that cult basic’s chunk, highschool horror-comedy “My Finest Pal’s Exorcism” isn’t humorous sufficient to get away with so few real scares, and it isn’t scary sufficient to avoid wasting most of its greatest laughs for the ultimate act (the place they’re laundered by means of one of many solely male characters on this story in regards to the results of misogynistic self-loathing on feminine friendships).

However that alone isn’t motive sufficient to jot down off the 12 months’s first style of Halloween sweet, which regularly advantages from the low expectations of direct-to-streaming content material, and typically — in amusingly surprising methods — manages to exceed them. At any time when I used to be able to dismiss this ’80s throwback as a chunk of distinctly twenty first century filler, Elsie Fisher would instantly faucet into my deepest teenage insecurities, scream “the facility of Boy George compels you!” in an effort to chase a demon out of one other lady’s physique, or step apart to disclose an Arrakis-sized tapeworm crawling out of a classmate’s mouth. That final impact, which is means too gross for it to matter how pretend it seems, presents a becoming metaphor for a film whose nightmarish teenage insecurities are struggling to flee from an underbaked story that simply needs to slot in in your Prime homepage.

Each bit as uncooked and plausible right here as she was in “Eighth Grade” (regardless that the fabric is significantly much less so), Fisher performs Abby, a Jewish scholarship pupil at a fancy Catholic college in a type of basic suburban cities that slasher films helped to invent. Abby has unhealthy pores and skin and a mop of brown hair that she hasn’t fairly found out what to do with, however she additionally has probably the most great finest pal somebody like her might ever think about. Blonde, wealthy, and WASPy as hell, Gretchen (Amiah Miller, displaying flashes of a younger Amanda Seyfried) would normally be the imply lady in a film like this — a task that Miller leans into with relish after her character is possessed by considered one of Devil’s oldest legionnaires — however she’s adorably ride-or-die for her BFF Abby in a means that neither of them take as a right.

Regardless of the faults of Jenna Lamia’s script, which she tailored from horror fiend Grady Hendrix’s novel of the identical title, it crucially acknowledges how uncommon it was to seek out such mutually supportive friendship at a time when tradition was so decided to pit younger ladies in opposition to one another ({a magazine} quiz that Abby and Gretchen take collectively appears designed to go away them jealous and paranoid). These ladies maintain palms at college — laughing off the each day barrage of homosexual jokes — converse in pig latin when nobody’s listening, and look out for one another with such protectiveness that different potential outcasts are naturally drawn into their group of pals (together with a closeted Asian lady named Glee and a body-conscious Black pupil named Margaret, performed by Cathy Ang and Rachel Ogechi Kanu, respectively).

Tiffany is the most important factor to occur to malls because the escalator, evangelical Christianity is creeping into the mainstream, and ethical conservatism is so en vogue that anybody who even thinks about swimming in opposition to the tides is branded as a freak of nature. Director Damon Thomas solely rigs up a small handful of jump-scares, but it surely’s no shock that the primary (and only) of all of them finds somebody leaping on the digicam in a Reagan masks. For sure, these ladies want one another.

However all the things begins to unravel when an evening at Gretchen’s lake home ends with some weak LSD and — unbeknownst to anybody else — the host being possessed by a demon. Abby initially assumes that Gretchen is mad at her as a result of she ran away when issues obtained chaotic (an argument that doesn’t maintain practically sufficient weight for the entire emotion this film asks it to hold), however her suspicions develop extra extreme as Gretchen’s signs worsen. Not solely is her finest pal instantly merciless and sullen, however she projectile vomits throughout the desk at lunch and refuses to bathe regardless of how unhealthy she reeks.

Additionally, one of many tacky Christian bodybuilders who involves carry out at their college (“carry yourselves up for the lord!”) seems at Gretchen as if he’s seen the satan itself. He’s performed by “Glow” star Christopher Lowell — reliably humorous regardless of fumbling out and in of a movie that errors comedic reduction for tonal stability — and the worry that Abby sees in his eyes is what lastly convinces her to contemplate a supernatural rationalization for what she had assumed to be the aftershocks of a sexual assault.

“My Finest Pal’s Exorcism” fumbles that transition virtually as poorly because it does the demon’s final reveal, because the troublesome scenes of Abby grappling with such real-world horrors are unsupported by a narrative that doesn’t have the abdomen to reckon with them. A scene by which Gretchen describes her nightly battle with the demon — who comes into her bed room, sits on her abdomen, and searches for a means into her pores and skin — is as harrowing as it’s misplaced in a film that hints at a level of trauma it could fairly dilute than discover.

There’s one thing indivisibly trustworthy to the best way that Abby’s issues eat away at her friendships — no one needs to give up their hard-won happiness — however there’s additionally one thing undeniably facile to the best way that “My Finest Pal’s Exorcism” pivots from overtures of rape to an array of Regina George-level antics (if the films have taught me something, it’s that you need to by no means mess with any sort of protein bars or shakes {that a} blonde highschool lady says she imported from Scandinavia). The movie’s topic would appear to set the desk for some extra unsparing (and/or grownup) coming-of-age scares, and its forged is actually up for the problem, however Lamia and Thomas ease off the gasoline each time issues get too heavy, utilizing humor to undercut the horror the place a extra assured movie would possibly use it to sharpen its enamel.

And so issues wind up with a whimper of a 3rd act, full with a Dobby-ass demon who wouldn’t scare a kindergartener and an abject lack of emotional follow-through on any of the movie’s varied subplots. There are flashes of a significantly better film all through “My Finest Pal’s Exorcism,” however the one we get simply isn’t self-possessed sufficient to carry onto them for lengthy.

Grade: C

“My Finest Pal’s Exorcism” is now streaming on Prime Video.

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