Contributed by Guest Writer, Gorey Bits
80’s nostalgia is the absolute best. It’s like a powerful and addictive drug. It puts you on such an amazing high, only to leave you wanting more. Between programs like Stranger Things, the In Search of Darkness series and the upcoming film Murdercise, 80’s nostalgia continues to grow in popularity. Like “true crime” but much less annoying. The film I’m reviewing for you today is the perfect embodiment of this excessively colorful decade. That film is My Best Friend’s Exorcism.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is based on the bestselling book by Grady Hendrix. Taking place in the radical year of 1988, My Best Friends Exorcism focuses on two teenagers named Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller). These South Carolinian sophomores spend the night at cabin with a group of friends. The evening turns sour when LSD is thrown into the mix, and Gretchen encounters an unknown presence. Later, Gretchen begins to act strange in school, leaving her best friend Abby to investigate why Gretchen has turned to the dark side. Can the power of friendship triumph over the forces of evil?
Before I get to my thoughts on the movie, I have a confession to make: I’ve never read the book. With this written review I won’t be getting into specifics on what the differences are between the book and the film, but I will be giving you my thoughts on what I just watched. My Best Friend’s Exorcism (the film) is surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because I was a little skeptical going into it. Watching the film’s trailer gave me Jennifer’s Body vibes. Thankfully, this isn’t that. I will admit however that parts of the movie are a little corny for my taste.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is what you would get if you took a John Hughes movie and gave it a William Peter Blatty remix. It’s a comedic teenage drama with elements of horror… and projectile vomit. Let’s be honest: going to school every day was a scary experience. We had to deal with bullies, homework and having to watch our friends change personalities overnight. Come to think of it, this movie captures that authentic high school experience. I wasn’t a student in the 80’s, so I can only imagine what the horrors of Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs must’ve been like. My Best Friend’s Exorcism makes plenty of heavy handed references to the time period without beating you over the head with social commentary.
What I love most about My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the attention to detail. Between the product placements, the dialog and awesome soundtrack, this genuinely looks and feels like the 1980’s. The movie has a well balanced blend of humor and heart throughout. The elements of horror present in the story feel like a “greatest hits” version of an exorcist movie. There’s even some nods to classic horror films such as Raimi’s The Evil Dead. The goal of this movie is not to break new ground, but to entertain. It succeeds on that front, because I left the film satisfied.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism has a great cast. I enjoyed each of the characters because they all felt real and different from one another. The chemistry between Elsie Fisher (Abby) and Elsie Fisher (Gretchen) is incredible. Their onscreen friendship is the heart and soul of this movie. When you combine their chemistry with the likes of Rachel Ogechi Kanu (Margaret) and Cathy Ang (Glee), this diverse group of friends gives the film charm; even when the story isn’t kind to their characters. Christopher Lowell, who I recognize most from Glow and Veronica Mars, plays a character named Christian Lemon. Christian is apart of a religious body building troupe, and (to me) that’s where most of the comedy works. Watching Christopher Lowell in anything is always a pleasure.
The most horrific thing about My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the level of bullying. There’s a sequence of events where Gretchen (haunted by this point) lashes out at her closest friends. A couple of these moments happen to involve food. I’m sure you know what I’m referencing if you’ve read the book. My Best Friend’s Exorcism rated R for good reason. It’s not a graphically violent movie, but there is some foul language, drug/alcohol use, references to masturbation and a bucket-full of negativity that comes out of Gretchen’s demon possessed mouth.
If you’re reading this, then that means My Best Friend’s Exorcism is out right now on Prime Video. I would say it’s worth your time, even if the last third of the film feels a bit rushed. If you’re looking for a fun genre movie to lift your spirits, then have some faith by giving My Best Friend’s Exorcism a watch. It’s got humor, a great cast and an awesome soundtrack. Most importantly, it has heart.
I give My Best Friends Exorcism:
7 out of 10 Culture Club posters