My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a horror comedy where the funniest thing only seems to be the premise.
Published on November 2, 2022
Rating 2 /5
It feels like when we talk about nostalgia not being a substitute for storytelling when it comes to evoking the 1980s My Best Friend’s Exorcism should be one of the primary exhibits. Here is a film where it feels like it would write itself. You take the story format of The Exorcist, reframe it as a coming-of-age teen drama, and place it in the 1980s for a slew of nostalgia. That’s not a bad setup but it can definitely lead to a lukewarm movie with the wrong execution.
There is simply too much happening in this film with the ground it wants to cover, the gags it wants to push, and how hard the absurdity is pushed. It’s 1988 and a gaggle of teen friends finds themselves feeling the pressures of residing in a ruthlessly Christian America, where the parents are more concerned that their kids are on drugs than if they end up dead. Two friends, Abby and Gretchen, stick together through thick and thin, making easy jokes at an assembly where a goofy Christian workout group tries to push anti-drug messaging. So, naturally, the teens decide to have a secret party at a secluded cabin with plenty of drugs and sex.
An unfortunate incident leads to Gretchen, however, becoming possessed by a demon. The demon, however, doesn’t just turn the teen girl into a demonic force that vomits a storm and contorts her body. I mean, she does all that but there’s another driving factor. The demon inside takes advantage of Gretchen’s sensitive nature about her acne and social status, transforming her into a bully. This leads her down dark roads, be it kicking away an allergic girl’s EpiPen or infecting a pretty girl with a tapeworm that forces her to eat while constantly making her skinny. It’s all very gross and tense and, yet, rarely carries that much terror or shock.
Sure, part of this is due to the easy-to-read satire on the situation, but it also comes with a messy assembly. Somewhere between being an Exorcist parody and a commentary on teen bullying, this picture kinda loses its way. It also falls into a lot of par-for-the-course 1980s jokes, most obvious with the mall exorcist Christian (Christopher Lowell) who lives a dorky lifestyle. That being said, there’s some small charm in having a Christian being a been-there-done-that exorcist who casually speaks about helping Abby save her friend. It’s just that the bit doesn’t go much further than that.
Nearly all of the comedy comes from the staging which never lands a great joke. There’s some mild smirks here and there for the era mockery and suburbia hysteria but not as much as there could be. One of the funniest jokes might be about how Abby breaks the news to Gretchen’s parents about the demonic possession of drugs. The parents are far more dismayed with the drugs than anything else and it’s fairly funny that they don’t take the real threat seriously. But that’s about as far as the most amusing gag goes and everything else feels like it came from a script in need of a rewrite.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a horror comedy where the funniest thing only seems to be the premise. The abundance of tired jokes, 1980s references, and lightweight suburban satire just doesn’t make the grade. It’s not that you can’t make a funny film out of mocking The Exorcist or evoking the end of the Reagan era. You just need more than the barebones of what this film has to offer.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.