I first heard of The Cleansing Hour nearly three years ago. At the time, it was working its way through genre festivals as a short film—a really good short film. Such a good short film, in fact, that the concept was adapted into a feature film before the original short ever made it beyond film festivals. It’s the kind of success story you hear about in genre circles from time to time. But how well does the concept of a phony YouTube exorcist scale across 90+ minutes? Turns out, pretty well.
Damien Leveck not only expands upon the themes and characters of the source material, but it breathes new life into a sub-genre that desperately needs it while doing so. Needless to say, this ain’t your father’s exorcism movie. The Cleansing Hour practically screams “millennial” with a narrative structured completely around live-streaming and internet culture. But it’s a film that wears its youth on its sleeve and delivers its message without bashing you over the head with it. The premise alone may suggest a certain level of cringe, but Leveck introduces the more contemporary elements of the story in an organic and logical way. Better yet, you may even find yourself surprised by how hardcore things gets once the blood begins to spill
Through all of its successes, though, The Cleansing Hour occasionally stumbles over its own ambition. Computer generated effects are leveraged in certain key sequences, and they’re impossible to ignore when they make an appearance. It’s even more unfortunate given the strength of the practical FX showcased throughout the majority of the film, but necessary given the not-so-obvious budgetary constraints. Luckily, an all-in cast sells it all about as well as you can expect. Kyle Gallner busts out some truly excruciating facial expressions, Alix Angelis channels a demonic performance worthy of the almighty Evil Dead franchise, and Ryan Guzman nails the aura of the modern, semi-famous
douche host. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
Even when the effects get weird and the narrative gets a little too “twisty” for my liking, it’s difficult not to recommend such a refreshing take on a well-traveled concept. The problem with exorcism films for a lot of people, myself included, is that they’re just too damn boring. That’s not a complaint I can see being raised against The Cleansing Hour—that’s for sure. Leveck and team should be proud of their bold and bloody slice of sin, and you should watch it for yourself when you get the chance.
The Cleansing Hour screened at FrightFest Glasgow and will be released on Shudder later this year.