Based on the bestseller by Grady Hendrix, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the 1980s set tales of Gretchen (Amiah Miller, The Water Man, War for the Planet of the Apes) and Abby (Elsie Fisher, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Axe Murders of Villisca). They’re typical teen movie friends, they come from different religious, social, and economic backgrounds but attend the same private school thanks to Abby’s scholarship.
But that friendship is threatened by Gretchen’s parents’ plans to move at the end of the school year. But in the meantime, there are better things to do than worry, like spending the weekend at a lakefront cabin owned by their friend Margaret’s (Rachel Ogechi Kanu, Tracking a Killer, Cheer for Your Life) parents. Their friend Glee (Cathy Ang, Over the Moon, And Just Like That…) is invited along, Margaret’s boyfriend Wally (Clayton Royal Johnson, Stranger Things, Surviving Lunch) isn’t but shows up anyway.
When LSD and skinny dipping enter the picture things go south and Abby runs off into the woods. Gretchen goes after her and they end up in an abandoned house rumored to have been the site of a human sacrifice. By the time they leave, Gretchen is acting strangely and it’s not just the drugs.
If My Best Friend’s Exorcism had actually been made in the 80s it would probably have starred Emelio Esteves, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Alley Sheedy with John Hughes as director. The kind of film I would have tried to avoid. But when my girlfriend wanted me to take her I wouldn’t complain too much because Alley Sheedy was in it.
Director Damon Thomas (Penny Dreadful, Killing Eve) and writer Jenna Lamia (Awkward, Good Girls) set that tone right from an opening scene full of Aqua Net and featuring posters of Boy George and the music of a-ha. It’s lighthearted with touches on serious issues such as self-image and sexual assault, at one point Abby thinks the changes in Gretchen’s behaviour might be due to rape, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism never becomes overly heavy. It does make a couple of odd choices over which issues to go deeper with and which to imply forget were ever raised though and might have been better just leaving some of them out entirely.
Neither does it become really frightening though. There are some creepy and tense moments, such as when the girls are in the abandoned house, but it never ventures into the genuinely spooky realm for long. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is more interested in friendship, ineffectual parents and other adults, and, bodybuilding Christian demon hunters.
Much of the film’s strength comes from Miller and Fisher’s performances. They have good chemistry and are never less than convincing in the lead roles. This is most apparent in a pivotal scene where the possessed Gretchen very publicly humiliates Abby and its aftermath. Miller also gets to show off her physical skills as she twists and contorts during the exorcism itself.
Cinematographer Rob Givens (Smartass, Legacies) does a solid job of capturing both the mundane and supernatural sides of My Best Friend’s Exorcism. He does an especially good job with the climax which takes place back in the deserted house. He’s backed up by excellent practical effects and decent CGI in the film’s fiery showdown. I have to wonder why fire would bother a demon, one would think they would be used to it.
While I would have been happier if they’d filled the soundtrack with Savatage, Dio, and Warlock and went heavy on the horror, overall My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an enjoyable bit of fluff. Its main audience appeal will be to more casual viewers rather than genre fans. But if your significant other wants you to watch it with them you won’t be bored, even if Alley Sheedy isn’t in it.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.