Review: Phone Booth Meets The Last Exorcism in Shudder's THE CLEANSING HOUR (Out Today)
Plot: A "priest" (Guzman) who hosts a reality television show where he performs exorcisms reaps what he sows when his best friend and producer's (Gallner) girlfriend (Angelis) is taken over by a real demon during an episode.
Directed by: Damien LeVeck
Starring: Ryan Guzman (The Boy Next Door), Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Alix Angelis (The Magnificent Seven)
I feel as if someone watched Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth, Halloween Resurrection and The Last Exorcism back to back. There's a lot to unpack in that sentence. The same can be said for Shudder's The Cleansing Hour.
There's a loose vibe of comedy and satire for the way we worship influencers and the way they worship themselves at first. There's drinking and shenanigans and some fun "oh my god that's a demon going down on me right now" gags (You'll see). Some good laughs and times to be had in the opening.
We then stretch into Phone Booth territory when the demon possessing producer Drew's (Gallner) girlfriend Lane (Angelis) refuses to let her go unless Max (Guzman) confesses all his sins to his live audience. You can see where most of this is going and to be honest, it gets a little predictable for a stretch. "I'm a fake, I'm a fraud, I did this horrible thing once" including a scene about his youth and a nun that honestly could have been cut out entirely.
From satirical and comedic with semi-goth punk undertones and a movie taking place in a single room to a movie that really goes for it by films end....there's some growing pains here and they aren't the absolute worst. There are some scenes that drag on too long and some pretty awful CGI. Which, really burns my ass because the makeup team did such a good job when given a chance (Angelis' demon makeup was a treat to look at). A lot of the ideas here about technology and live feed cams still managed to feel dated and overcooked in the horror genre but the original aspect of all this; Where religion meets technology makes for some fun moments. Including a search database Drew has built to look up demons backstories and weaknesses as he feeds in information through an earpiece in to both Max and the afflicted's ears. A mixed bag, yes but all of this is ultimately a success because The Cleansing Hour feels like it could have been a real show that aired online today. You probably would have seen Max at your local horror convention.
Overall, Shudder's newest film manages to piece together a great performance from Guzman who walks an acting tightrope as a total douchebag who's barely redeemable but somehow you're able to like. Gallner is great in these kinds of roles and I'm happy to see him getting more work these days (Including the upcoming Scream 5). Finally, Alex Angelis was great and reminds me a lot of Jennifer Connelly. There seems to be bright days ahead for all three actors.
Though I wouldn't expect a perfect movie or many legitimate scares out of The Cleansing Hour there's a lot of fun and guts to be had with the idea, the crew and the ballsy swing for the fences at the end. You can check it out today on Shudder! 6/10