You just can’t kill exorcism movies. Trends may come and go in all genres, but for some inexplicable reason exorcisms will never go out style. Even zombies, which have had at least two golden eras on the silver screen, tend to momentarily fade from the spotlight every ten to fifteen years. Exorcisms are a beast all their own, plagued by an abundance of content and little in terms of innovation, and try as admirably as it might American Exorcism is far from an exception.
The film follows a gifted American exorcist named Damon (Michael Filipowich) who walks away from his work after it causes him a great personal tragedy. A decade later, Damon is forced out of retirement when a friend tells him that his estranged daughter has fallen prey to a demon and is holed up in a town that doesn’t believe possession is real. Damon knows he must face his own monsters in order to deal with those attacking his only child, but knowing is only half the battle.
With a smart script this setup could be something intriguing, even if the budget could not afford proper special effects (they are horrendous), but that is not what writer-director Tripp Weathers has created. This story plays into the same tropes we have seen utilized in this genre of horror since The Exorcism with limited twists. It all feels like something you’ve seen before, only worse, as if a group of community theater players decided to remake exorcism films they loved without the talent or technical prowess needed to do it well.
I do have to credit American Exorcism for having the gull to take a chance on the cacophony of irrational noise that falls from Damon’s mouth as he performs his rituals. It was a risk they had to recognize in the editing room and they went for it anyways. It was a bad decision that ultimately transforms what should be moments of tension into cries of laughter, but it was a decision nonetheless. I have to imagine the only reason it makes the final cut is because someone defended it, and I salute their efforts to see a specific vision brought to life even if its one I do not particularly enjoy.
American Exorcism will not see theatrical release, but it will inevitably become a title you see filling shelf space in one of the last remaining box stores that still carry physical media. When that day comes and you see the tired image of a teen poorly photoshopped to look possessed reaching out for your attention while an American flag hangs in the background you will have a gut reaction to what you are witnessing. Trust it.