An un-funny comedy and un-scary horror, with a couple of good performances and bright visuals being the only elements that prevent it from being totally unwatchable.
Written by Becca Johnson / October 3, 2022
Set during 1988, My Best Friend's Exorcism explores the friendship of Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller). After a fun evening with friends involving skinny-dipping and drug taking goes horribly wrong, Gretchen starts acting very differently, leading Abby to believe that her bestie since fourth grade is possessed by a demon. Grady Hendrix' novel 'My Best Friend's Exorcism' is a funny, freaky 80's nostalgia hit with strong themes of friendship and growing pains. Unfortunately, it's movie adaptation lacks in all departments laid out in the source material.
Since A24's Eighth Grade released back in 2018, Elsie Fisher has been an actress to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, since then, Fisher has developed a bad habit of starring in bad horror movies, including this years Texas Chainsaw Massacre dumpster fire. However weak this movie may be, her performance as Abby is fantastic. Her love and desire to help Gretchen is believable at all times, and her slightly comedic turn during the third act works a treat, too. Amiah Miller also gives a good performance as the possessed Gretchen, the pair having good chemistry and an interesting dynamic. The only other notable performance comes from Chris Lowell (Promising Young Woman) as Christian Lemon, a goofy character who plays a pivotal part in Abby's journey to save her friends soul.
As good as the performances are, they don't quite manage to elevate the weak script. My Best Friend's Exorcism is advertised as a comedy horror, but doesn't really include much of either. Any funny or menacing scenes don't arrive until the third act, when many viewers may have already checked out, stopped paying attention or are simply past caring. Until it's action-packed third act, the build-up contains poor dialogue, cringe worthy attempts at humour and a meandering plot that doesn't do all that much. As the plot picks up during the second half of the movie, it's fun to see Gretchen ruin her friends lives in interesting and dark ways, but it should've been a lot more fun and scary than it was. The novel is thematically rich with discussions of friendship, religion, coming-of-age, insecurities, child/parent relationships and sexual assault, but the movie script decides to eliminate all of what makes this story interesting. Instead, we get a slow and depressing 90 minutes of Gretchen just being rude and weird.
My Best Friend's Exorcism also doesn't have much 80's nostalgia going for it, another element that could've elevated the material and created a fun watch. The book has references galore from E.T to Tiffany's 'I Think We're Alone Now', yet the movie just throws in a few 80's bangers and calls it a day. Any other references are thrown in during the last act with no context, due to the lack of development surrounding the characters likes, dislikes and friendship. That being said, the 80's setting allowed for some cool costuming to come through. The movie is bright and eye-catching which helps to keep you invested, and the soundtrack is a whole lot of fun. If they'd have pushed the pop culture references just a little more, it would've felt remarkably more 80's.
To summarise, My Best Friend's Exorcism is unfortunately a clunky affair. It's an un-funny comedy and un-scary horror, with a couple of good performances and bright visuals being the only elements that prevent it from being totally unwatchable. Though events definitely pick up during the third act, this premise should not lend itself to boredom yet it somehow does. If you want to spend part of your 2022 spooky season alongside Abby and Gretchen, pick up Hendrix' novel instead.