Marcus Nispel, director of retelling stories such as Frankenstein (2004) the television movie and then moving to mastering remakes of horror greats of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and Friday the 13th (2009), storms forth with an original horror story from writer Kirsten McCallion called Exeter. Although the plot, falls into the trappings of haunted and abandoned asylum, and noted Asylum, one of the original titles for this film, the story has an enjoyable tale, complete with the typical silliness in this setting and yet delivers a proper amount of gore.
A church volunteer Patrick (Kelly Blatz) helps a dear Father Conway (Stephen Lang) to clean up the grounds and start to remodel the insides of the asylum bought years ago by the church, however soon the Father appears on the screen and a bit of mischievousness is captured, a tad too quick. Soon enough after the work crews leave and the Father, too, Patrick’s friend Brian (Nick Nicotera) pushes, harps, and encourages him to have a crazy party, and this leads to a good situation. After the drunken and plenty of drugs party, the remaining teens play an occult game, having the lightest and smallest person, Rory (Michael Ormsby) become the offering, and within seconds, they are possessed. No horror fan has ever seen the possession occur that quickly, besides accepting the ultimate cliché to play with the occult in an asylum. Soon enough they look up on the internet the instructions for an exorcism, no joke, actually the plan set in the script. The site stated a parody even so they try earnestly to win the soul of their friend back, with homemade straps and holy water and with absurdness occurring the viewers are left wandering when the cast is going to die. However a bit of screenplay before the dying starts and will an emergency call to Conway and rash foiled attempt of escape, leading to [spoiler] a dead priest. The group try the exorcism again, with reason “Holy water… can we just dip his [dead priest] finger in it?” the logic defies and the humor embroils out loud. This is not the sort of film, which means to bring the laughter to the audience, even if trying to break tension only to set up for a jump scene. The movie hints back to colorful moments of The Exorcist (1973) spider infamous scene though no one around, and The Evil Dead (1981), at different times.
This movie went through a few hurdles to make it to the screen, with the title changes, aside from The Asylum, it was originally called Backmask, and part of this carries over to this final film with reference to finding an old VHS tape and a working VCR in the abandon asylum let alone the teens knowing how to work one. However, the Backmask show little referenced and perhaps a wise maneuver with practice dating back to the 1980s satanic panic from parents, religious groups and even some medical personnel against the metal and horror music. Herein the messages conveying evil doings, thankful does not conspire too far into the movie. Nispel uses the rules of horror to convey the story, and with the VHS tape and backstory learning the asylum reasons for the possession, coming from the mistreatment of mentally ill children and controversy of an exorcism drug treatment, so one wonders why just one possession and not more?
As stated the hurdles for this film don’t level themselves to name only identification, rather filmed in 2011 and finished in 2012. The mishaps in the marketing the slew of name changes and backmasking is to music and not film, and hence tracking other issues. Then add in the tiresome usage of abandon asylums ruining lives through revenge of past deeds such as the cases House on Haunted Hill (1999) and Session (2001) to even a season of American Horror Story. Hence, open the Pandora’s box of clichés associated with the sub-genre, venturing into the Grave Encounters (2011) of blood written messages, contorted movements, runaway wheelchairs, expanding mouths and this becomes a patchwork of films. Although it all still manages to work even with the odd self-impalement ending other’s life, this brings a sigh of relief in an odd way that another cast leaves the film. Aside from the attempts of humor, a few make the mark, and the required suspension of disbelief for these teens, under the heading of sexual deviants with category five drug usage swirling silly conclusions of playing with possession, never works our well, hearken back to Amityville 3-D (1983). The makeup and effects hit spot on with the gore covers everything and everyone.
Exeter directs itself more to the younger horror fans in the teenage market than those interested in haunting scares, a frightful tale, the clichés and the silliness of the concepts of possession become too much the mild viewer. However, the blood lust exists, very intense deaths occurring further into the film, luring the audience for the climax of the mirror and the big revelation, with splash of blood splattering sweeping across final moments.