I have to admit that while it’s trendy to hate on Marcus Nispel for his track record of remake/reboots I think he’s a good director. His version of Friday the 13th is solid and better than most of the later sequels and his reboot of Texas Chainsaw Massacre is good for what it is and far from the worst remake out there. And, yes I will say it, his version of Conan stomps all over the original. So when he was announced as doing his first fully original film, (Pathfinder was adapted from a graphic novel), I was interested. And now after multiple title changes it’s here.
At first I was bracing for a massive disappointment, by fifteen minutes in I was reading to turn the movie off. The leads were annoying beyond description and the party scenes stupid as hell, but I decided to give it more time and I’m glad I did.
Exeter is never a great or really original film, it’s pretty much a trip into Evil Dead territory with a bit of Night of the Demons thrown in for good measure. A group of college students throw a party in an old asylum, (the film was released as The Asylum in the UK) with a brutal history of patient abuse and experimentation. The few who are still around come morning decide to mess with things they shouldn’t and, of all things, play a record backwards, (it was shot under the title Backmask.) Not content with finding hidden messages they decide to try and levitate the younger brother of one of the party’s organizers it leads to his possession, things go downhill from there.
The film starts off an a solidly grim note with a topless woman shooting up and then blowing her brains out along with the building’s backstory. Then it detours into cliché as the priest overseeing the renovations goes away for the weekend and our heroes decide to take advantage of the situation. It’s not until the building’s spirits are awoken that things pick back up.
Once they do however things go into high gear with as bodies are taken over and more bodies coming to bloody ends. Of course the spirits have blocked the exits so there’s no getting out but they forgot to kill their wireless reception. Of course these boneheads don’t call for help, they download a do it yourself Exorcism app. You can imagine what happens next.
If at any point you stop to think about this movie’s plot it falls apart and you’re not going to be happy. But if you just go along for the ride it’s a load of fun. There’s all manner of weirdness from possessed people doing things bodies shouldn’t be able to do, poltergeist activity, some inspired gore, (a bit involving a face and a sickle really got my attention) and a few plot twists. It never makes a lot of sense, but it also never slows down enough to get dull. And there’s several references to other films to look for, from an obvious nod to The Exorcist to a less obvious one from Irreversible.
If you’re looking for a serious, hardcore horror film this isn’t it. But if you want an enjoyably silly, gory and energetic spook show this is very much what you’re looking for. Oh and stick around through the credits for an extra scene…
Exeter has been out in the UK, (as The Asylum) and France, (as Project 666) for a while now, and on VOD since July. It hits DVD in September.