A thrashing figure is shown being strapped to a large, medieval-looking chair. As she jerks about, snarling, we se a man placing items we’re all familiar with on a nearby table — a copy of the Roman Ritual, bottles of holy water — in fact, we notice religious icons all about the place. Returning to the captive, we watch as he sets up a camera, pointing it directly at the growling, hissing figure…and then…
…well, and then she turns her head and asks “How was that?” — perhaps she should moan more?
Yes, that’s right; it’s not what you were thinking…or is it?
That little bit of setup is from Damien LeVeck’s short film The Cleansing Hour. Suffice to say, a little misdirection goes a long way in this flick.
The Cleansing Hour is an up and coming internet sensation — with over five million subscribers so far, the web-series offers “divine intervention” every week, with the stoic and noble Father Lance casting out demons and saving the souls of the helpless possessed. Of course, as with most things on the internet, things are typically not as they seem — it’s of course, a well-set up and conducted fantasy, complete with control boards for flashing lights, smoking chairs, and moving objects — even “Father Lance” is just a womanizing actor.
Still, on this particular night, as viewers the world over gather around their internet-ready devices to watch this week’s episode, something different is taking place on set — something ancient and evil comes to challenge “Father Lance”, and as the show goes on and the viewership skyrockets, the internet charlatans find themselves facing both the possibility of great fame and the danger of abject evil at the same time.
The first thing that hit me about this film was production value — the short looks polished as all hell, with terrific lighting, sound, and FX. The setup of the show, with all the fake FX apparatus for the “exorcisms” being accurate and detailed, was very impressive, but what got me was the “subscribers” portions. From a college dorm scene to a backyard barbeque, the settings are dead-on accurate, with great portrayals from all of the actors involved — some of these “subscribers” are Japanese police officers…uniform, car, subtitles and all — you just don’t see that kind of attention to detail in many short films, horror especially! All of the acting was spot-on and very professional, with Sam Jaeger from Parenthood in a great performance as “Father” Lance and Heather Morris from Glee as the unfortunate girl strapped to the chair being personal standouts.
The overall package is one of high-quality — quite a feat considering it’s a low-budget sophomore effort on the part of it’s director. Of course, it all starts with story, and writer Aaron Horwitz weaves a tale that comes outta the box as a clever twist on exorcism and internet hoaxes, but makes a turn or two throughout the narrative that make it into something more. Throw in that great camera work, fantastic sound and lighting, and quality performances across the board, and you end up with a neat little production that adds up to what to me was a lot more than the sum of its parts.
I can’t go into more detail without giving anything away, but the little plot twists I mentioned take this twenty-minute (give or take a minute or two) film to places that I certainly didn’t expect it to go — what I originally thought was a novel but predictable piece of horror-satire turned out to be an engrossing and entertaining film, with a concept that proved both original and chilling by the time the credits rolled. Like any good short, it leaves the heavy lifting up to you as to what happens after the ending, and horror fans will relish the opportunities it creates.
I’m a fan, folks…recommended.
…and two more pennies gone.