Exeter (2015): Horror for the YouTube Generation

Party levitation

The 2015 horror film Exeter, directed by Conan the Barbarian and Friday the 13th remake helmsman Marcus Nispel, ( who also provided the story which was turned into a script by Kirsten McCallion nee Elms) feels like it was produced exclusively for the YouTube generation. Not that this is a bad thing.

Far from it.

There are moments that feel like some viral video wanna be which work very well. It has been noted that this is the first film Nispel has helmed that is not a remake, this may explain some of the rougher elements of the movie as well as some of the holes.

The film boasts Avatar baddie Stephen Lang who may just have more screen credits than Carter has little pills, and a group of younger actors with impressive CV’s (resume’s) and a young actor, Michael Ormsby who looks like a tweenie version of Jason Mewes. (Considering the character played by Ormsby manages to overdo his consumption of pharmaceuticals it seems strangely apt, no reflection on Mewes but rather on the type of characters’ he plays.)

Lang does have what amounts to an overly large cameo but his presence is appreciated, feeling a little like the adult chaperone who has been hired to look after the younger performers. Still, his “father figure” is not quite what he seems and later becomes a part of another “homage” a la I Know What You Did Last Summer sans hook.

There are some parts of the film that are slyly funny.

The young adults (Older teens?) looking up exorcism on the Internet and finding a YouTube video which is a DIY step-by-step instruction manual for novice exorcists. (The best bit about the whole “you can find anything on the web schtick” is the warning to ask your “priest” if you have difficulties.)

After an introductory sequence where a young partially clad woman kills herself, the film segways into  faux news footage in a documentary that tells of abuse that mentally challenged children suffered at the Exeter institution.  The property is under the purview of Father Conway and the building is falling apart and being scavenged for materials.

A group of young people have a party at the dilapidated structure and a smaller group decide to experiment on levitation, something they see on YouTube, and  while the rest of the  participants get their freak on, a young boy becomes possessed by something evil. His big brother sets out to save his younger sibling but things quickly get out of hand.

The film has a lot of moment where things make no real sense or the timeline is a bit shaky but there are many other things in the film that feel impressively spot on. In one instance it is a piece of dialogue.

Patrick and his new female friend Reign (Kelly Blatz and Brittany Curran respectively) share a moment where one of Patrick’s friends, Brad (played by Brett Dier) storms off on is own. Patrick starts to follow him and Reign says, quite realistically, “Just let him go.” 

The scene has the same solid ring of truth that exists in Tremors when Reba McEntires tells her character’s husband, “I know they think they know every thing.” [sic] In each instance it is less about the script and more about the delivery. the lines feel and sound as matter of fact as ordering extra mayo for your burger.

Another scene in Exeter that feels spot on is the cupboard (wardrobe) scene. Patrick and Reign are looking for Rory and hear the newly possessed Amber (Gage Golightly) coming down the hall after them. They open a cupboard door and all manner of junk falls out, including an ironing board. 

When the two hear Amber getting closer, they stop and push all the rubbish that tumbled out of the cupboard back in before entering the thing and closing the door after them. A moment that feels truthful and works. Even the dumbest possessed creature would notice a mound of junk that obviously just fell out a cabinet/cupboard.

Some of the scenes are blackly comic, such as the demise of one character in a manner that seems to proves that when your mother told you about running with sharp objects in your hands, she was right. Another, perhaps inadvertently, amusing moment is when the possessed Amber is knocked down into a load of fire extinguisher foam and in her “death throes” begins to make a foam angel…

Nispel pays homage to a few films and at least, apparently, one iconic film maker. There is a clear nod to Takashi Miike and Ichi the Killer and another to the 1999 film House on Haunted Hill.  Despite these nods and winks to other films at 91 minutes, despite the “cleverness of the homages” the movie feels longer. It does not drag, per se, it just feels overly long.

Perhaps it is the culmination of annoying things. Such as the repeated camera lingers on the lawn mower, or the oddly amusing “shake and bake” death of the baddie at the end.

Still, this first move away from doing remakes of other films, the director, overall, does a satisfactory job. The movie entertains and mangoes to balance humor and horror quite nicely. The focus on the internet generation works very well and the film is a decent attempt at horror.

Exeter is a 4 out of 5 stars, earning an extra half star for the nods/homages in the film and those few stunning moments of truth. Streaming on US Netflix at the moment it  is definitely worth a look.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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