Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers
Directed by Leigh Scott
Written by Leigh Scott
Starring Noel Thurman, Brick Firestone, David Shick, Tom Downey
Produced by David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Sherri Strain
The Asylum’s steadily growing string of Leigh Scott-led bastardy continues with “Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers.”
And I’m beginning to wish Leigh would turn her attention to something OTHER than grave robbing.
For those of you who don’t pay much attention to the overall progression of the direct-to-video horror genre, The Asylum has been swept up in a program of releasing movies based on long-established classics. Most of these movies are handled by Leigh Scott. For instance, “Beast of Bray Road” was Scott’s putsch on the old werewolf pictures of the fifties. “Frankenstein Reborn” was a shot at “Frankenstein.” Even Scott’s recent shot “King of the Lost World” was a run at “King Kong,” and not the Peter Jackson one, either.
So now, we get Scott’s attempt to revamp the seventies’ “The Exorcist.” In fact, the front of the box even says as much—this is “from the horrifying true story that inspired ‘The Exorcist.’”
Now, some might question this move, especially after the tepid box-office success of “Exorcism of Emily Rose,” which bears more than a passing resemblance to Scott’s latest grave robbing excursion. I’m one of them, frankly. But it’s here, and so we have to deal with it. We also have to deal with the mind-boggling question of why The Asylum went and put the Amityville house on the box art, but that’s neither here nor there.
Basically, “Exorcism…” gives us a soul-rending look at a teenaged (I’m guessing) girl whose parents died mere weeks before this movie takes place. From this low point, she somehow manages to tunnel below rock bottom and get possessed by an agent of the devil.
Which of course allows a heroic priest figure the opportunity to come in and, as they said in “Dead Alive,” “kick ass for the Lord.”
Now, I’m not going to deny that Scott has skills in her own right. The lady is capable of some really impressive stuff, and it’s exhibited in the first five minutes that are totally without dialogue. That’s right, folks…it’s gonna take until just past the five minute mark before a character actually speaks. Having seen my share of simulated possessions, I can also state that the bit with the hand near the ten minute mark is also utterly unlike any other attempt I can recall.
That having been said, I cannot take issue with Scott’s directorial skill. She’s got an incredible arsenal available to her.
What her direction lacks is stamina.
She can’t keep it up, folks, and finds herself apparently drawn to schlock tactics almost directly before or after she tries something good. Like a fat man in a foot race, she gets seemingly winded by her own innovation and has to fall back on the utterly stupid to get her wind back.
For instance, after that killer opening sequence and bit with the hand, she’s then pulling out the Ouija boards at the sixteen minute mark. Apparently, despite almost universal cries of warning from the paranormal expert community, the Christian church, pretty much every horror movie that’s had one in it since the seventies and several different branches of pagans, people are STILL buying and using Ouija boards.
Then, Scott leads in with a slow bedsheet pull on poor sleeping Gail at twenty three minutes twenty nine seconds. Yawn. Done many times before. But then, as though recovering, Scott throws out a surprise at twenty three minutes thirty seven seconds.
Twenty four minutes eight seconds gives us a strange and unique glowing figure running down a hallway, but then, yipes! Leigh’s run out of steam again, huffing and puffing her way through a sequence where Gail gets felt up and held down by her attacking demon.
And then…and then. Oh, and then.
Then, for reasons that I can’t fathom, Leigh Scott engineered the single most baffling freak out in cinema’s recent history. It all gets started at the twenty eight minute forty eight second mark, when the neighbor girl jumps and screams at the sight of an illegible blur and doesn’t stop until almost two minutes later, when said girl dies from massive blood loss while taking a shower.
No, I haven’t been drinking. Why do you ask?
The ending is fairly straightforward. There are no twists, no surprises, which itself is a surprise for an Asylum picture. But there ARE, however, six whole minutes of credits.
The special features include a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, bloopers, audio options, cast and crew commentary, and trailers for “Dead Men Walking,” “King of the Lost World,” “Shapeshifter,” “Resident Demon,” and “Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers.”
All in all, “Exorcism: The Possession of Gail Bowers” is a massive study in duality, showing us what can happen when an innovative director gets so badly winded she can barely move through her own script. The result is a movie that cannot be accurately called good or bad, containing elements of both, and left as a fair choice for a single rental.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org