Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
The Internet – and YouTube in particular – are filled with every kind of spooky video imaginable. If you want to see a creepy video about the Illuminati or just want to see someone attempt a classic like bloody Mary, it will be online. One thing that is sorely lacking are exorcisms. For whatever reason, there is not a lot of demon battling to be found on the Net. The Cleansing Hour takes an old fashion possession story and puts it in a modern setting. Unfortunately, what good it accomplishes is ruined by a very poor ending.
The Cleansing Hour follows Father Max and his online show of the same name. Mike is a charlatan, plain and simple. He performs “exorcisms” online to attract viewers. He sells supposedly blessed merchandise and uses his fame to pick up groupies. While shooting his latest episode, things take an unexpected turn and Max is forced to confront the sins of his past.
The story has a very interesting premise. Putting a basic exorcism story putting it in a modern technological social media driven setting is a great idea. Audiences will immediately begin to understand the modern day con being perpetrated. It is not as much about money (though that is nice) as it is about followers. This not so subtle critique on modern society works very well.
Arguably, this is the best thing about The Cleansing Hour. The film is constantly switching between the action and viewers. Sometimes, it is a matter of watching people gathered around a phone or a child watching on a table. Other times, the audience watches the actual stream. Names like ‘MAGA4LIFE’ extol Max to take off his clothes in one particularity great moment. It is a cynical and accurate look at internet culture.
Where the movie differs from other exorcism movies is this almost satirical look at modern society. The titular show about battling demons is broadcast live on YouTube. Father Max is constantly paying attention to his viewer count while staring down a possessed woman. One of the best parts of the movie is watching his conflict. He is not a bad person, just a greedy one. His decisions are not based on any moral compass but what how it will affect his viewership.
In order for this to work to its fullest, there is a big suspension of disbelief required. Since the number of views is one of the most important parts of the plot, the audience has to believe that hundreds of millions of people from around the world are watching. Horror movies are not known for their strict adherence to reality, so The Cleansing Hour is able to get away with this.
What is unforgivable is the movie’s ending. A common writing technique it to come up with the ending first then figure out how to get to there. This was clearly the case with The Cleansing Hour. The problem is, the ending is incredibly bad. At best it is something an angsty teen would have written; at worst, a horrible punchline to a tedious joke. Any laughs will be for all the wrong reasons.
The practical effects in The Cleansing Hour are gory fun. In a nice moment early on, the audience sees how the exorcisms are made to look real. It as if the movie is giving a behind the scenes look. This also plays into the plot. Since the film has revealed its hand, it makes the audience question if what they are seeing is real. It is unfortunate the digital effects are nowhere near as good.
The Cleansing Hour has a lot going for it. Great practical effects, wonderful chemistry between the actors, and some clever social commentary seem to set apart from other horror movies. Unfortunately, some dodgy CGI and an awful conclusion prevent it from being anything special.