Welcome to another 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 sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
On Friday, Halloween movie season kicked off with the debut of My Best Friend’s Exorcism on Prime Video. Based on Grady Hendrix’s brilliant novel of the same name, the film follows two best friends who begin to drift apart during high school. Some of it can be attributed to the normal ways most childhood bonds weaken, but a demonic possession definitely doesn’t help things.
Although the movie’s 1980s setting appears to be hopping on a trend, it’s when the 2016 novel took place, as well.
Let’s break down whether or not the film does its beloved source material justice. Before diving in, be forewarned that this review contains a few spoilers (although we’ll still keep the ending a mystery).
Although movies are rarely filmed in the order of the narrative, it felt like the cast got noticeably more comfortable with each other throughout the film’s run time. Amiah Miller (Gretchen) and Elsie Fisher (Abby) were great individually from start to finish, but the pair really started to gel by the film’s third act — which is saying something considering they’re completely at odds by that point.
Speaking of Miller, she’s fantastic as the tortured antagonist. Most actors try to portray being possessed with a few head tilts and a mischievous smile. In Miller’s case, she never lets you forget that a genuinely kind girl is under attack by an evil spirit. Meanwhile, Fisher reflects all the good attributes of a worldly teenage outsider without leaning too hard on the tropes. Abby is a character we’ve seen a million times before, but still feels like a real (and extremely likable) character.
Chris Lowell’s meathead portrayal of Christian was a bit much at times, but still too fun not to enjoy. Cathy Ang (Glee) and Rachel Ogechi Kanu (Margaret) don’t get nearly enough screen time, but do a superb job with what they’re given.
From a story perspective, the narrative of My Best Friend’s Exorcism is definitely driven by the characters. The film adaptation cuts out a huge chunk of the book’s interpersonal conflict and backstories, leaving a strong and talented cast to portray the supernatural coming-of-age tale without much help from the script.
Unfortunately, that’s where things go off the rails a bit.
What Doesn’t Work
Since My Best Friend’s Exorcism is one of my all-time favorite books, it might not be possible for me to judge the film adaptation on its own merits. That said, I truly believe that a blind watch would’ve also left me feeling like I watched the outline of what could’ve been a much, much better movie.
In addition to feeling extremely compressed, the story played out in a way that barely touched on its non-supernatural parallels. Abby and Gretchen’s friendship disintegrates purely due to demonic possession. It makes for a somewhat entertaining tale, but the emotional impact the script was striving for never materialized.
The movie also struggled to toe the line between comedy and horror. There were some genuinely funny moments, but never any sustainable dread or fear. Just when things would start to get scary, it was onto the next scene and/or joke. It also didn’t help that the special effects were pretty rough — which is even more of a shame since the makeup department produced some really great/horrifying looks.
Another area where the movie fell short was the portrayal of Abby and Gretchen’s parents. This once again might show my bias as a huge fan of the book, but the paper-thin characters we got on screen were a huge disappointment.
I really hate giving this movie a mediocre review. In addition to my affinity for the source material, there were moments when it felt like a good/great film was within reach — especially with such a wonderful cast.
That said, My Best Friend’s Exorcism certainly isn’t terrible. As someone who loves horror, I’ll readily admit that there’s still a whole lot worse you could watch this Halloween season. Even though this one might only have the bones of a top-notch story, that’s likely still worth watching for folks who want something new.
Just remember that if you like this one at all, you really should do yourself a favor and read the book, too.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!