Saturday, February 6, 2016

In short: A Wicked Within (2015)

One Dr. Woods (Eric Roberts cashing in his usual pay check for one day or so of work) is interviewing the survivors of a family meeting that ended with quite a few dead bodies. During the course of these interviews, Woods uncovers a story he quite understandably doesn’t believe. Looks like family member Bethany (Sienna Guillory) came down with a bout of demonic possession during the proceedings, adding all manner of fun stuff to the usual mix of secrets and lies dominating this charming little family.

It looks like I’m not the only one who always asked himself when watching another movie about a bourgeois family unit breaking down during some sort of family meet-up, “how much more fun would this be with demonic possession?”, for verily, director Jay Alaimo and writer Stephen Wallis made exactly that film, and it turns out to be rather great, or at the very least damnably entertaining.

This is not one of those psychological horror films that take ages to get going, nor one of these exorcism films that get to the fun stuff only an hour in: after thirty minutes, we’re already at the point where the family calls in a very matter-of-fact psychic (Sarah Lassez), and about fifteen minutes later, a not terribly competent priest (Heath Freeman) arrives. A Wicked Within sure isn’t fucking around except (perhaps) in a framing device that really rather reminded me of The Unusual Suspects, just not as cleverly used and with a lot more Eric Roberts than can be good for your health. That framing device, though, is quite useful for the film’s theological high concept, so there’s something more to it than mere Roberts-ploitation.

Anyway, the film starts really fast, drops the family’s dirty laundry quickly on the audience’s doorstep, and doesn’t stop for breathe at all, achieving a flow of pleasant hysteria, flying urns, and so on and so forth with such great enthusiasm even a confessed exorcism horror party pooper like me can’t help but have a lot of fun. Parts of the film are – true to the title - wickedly funny, some of it are fun, and some of it even demonstrates the filmmakers did think about what possession in the world of their film is actually good for.

This approach doesn’t lend itself to a film that’s very uncanny or creepy, but sometimes hysteria is just as good an emotional anchor for a horror film, particularly one featuring not just an entertaining ensemble cast (apart from the actors already mentioned Giannia Capaldi, Enzo Cilenti, Michele Hicks, Sonja Kinski and Karen Austin) but a particularly spirited possessed performance by Sienna Guillory who does all the spitting and gnashing of teeth, the writhing (sexualized and not), the cajoling, the sudden breakdowns into human fragility, and so on, and so forth with wonderful commitment and the kind of pizazz this sort of thing really needs, turning out one of my favourite possessed bits in any movie.

No comments: