Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Along Came the Devil (2018)

aka Tell Me Your Name

After a childhood dominated by an abusive father who liked to cram his two daughters into a wardrobe while he was having sex, Ashley (Sydney Sweeney) has just moved in with her aunt Tonya (Jessica Barth) – or Tanya as the IMDB lists her. Ashley’s sister is off to study somewhere, apparently, and will not appear on screen again despite the film’s prologue – not to speak of the page of absolutely pointless explanatory text that came before - suggesting the relationship between the sisters to be an important concern. It’s that kind of script. No idea what happened to the father either, by the way.

Anyhow, Ashley soon has a number of paranormal experiences of the usual sort, leading her to the assumption her dead mother is trying to contact her from beyond the grave. Of course – see title of the movie - it’s actually a demon, and soon (more or less) we go through the usual demonic possession rigmarole. Ashley’s only chance are the Worst Exorcist Evah (Bruce Davison) and his junior partner Pastor John (Matt Dallas) of the creepy soulless smile (alas not a plot point).

Now, I’d really like to spoil how exactly things turn out for the poor kid, but alas, Jason DeVan’s film doesn’t bother with nonsense like having an actual ending, finishing on Tonya calling in Ashley’s sister who will never arrive on screen, and the Worst Exorcist showing off the little prison he keeps in the church cellar for all the people he didn’t manage to exorcise in the past, including Ashley’s mother. I’m not sure if this ending is a demonstration of pretty astonishing incompetence or the film angling for a sequel but it sure doesn’t help a script that is all over the place anyway.

There are important plot developments only alluded to in passing (what exactly happened at Ashley’s school, just to take an obvious example not already mentioned), completely pointless scenes like Ashley’s visit to a psychiatrist we’ll never see again, a complicated backstory about an abusive father and a possessed mother the film does bugger all with and either should have cut or better have made the core of the film instead of the exorcism movie 101 yawn fest it instead uses. The characters that don’t just pointlessly come and go are right out of the exorcism horror cliché grab bag, and of course the film doesn’t put a single actual thought of its own into why demons exist in its world and what their motivations might be beyond making teens first want to have sex (clearly, the existence of the teenage sex drive can only be explained by demons), speak in foreign languages (education is demons, I suppose), and then start to stink and badly imitate scenes from The Exorcist (a film, by the way, which really did put thought into its theology, even though I never liked it much). Extra minus points go for the physical portrayal of the demon as a huge guy with horns and glowing red eyes, making it inappropriately cartoonish – and frankly rather hilarious - in a film that clearly wants to be taken seriously.

Given the state of the script, it’s no surprise the pacing can’t be anything but off, the film crawling away until there’s only enough time left to pack the possibly interesting stuff into the final twenty-five minutes.

The acting’s solid, and the photography – an overuse of lens flare that’d blind J.J. Abrams excepted – is fine, but that can’t save Along Came the Devil from its so-called script.

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