This might be the first horror movie in a decade we’ve seen that took place in an asylum and/or was about possession that wasn’t found footage. From the synopsis alone, you could easily conclude this would be another low-budget, 3-scare, single-cam, gasp-saturated piece of garbage that you desperately try to find a sliver of accolades for just to keep from going insane from the wasted hour and a half of your life. And while you still may consider this film garbage, at least it was wrapped in a different bow. A bow laced with meth and LSD.
A bunch of teens throw a party at an asylum and decide to mix drugs and the occult. Nothing new, but somehow the cinematography, pacing, and humorously delivered performances give us something entertaining if not original. The hilarity and realism ensues amidst the illogical logic of the teens and their knowledge but lack of experience in the supernatural. It’s an interesting take on possession, in that it’s like a guy who has never held a gun before being forced to be a soldier. Will he have success? Likely not. In the same way, this film gives credence to possession by showing the dangers of an inept group of teens trying to exorcise a fellow teen. They have no experience, they have no purity, and they know it, so how do they stop a demon that also knows it? In a way, their methods and motivations make sense and provided a somewhat fresh direction.
It was quite interesting how this movie used its pacing as almost a parody of its craft. Every scene seems to say, “you’ve seen this before, so let’s skip ahead”. Almost like Crank in horror form. The director was a psychic and used his abilities to quickly and efficiently dispose of every checkmark on our horror qualifier in the first 20 minutes, then took the remainder of the film to attempt to structure its angle in a new direction. It felt like an homage to Cabin in the Woods at times, but sadly without the refined humor and payoff at the end.
As with most horror films of this caliber, Exeter begins a slow decline to mundane plot structure and predictable character behavior. What began as such an enjoyable take on wasted teens getting wasted, eventually stumbled into the unoriginal. It was easy to see that the twist at the end was the culprit. The film wanted to try and add substance to its story with, what I would eventually conclude as, an unnecessary twist that created plot holes too big to be filled with the sardonic wit the film opened up with.
There were a handful of scenes that seemed to draw from the Evil Dead possession style, but the elements never meshed cohesively. It was either sarcastic with itself, or showing off some gruesome demon-zombie effects, but never at the same time. The film started with a full head of steam, but died out ¾ of the way through like a defensive tackle who has played too many snaps. Sorry, football has picked back up again, and no matter how long I’ve been dead I can’t seem to kick the habit. Catch Exeter if you’re looking for something to play in the background while you play Call of Duty, if you’re into ADHD-like tendencies of having multiple media formats running at once.