‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ Is Not As Good As The Book

In the age of straight-to-streaming horror, we’re often spoiled for choice regarding which troublesome teenage tale to watch next. Directed by Damon Thomas, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a short, somewhat sweet and relatively simple offering. It’s a ripe story with potential but ultimately lacking in execution.

This twisted flick follows best friends Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) as they grapple with a demonic entity hellbent on devouring Gretchen’s soul. Set in the late 1980s, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is chock full of cheesy dialogue and ridiculous hairstyles – a.k.a bad wigs. The film starts with a solid synth score and a classic ouija board game gone wrong. After the two girls and their gal pals, Glee (Cathy Ang) and Margaret (Rachel Ogechi Kanu), attempt otherworldly contact and gobble some questionable tabs of LSD, the demonic possession of Gretchen Lang begins.

Based on the horror novel of the same name written by Grady Hendrix, the film tries and, in many ways, fails to replicate the book’s sadistic yet charming narrative of best friendship and that demonic ride-or-die kind of love. As Abby scrambles to save her best friend’s soul, the demon taunts Gretchen every night, relentlessly trying to gain control of her flesh. The more powerful the demon grows, the more cruel acts it forces Gretchen to perform on others. Scenes of social humiliation, a nasty case of nausea and 11ft tapeworms take place as Abby wages war against the demonic entity. 

Many parts of the book are reduced as the film opts for a more clear-cut storyline, providing direct explanations and relatively undeniable evidence for Gretchen’s possession, compared to the novel, where the sense of ambiguity and tension is a driving factor of the plot. The film adaptation fails to establish this, resulting in a simple, steadily paced 96-minute b-movie possession flick. Weak dialogue and even weaker acting hold the narrative back, as the chemistry between the two protagonists barely exists, making their friendship somewhat lacklustre to witness.

It is evident that the film would’ve benefited from a stronger, more competent cast and a serious approach to its storyline and character development. The cringy, silly execution of My Best Friend’s Exorcism holds back what could have easily been a gnarly, nasty piece of coming-of-age horror. Any fans of the book are sure to be let down by the overall execution of Hendrix’s novel.

That said, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an enjoyable, somewhat poor attempt at a great horror adaptation. The cheap CGI only aids in the hilariously graphic scenes in an oh-so-bad-its-actually-funny way. The humorous graphic scenes allow the film to shine despite its flaws. It’s hard not to compare Thomas’ film to the Netflix adaptation of Fear Street, which built upon its source material and the slasher genre to craft a captivating, camp killer viewing experience. My Best Friend’s Exorcism falls short of achieving anything remotely similar to this, resulting in a generic, forgettable experience.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is available to stream on Prime Video

by Kelsie Dickinson

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