Wicked Wednesday: The Cleansing Hour (2019)

Exorcisms. We love them. Horror loves them. They probably exist more on our screens than they ever have in real life. The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, Chi sei?. The list is seemingly endless.

The Cleansing Hour (which I will probably accidentally misspell as “The Cleaning House” on one or more occasions in the post) is one of the latest in a long legacy. But when a subgenre is as well-travelled as this one, what can you do? Well, make it as modern as possible.

Friends Max and Drew are a couple of charlatans. Each week they broadcast a live stream of an exorcism on their show, The Cleansing Hour. Led by ‘Father Max’, every week a new person is freed from the demon within them. It’s pretty handy that they always find someone new that’s possessed and always in time for a new show!

My initial thought was that modern audiences would never go for something like this as truth. Then I remembered how successful ghost hunting shows are and quietly stayed in my place.

But one night, the friends run into some trouble: their guest doesn’t arrive. So at the last minute, Drew’s fiance Lane steps in as the possessed. But once the show gets going, the cast and crew soon realise that Lane is a little bit too good at being possessed. When she goes off script, spews blood and sets a man on fire, everyone on set realises that Lane is actually possessed.

The demon gives the two men until the end of the stream to “lift the veil” otherwise Lane and seemingly everyone else is doomed.

As the viewer count rises, Drew and Max must outwit an actual demon. Only the demon gives them an incredibly difficult time. They must admit their sins to the world, watch their friends die and go through intolerable pain.

Each revelation brings Max’s lies to the surface. But he and Drew are finally able to keep the demon at bay enough to begin exorcism rites. Though is that all the demon wants? Or are the men truly playing with something they should have never dug up?

It wasn’t too surprising to me when I discovered that this was initially a short film. It has the right amount of story to fill 20 minutes. Here, things feel a bit padded. I see no reason why this needed a 90-minute run-time. (Dear filmmakers, studio execs and everyone else in between: we don’t need long movies.)

I didn’t really see anything wrong with The Cleansing Hour but I certainly didn’t enjoy it. There were some fun, gimmicky bits, but I found my mind wandering more often than I’d like to admit.

This movie is getting mostly good reviews. Which brings me to the same conclusion I almost always come to with contemporary movies I don’t like: aesthetically I hated everything about this. For a movie released in 2019, it feels so dated. It looks dated. The dialogue is dated. The way the characters are handled is beyond dated. And as someone who likes movies to look nice, I just couldn’t get my mind engaged.

I am sorry. But I never claimed to be anything other than shallow!

The Cleansing Hour was brought to my attention when I saw someone discussing it on Twitter. Their argument at the time was unlike most horror movies these days, The Cleansing Hour actually had a solid ending. According to the discussion, it’s “lazy” to have ambiguous endings.

And yeah. When I read the thread I thought “Oh definitely! I love when things happen in movies!” But upon watching this, I realised I just love ambiguity in an ending. Things left up to the imagination is often what I love best about horror (prime examples of this: Black ChristmasIt FollowsThe Thing). I don’t think leaving things up in the air is lazy at all. Or perhaps the original reviewer and I had two very different things in mind.

Unfortunately, I did find a lot of The Cleansing Hour ambiguous despite its “concrete” ending. I found myself constantly referring back to the incredibly-detailed summary on Wikipedia to help me. There’s no shame in needing help, and I certainly needed it here.

Exorcisms movies are really difficult to make unique and special. At its core, you’ll always have the same elements. Despite the daunting battle to stand out, The Cleansing Hour certainly makes a valiant effort.

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