My Best Friend’s Exorcism
by George Wolf
It’s the late 1980s in South Carolina, where Abby (Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller, War for the Planet of the Apes) are BFFs. Even though Abby’s family is a bit more hardscrabble while Gretchen’s “hamburgers don’t need help,” the girls have been inseparable since waaay back in the early 80s.
Now they’re sophomores at a Catholic high school, facing a bummer of an upcoming summer. Gretchen and her family will be moving away.
But there’s lots of fun to be had before that day, and it starts with joining their other friends Margaret (Rachel Ogechi Kanu) and Glee (Cathy Ang) for a girl’s getaway at a secluded cabin by the lake.
Oh, great, Margaret’s boyfriend Wallace (Clayton Royal Johnson) shows up, too, which means plenty of PDA and sex talk. But scary talk soon takes over, as the gang heads off to investigate a creepy old building where a girl was supposedly sacrificed in a satanic ritual.
Once inside, Gretchen gets separated from the group, and by the time she catches back up, Abby’s best friend has changed.
Director Damon Thomas and writer Jenna Lamia adapt Grady Hendrix’s novel with charm and zest, bringing together a variety of tropes for a mashup just out for some fun.
And they have it. From 80s music to religion to possession movie staples, the barbs keep coming, delivered with an alternating mix of sarcasm, satire, raunch and projectile vomiting.
Fisher and Miller are wonderful together, cementing the film in a friendship that rings with the authenticity needed to effectively raise the stakes of survival. The insecurities about zits, weight, sex and peer pressure are sweetly heartfelt, and Abby’s uncertainty about the best way to help her friend brings a nice balance of humanity to the inhuman.
And for awhile, it does seem Thomas and Lamia are on the way to making a big metaphorical statement about leaving childhood behind, repression, and chasing imagined demons while evil is right in front of you.
But by the time Christopher Lowell is stealing scenes as one third of a hilariously lame “faith and fitness show” who also fancies himself a demonologist, the nuttiness has won out for good.
And that’s okay. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the teenage sex comedy religious satire devil flick we didn’t expect. No need to aim higher when it pretty much nails the bullseye.