My Best Friend's Exorcism Review: Elsie Fisher Leads Funny & Gross Horror

Female friendships have served as the backbone of some of the best horror movies — Tatum and Sidney in Scream, Lily and Amanda in the criminally underrated Thoroughbreds, and the group at the center of The Craft all come to mind. These friendships can sometimes serve as a battleground, one as small as the fight over social status or one as all-encompassing as the battle for a friend's soul. Jennifer's Body may be one of the best examples of this as Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried duke it out over Fox's Jennifer and her appetite for teenage boys. My Best Friend's Exorcism, Prime Video's adaptation of the Grady Hendrix novel of the same name directed by Damon Thomas, evokes some, if not all, of these films in one way or another. The film has just about everything — mean girl humor, gross-out body horror, 80s nostalgia, and satanic panic, making for a devilish ride that, while less than the sum of its parts, is still a frighteningly good time.

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Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller) are best friends, repeating the mantra "lylas" (love you like a sister) to each other when they say goodbye on the phone and when they are about to take the plunge into a drug-fueled trip at Gretchen's parents' lake house. During this fateful acid trip, Gretchen and Abby explore a creepy lakeside locale that contains some sort of altar and something happens to Gretchen when the pair get separated. Gretchen is clearly scarred by whatever happened to her and exhibits signs of aggression, depression, and aversion to religious iconography. When Abby tries to intervene on Gretchen's behalf, she is met with resistance from Gretchen's parents, school officials, and her friends, forcing her to take matters into her own hands when it comes to the demon that is possessing her best friend and wreaking havoc on Abby and her friend's lives.

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Elsie Fisher in My Best Friends Exorcism

My Best Friend's Exorcism's biggest strength is Elsie Fisher, something that shouldn't come as surprise to anyone who has seen her excellent work in Eighth Grade and Barry season 3. Fisher is slowly establishing herself as a Scream Queen, starring in this year's forgettable Texas Chainsaw Massacre legacy sequel as well as Castle Rock. Here, Fisher takes some of what she learned from Eighth Grade and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and amplifies it, navigating the awkward period of high school while trying to save her best friend's soul from a demon.

Miller's Gretchen is a worthy opponent to Fisher's Abby. Gretchen oscillates between the warmth of young friendship and the mean girl antics of, well, a soul-eating demon, with flair. When the demon inside Gretchen comes after their friends Glee (Cathy Ang) and Margaret (Rachel Ogechi Kanu), Abby is the only one who can see what's really going on. She enlists the help of a Christian fitness instructor, played dopily by Christopher Lowell, who knows a bit more about exorcisms than he seemingly should, and who provides some much-needed humor in the back half of the movie.

my best friend's exorcism

It takes some time to get to the actual exorcism, and it's here where My Best Friend's Exorcism should've excelled. The heart of the film is very much Gretchen and Abby, but with Margaret and Glee out of the picture, it can't help but feel like something is missing. My Best Friend's Exorcism finds its strengths in the dynamics between the four girls at its center and one can't help but wish that had carried through to the climax of the film. Still, the exorcism is equal parts hilarious and terrifying thanks to Abby and Gretchen and the demon inside the latter.

My Best Friend's Exorcism is short of jump-scares, but it makes up for it with a committed dedication to body horror, including but not limited to tapeworms and pig carcasses. It may not be the traditional horror thrill some are looking for, but its dedication to its 80s setting and the friendships at the heart of the film are what help My Best Friend's Exorcism feel like the rare horror book adaptation that complements its source material rather than ripping it to shreds.

My Best Friend's Exorcism will be available to stream on Prime Video September 30. The film is 97 minutes long and is rated R for teen drug use, language, sexual references and some violence.

2022-09-30T14:35:42.000Z

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