The Cleansing Hour (2019)

The Horror genre has a long and storied history. It was probably born from telling scary stories around the fire which graduated to acting them out. Most likely just as old is the practice of faking the supernatural for profit. While other kids listened with rapt attention to ghost stories and believed them true, I was also reading some different stories. From a young age I idolized Houdini because he fought these frauds at every turn. Those who would profit from gullibility and vulnerability irked him and they have always irked me. He battled mediums, psychics, fairies, and so much more. Many took up his standard when he died (95 years ago this Sunday). People like the Amazing Randi, Penn and Teller, and other skeptics have kept the torch burning. Still, the practice continues. Tape traders mistook badly recorded horror movies as real. Fake psychics continue to litter television and the publishing world. It is good to be skeptical of what you see. I still enjoy the stories but know that it is not real.

While I am not religious, I will rarely pass up on a good possession story. One of the horror tropes that scares me the most is the loss of self. I am not talking loss of identity which is a common psychological problem and also a financial one. I am talking about an outside force driving out or taking over your consciousness. Our bodies are definitely part of our sense of self but, as most of us learned in kindergarten, that is only the cover of our book. Our mind is what really makes us who we are. It is the seat of our intellect, imagination, memory, aspirations, and awareness. When a demon moves in, they often either erase their host’s consciousness or lock it away. Both are scary but the latter involves having to witness somebody else using your body and identity as you watch helpless. It makes me shudder.

The first thing I noticed were the great production values. There is an immediate feast for the senses when it comes to special effects. Blood, flame, and such good makeup effects. The makeup effects are particularly awesome. I absolutely loved how gross yet interesting it all was. There were moments that I could not have imagined that happened. The lighting effects are great which, as long time readers know, is very important to me. The light and shadow they play with is especially interesting because a lot of the movie deals with film sets. Film sets are inherently kind of creepy because they are points of light surrounded by darkness. A horror set is like a professional haunt in miniature, rigged with dark lighting and special effects.

Ryan Guzman is really great as the arrogant actor who is always chasing the next high, the next social media buzz. He is incredibly charismatic but also really east to hate. Kyle Gallner is perfect as the happy go lucky best friend, the backstage gopher who offers a lot of the comic relief but also heart. Alex Angelis is so damned good at playing a possessed person and it looks like she had a lot of fun doing it. The physical acting is really awesome and terrifying. It is always interesting to me to watch human bodies in horror act in unnatural ways. The actors are really good at acting animalistic, like an insect, like things we could only imagine. Similar to the spider walk in the Exorcist, where a human becomes unpredictable and thus terrifying. The rest of the ensemble is really good at portraying a fly by night Internet film crew, a family that obviously formed over time.

Overall, I loved this movie. It moved at a breakneck pace from the start and never let up. Their was a lot of great tension and legitimate scares. The movie took no prisoners and definitely surprised me with some twists, turns, and shocking moments. It also had a sense of humor about itself without being a real comedy.

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