If you only see one gonzo fake-priest-trapped-in-a-real-exorcism thriller, make it “The Cleansing Hour.”
An account of a live-streamed exorcism, part of an online show titled “The Cleansing Hour,” it’s a violent and entertaining ride through demonic possession, religious fakery, the perils of Catholic education and the evil power of the Internet.
It takes shots at nuns as teachers, online “programming,” film students and Satan. And it figures that it was directed by a guy named Damien.
Father Max (Ryan Guzman of “The Boy Next Door” and TV’s “9-1-1”) and his old pal Drew (Kyle Gallner of “The Finest Hour”) cooked up this streaming show, an exorcism a week.
Hunky Father Max, in a shower of effects and sparks, gets into it with a demon possessing someone, demanding “Give me your NAME!” as (an actor) spews hate speech in the Regan-in-“The Exorcist” growl back at him.
And once he gets that name, Max spouts the demon-appropriate incantation. Boom! Demon gone, thanks and tears all around. Credits.
“May God bless you and the Devil miss you,” he says. “And don’t forget, follow your faithful servant in a fallen world @FatherMaxTCH.” And “check out our merch” on the website before you log-off.
But as Drew badgers Max to “expand” the brand — “Again, priests don’t do seances. How many times I gotta tell you?” — and Max trades on his hunky fame for bar pick-ups, someone or someTHING is taking note.
A guest star is waylaid en route to the studio, Drew’s Max-hating makeup artist/actress girlfriend Lane (Alix Angelis) is pressed into duty, strapped down on the restraining table where Max confronts the possessed.
And tonight, our faithless “self-taught” lapsed Catholic “priest” will be tested by the real deal, his producer and production crew menaced, torched, stabbed etc. The “truth” will out.
The effects guy (Daniel Hoffmann-Gill) can only shrug when the “effects,” like Lane, go “off script” and the Satanic demon starts in on Max and everybody else in the “studio.”
“You f— with the bull, you’ll eventually get the horns!”
Flashbacks show what Max and Drew endured in Catholic school, explaining why they wanted to get their revenge via this show, and Drew’s ongoing research into their subject. Can he Google he the right prayer/incantation to save them?
“Max, you can’t just read random Bible verses! It won’t work!”
The effects here are largely analog — not digital — and suitably impressive.
The acting is committed and intense, with the odd moment of wit — “I’ll never be high at work again, I swear!” — lightening the mood.
There’s a little “Truman Show” homage in letting us see the audience — on TV, tablets or phones, around the world — and how this scary “real” terror is making them kiss their crucifixes or thank their lucky stars that they’re a long way from America.
Sure, it’s just another exorcism movie, this time with an overfamiliar Internet live-streaming hook. But I was entertained and you might be, too.
Director/co-writer Damien LeVeck? Take a boy, if that’s your real name.
MPAA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, profanity, sexual situations
Cast: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis and Emma Holzer
Credits: Directed by Damien LeVeck, script by Damien LeVeck and Aaron Howitz. A Shudder release.
Running time: 1:35