My Best Friend’s Exorcism is little more than empty pandering that relies on its ’80s texture and horror knockoff clichés to distract from its empty core.
Hopefully you’re ready for another kitschy blast of nostalgia and junky horror tropes mashed up as empowering fun! Say hi to My Best Friend’s Exorcism, the kind of film that uses the Stranger Things font and a distressed film grain filter on its title card, just like one of those old ’80s movies you remember so fondly.
Teens Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller) have been best friends forever. Abby’s family is a bit more blue-collar compared to Gretchen’s more nauseatingly religious and affluent parents, but friendship is eternal. Unfortunately, this might be their last summer together, as Gretchen is moving away. The girls decide to head out to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend, with other pals Margaret (Rachel Ogechi Kanu) and Glee (Kathy Ang) tagging along. But as (mis)fortune would have it, Margaret’s shitty boyfriend (Clayton Royal Johnson) shows up, and guess what — he brought some LSD. What better way to celebrate best friendship than to drop acid and explore a spooky abandoned shack everyone insists is haunted?
Needless to say, the trip goes bad. Something has changed in Gretchen. She starts lashing out at her pals, she’s hostile to basically everyone, she’s engaging in what appears to be some self-harm, and worse. It isn’t long before Abby determines the culprit: demonic possession. There’s a thread here about the conflation of everyday wickedness that young people experience, like homophobia and body-shaming and bullying, with the more fantastical concept of invasion by evil spirits, but it doesn’t really get pulled on.
Instead, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is content with sub-Juno girl talk and some really blatant wallowing in empty nostalgia. There’s not even the suggestion of reasoning as to why this film is set in the ’80s, beyond the obvious opportunity to sop to an audience that seemingly can’t get enough Lisa Frank production design and fashion, set pieces in shopping malls (remember malls? LOL), landline phones, and obnoxious needle drops. Does the heyday of the Satanic Panic trend maybe have something to do with that? Nope, it doesn’t come up. Like the second Fear Street movie from last year, which was set at an ’80s summer camp yet somehow didn’t have any fucking in it, this is another YA-tinged safe space horror knockoff for teens that thinks its enough to offer performative stabs at self-actualization rather than anything actively progressive, either narratively or thematically. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is the worst kind of pandering.
You can stream Damon Thomas’ My Best Friend’s Exorcism on Amazon Prime Video beginning on September 30.