One of my favourite novels gets a Christopher Landon-produced (Happy Death Day, Freaky) makeover in this Amazon Original. What could possibly go right?
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a 2022 made-for-streaming movie in which Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) and Amiah Miller (a dead ringer for Heather Graham) go wandering around a cheaply decorated forest set one night, where Gretchen goes missing and returns showing all the hallmarks of demonic possession or puberty. Rather than explore these themes à la Ginger Snaps or Carrie, the film rushes every scene as though flicking through Grady Hendrix’s 2016 novel in a bookshop; one gets a sense of the names and incidents, but none of the detail, character or emotion.
While screen adaptations naturally require excising certain amounts of information (though the book isn’t exactly War and Peace), this story only works if we get a feeling for the central friendship and their shared history – especially as the climax involves Abby saving Gretchen by making her remember significant moments in their friendship, moments we have never seen. A simple flashback to the E.T.-themed skating party where they became friends would have gone a long way.
Even the ’80s references seem off, fixating on cheesy pop culture (and bizarrely on Culture Club) instead of the illicit horror VHS feel of the source material. The only horror here is in watching it suck out the novel’s soul, revealing Hendrix’s talent for elevating horror tropes by removing him from the equation and leaving the tropes unadorned. More so than the book, it is rare to see a movie so clearly influenced by Jennifer’s Body, demonstrating how little cultural impact that film actually had.
Sadly misrepresentative of the Grady Hendrix Experience, this is a wasted opportunity. At least if it was Netflix we could see Trixie and Katya making fun of it.