Overview: After being possessed by a demon, a young woman tries to put her life back together. Momentum Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 89 minutes.
Aftermath: With all of the exorcism movies that have tread in The Exorcist’s sizeable footprints, director Jordan Galland should pride himself on finding an exorcism-related story that actually hasn’t been done dozens of times over. The basic premise of Ava’s Possessions is instantly compelling, and Galland takes full advantage of that by opening on the tale-end of Ava’s exorcism and quickly moving past it. Instead of going straight into the horror territory and looking at Ava as a victim, the film treats her as just another millennial youth with circumstantial problems that are rote for anyone under the age of 30. When she comes back into herself, Ava looks around at the faces of her family, who are more worried about the state of her apartment than her actual well-being. Ava’s apartment is understandably a mess from her demonic activities, and her mother is missing an eye and wearing a ridiculous eye-patch, but this is all treated absurdly casually as if we were just tuning into a season opener of Girls.
Louisa Krause portrays Ava with a smirking sense of dark humor and self-pity that keeps us from picking too many holes in the character’s logic. Ava isn’t given much emotional weight, and while she never becomes a character we can sympathize with, she is amusing enough to keep the film’s detached tone from becoming too much of a distraction from the initial goals of the narrative. The first 20 minutes of Ava’s Possessions are actually quite brilliant and the understated humor works in the film’s favor. It’s only when the film’s goals shift and Galland tries to tackle more dramatic elements and traditional horror that the film falters. It’s impossible to create tension and surprise when everyone on screen has such a laissez-faire attitude.
Pea-Soup: Ava’s exorcism support group lends itself to an interesting examination of genre tropes, but instead of maintaining its concern with the aftermath of exorcisms and the new characters introduced, the film concerns itself with asking questions of why. The support group leader, Tony, tells Ava not to concern herself with why she was possessed but only to focus on recovering by confronting the things she did while possessed. But the film doesn’t take its own advice and instead establishes a mystery and reveal that you can see coming from a mile away, ultimately undermining the film’s originality. It’s impossible to be invested in a mystery when every character just seems to conveniently stumble into answers and give reactions that are best-described as shrug-worthy. By the time the film reaches its third act, this brief film has already approached tiresome levels of trying to do too much while providing little reason for us to care.
Lovely Day for an Exorcism: Even when the story falters, it’s impossible to deny that Ava’s Possessions is an absolutely beautiful looking film. With a soft neon glow and a frequent use of slightly canted angles, Galland creates a film that looks like an 80s music video by way of Dario Argento. Whatever attention was lost on the story, was always attuned to the film’s lighting and shot-composition. In spite of the film’s narrative and tonal faults, Galland’s direction, Adrian Correia’s cinematography, and the rest of the crew deserve praise for what they accomplished on a technical level.
Overall: Ava’s Possessions is a bit of a missed opportunity, and it’s hard not to feel it would have worked better as short film instead of being forced to cram so much story into something that never needed it in the first place. The film remains an interesting experiment nonetheless, and an appreciated attempt to deviate from the norm.
Featured Image: Momentum Films