I was going to start this review with a polite, tactful paragraph about how the movie falls short of what it is aiming for, and how it’s hard to pinpoint the exact problem that stops it from being a good movie. Then I realised that it’s quite easy to explain why the film falls down. Writer/director Jordan Galland just doesn’t seem to have any true love for the horror genre. That in itself isn’t a problem, but when it becomes apparent in every scene of a movie being promoted as a fresh headspin on the exorcism subgenre THEN it becomes a problem.
Louisa Kruase plays Ava, a young woman who has just been through a traumatic experience. Thankfully, she can’t really remember it. Viewers get to follow Ava as she tries to put her life back together, joining a support group for others who have suffered from possession and trying to remember just what her fractured mind is trying to keep hidden. There are some people who just want her to forget all about the episode and get on with her life, but one or two people start Ava thinking that demonic possession may not be the worst thing to happen to her. In fact, maybe it has its uses.
Ava’s Possessions isn’t entirely unwatchable. It has a nice, neon tinge to many scenes, the few scenes of demon activity are perfectly fine, and the technical side of things is pretty polished. The acting is also decent, with Louisa Krause proving herself to be quite the mesmerising talent in the lead role. And you can’t complain at a supporting cast that includes William Sadler, Deborah Rush, John Ventimiglia, Dan Fogler and Carol Kane. Zachary Booth and Lou Taylor Pucci may not be as enjoyable, but Whitney Able, Joel de la Fuente and one or two others more than make up for the duds.
But it all comes back to the perceived attitude being put up onscreen by Galland. This is a film that’s never as clever as it thinks it is (the third act will be fairly obvious to all but the completely uninitiated), never as funny as it could be, and too busy trying to be cool to realise how clumsy, and at times alienating, it really is. There’s no tension generated, no supporting characters that you actually care about (despite them being decent enough folks, for the most part), and no kind of world-building on display that holds up to even a modicum of scrutiny. In short, the film is almost unfulfilled potential from start to finish.
Coming off the back of some good buzz garnered at SXSW, Ava’s Possessions seems to be poised to develop a loyal, though perhaps small, fanbase. I just can’t see who would actually like it. It’s a hoary old chestnut covered in some bright paint, and the awkward way in which it tries to convince viewers that it’s cool and fun is akin to a pre-teen trying to impress his elders by badly smoking a cigarette and agreeing that parents just don’t understand . . . . . . . . . . before running home to a delicious dinner and a bedroom full of the latest toys and gadgets.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JORDAN GALLAND
STARS: LOUISA KRAUSE, ZACHARY BOOTH, JOHN VENTIMIGLIA, DEBORAH RUSH, WILLIAM SADLER, DAN FOGLER, CAROL KANE
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX