I’ve always considered myself a big fan of horror and genre films since I was a kid, but I’d be remiss to say that the paranormal sub-genre, specifically ghost, exorcism and haunted house movies, have never been able to hold my attention. While there are exceptions like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, it’s always been hard for me to get over just how serious the sub-genre often takes itself. For example, The Exorcist, one of most critically acclaimed horror films of all time, is a movie I’ve tried to watch several times over the years, and each time I watch it I find myself giggling during its most “disturbing” moments. I’m sorry, but the scenes that feature Linda Blair’s pea-soup puke and head turning 360 degrees feel like they’re there to elicit laughter instead of scares. I fully admit that I’m in the minority when it comes to my opinion on The Exorcist and its many other cinematic supernatural siblings, but the majority of these types of films just don’t appeal to me. However, despite my ambivalent attitude towards paranormal movies, one recent film has managed to at least make me appreciate what the sub-genre often tries to do, and that film is the very smart genre-bending dramedy, Ava’s Possesions.
First reviewed by our own Diva Del Mar, Ava’s Possessions is directed by Jordan Galland and follows Ava Dobkins (Louisa Krause), a young woman who is recovering from demonic possession. With no memory of the past month, she is ordered by the court to attend Spirit Possession Anonymous, a support group that helps the recently post-possessed. While she attends the meetings, Ava also attempts to reconnect with her loved ones and figure out exactly what she did while under the influence of her former demonic occupant.
What makes Ava’s Possessions so fun to watch is all of the new and unique ideas it manages to introduce within the first few minutes of its running time. Having an Alcoholic Anonymous-like support group for the recently possessed sets the film apart from many of other exorcism film within the genre, and framing Ava’s demonic possession as an allegory for drug addiction is quite original. Even the film’s opening, which features Ava being exorcised with her family and a priest in attendance, can be interpreted as an “intervention” for a drug addict. Also, as someone who’s often left baffled by the behavior of characters in supernatural and paranormal horror movies, I appreciated the fact that the film makes it very clear that Ava’s well-to-do family are extremely nervous and weary around her even though she’s no longer possessed. I don’t know about any of you, but I think it would be a wee bit difficult to reestablish a loving relationship with family and friends after projectile-vomiting on them for a month. It’s just a feeling I have.
Aside from the film’s premise and light-riffing on past exorcism movies, Ava’s Possessions features a pretty solid cast. Krause makes Ava a compelling character worth following, and she does a great job of capturing the obvious exasperation of someone trying to piece their life back together after suffering from addiction, or in this case, being possessed by a demon that wants to party and sleep with anything that has two legs. In regard to the supporting cast, Dan Fogler, who plays Ava’s lawyer, and Carol Kane, an occultist who specializes in making spells, provide a few nice light-hearted moments.
With its unusual possession story and grounded characters, Ava’s Possessions is definitely worth watching for those who are fans of the paranormal sub-genre and for those who may have grown tired of it. Outside of a few underdeveloped sub-plots and a resolution that is a bit too abrupt, the film succeeds at being a nice alternative to the excessive amount of Exorcist-styled films that we are constantly inundated with every year.
Arbitrary Rating: 8 out of 10 streams of projectile vomit.
Be sure to check out Diva Del Mar’s review from 2015 to see what she thought about the movie too!
Ava’s Possessions will open in cinemas and be available on VOD March 4, 2016.