A strong premise can’t save poor execution…
The Cleansing Hour is actually a really strong idea for a short film, which it was…but pushed out to feature length it’s just overly padded and filled with filler that ranges from needless to kind of trashy.
Max and Drew run a popular webcast that streams “live exorcisms” watched by millions across the globe. In reality, the exorcisms are just elaborately staged hoaxes performed by paid actors. But their fortunes take a turn when one of the actors becomes possessed by an actual demon and takes the crew hostage. In front of a rapidly growing audience, the demon subjects the crew to a series of violent challenges, threatening to expose the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other unless they come clean and reveal they’re impostors before the show is over.
There was some potential here, but a general lack of character development and a fair bit of useless material turned what was a barn burning 20 minutes into a fairly dull 95 min feature.
Writer/Director Damien Leveck pushes this out from his original short film with uneven results.
It all looks really good and has a real visual flair to it, but the characters have to fill a lot of dead air between the moments of action. From the ‘faux’ priest to the embattled producer dealing with the crisis in real time, we don’t for a second really care about any of them.
It’s a situational story, not one where we are rooting for the characters and the more we get into this story, the more unlikeable they all become. While the premise has a real compelling hook to it, there’s nothing extra outside of that as the narrative just feeds us filler between set pieces, which are admittedly sexy and well done, they just have no stakes what so ever.
Ryan Guzman as the fake but ruggedly sexy priest is there to simply take his shirt off, while the rest of the ensemble; never really do much of anything. It’s all good looking and tastes great…but isn’t nearly as filling as you’d like it to be. We just don’t care about the hell that these characters are going through.
The special features on the DVD include a feature length commentary from the director, a look on the set of The Cleansing Hour and the original short film of the same name.
Ultimately, this feature version of The Cleansing Hour just doesn’t work as it forgets to make us care about the characters where as the short has just enough time to get us engrossed with the scenario that is unfolding in front of us.