At the start of The Assent, the latest from director Pearry Teo, a gravelly voice informs us of the three stages of any possession. The first is the presence, the second is the affliction, and the third is the titular assent, or, the moment when a deamon takes full control of a defeated host. It’s an invigorating opening. I have difficulty fathoming how one can experience that and not feel like the next eighty minutes should be scary as hell.
The Assent unfortunately peaks right around here. While there are still some wonderful ideas that could exist in this story of a schizophrenic and widowed father (Robert Kazinsky) trying to save his son (Caden Dragomer) whom he believes is possessed, these ideas are unfortunately buried underneath a cavalcade of silliness that comes from the film’s middle section. Theoretically, the film’s climactic twist should hit harder than it does. It feels unearned considering just how long and, again, silly the film’s middle section is.
Most of this silliness is located in the character for Father Lambert (Peter Jason), the answer to the age-old question of “what would happen if you asked someone to do the most clichéd rendition of Max von Sydow’s character in The Exorcist but without a trace of irony.” Him prancing around Joel’s house proclaiming that it gives off bad energy borders on caricature.
What provides this air of silliness is the total earnestness with which The Assent operates under. Teo treats his story as if it were a sacred text, from a contrived babysitter storyline to some very strange effects designed to convey schizophrenic vision. It’s suffocating, and removes almost all of the tension. That I internally chuckled more than I jumped, is the most damning criticism I can offer of this.
- Release Date: 10/18/2019