Another successful “exorcism” streamed online – or so it seems. Can the “exorcist”, producer and their team bring the ratings up? Ratings skyrocket, when a real demon gets involved.

Cast:  Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, Emma Holzer, Joanna David

Directors: Damien LeVeck
Writers: Damien LeVeck, Aaron Horwitz

You’ve had plenty of movies where a group of teenagers play with an Ouija board and end up inviting a demon into their house. In The Cleansing Hour, a demon invades a would-be reality show that’s being streamed to hundreds of thousands around the globe. It’s an interesting concept that not so bluntly seems to ask: is social media not the real devil? 

Max (Ryan Guzman) and Drew (Kyle Gallner) run an online ‘reality’ broadcast where Max goes by the name Father Max and he performs exorcisms. It’s pretty popular and certainly helps pay the bills, but not the type of content Drew has been dreaming of making his whole life. As Max seems to be indulging too much in a power-fantasy of being a real-life celebrity priest, Drew and his girlfriend Lane (Alix Angelis) are seeking a way out and new beginnings. 

The Cleansing Hour sound stage

The Cleansing Hour sound stage

Things go from the set of The Exorcist, to truly in need of a real priest when Lane becomes posed by a real demon during one of The Cleansing Hour’s live steams. To prove it’s not a gag the death tally begins early and the demon tells Drew to stay behind the set-line or it’ll kill Lane.

What follows is a mix of fresh ideas and terrible clichés. As much as The Cleansing Hour seems to be escaping the genre confines it’s obviously inspired by, it trips right back into another. What the film lacks in scares it makes up for by being fun to watch. The concept is intriguing enough to be along for the ride and the three core actors in Guzman, Gallner and Angelis manage to sell the parts where the script fails the story.

Kyler Gallner in the Shudder Original, The Cleansing Hour

Kyler Gallner in the Shudder Original, The Cleansing Hour

The dialogue at times is also very cringe-inducing. Early in the film, someone comments about Drew’s stream being “ghetto” because it’s not being streamed in 4K, and later, the demon possed Lane tells the camera to “keep it 100.” There are other examples of dialogue or jokes that seem like they’re trying to be cool, but only in a way your grandfather saying them would be seen as cool.

There are little scares that work in The Cleansing Hour as the film mostly relies on a shock factor. Even then, the gruesome deaths are fun, but they’re often marred by some cheap CGI. Having the demon front-and-centre seems to given writer-director Damien LeVeck the excuse not to try and build tension. The reliance of the jump-scares and gore doesn’t carry the film very as far as he may have hoped it would.

As you watch the film it often cuts away to people around the world watching the stream. These breaks are weird and also break any little sense of dream that was being built while being on the set of The Cleansing Hour. I was originally going to note this down as one of my major complaints but the pay-off for these interjections at the end of the film is so good, they get a complete pass. In fact, The Cleansing Hour is one of those films where the ending surpasses the rest of the film. As if the entire film was made just to reach the ending and leave the audience begging for a sequel. And it works: I would like to see a sequel.

The Cleansing Hour is streaming on Shudder from October 8th.


(The Cleansing Hour screener provided for review)