Fate has dealt Richard Vanuck a very strange hand; he's a natural born exorcist. In fact, he's the best there's ever been, and with possessions on the rise across the city he's booked solid. Eventually he comes to realize that performing exorcisms is the only thing he's truly good at, even though his daily battles with Satanic forces are wearing him down.
June 24, 2016
Sheri Beth Dusek
Richard Vanuk (Daniel Falicki) is a drunk. He’s poor. He lives in his own filth and he has constant vulgar (complete with violent threats) run-ins with his landlord. His brother tries to get him a legit day job, but that 9 to 5 lifestyle just doesn’t fit Richard. You see, he also happens to be a very gifted exorcist. It’s a skill he’s apparently had all of his life. He has the knack of sort of “ingesting” the demon from the victim, and he’ll then wake up – usually in a snowbank somewhere – with an envelope of cash and a live plant. In some cases, he’ll have been cleaned up of the vomit from the previous day’s exorcism activities – depending on how kind the family members of the possessee may have been. And Accidental Exorcist takes us through several of these similar cases.
Performance-wise, Falicki (who also directed and co-wrote the piece) as our schlumpy exorcist is good for the most part. As you’ll see below, there’s little journey for the character, so despite Falicki’s abilities – the script he wrote for himself doesn’t offer enough pizazz (yes, I just used that word). He has great moments, including his best – where Richard collects all of his liquor bottles to the center of his apartment and squeezes every last drop into a blender, creating a potent mixture. It’s a scary look at what appears to be a difficult withdrawal.
But I found many of the supporting actors more intriguing. One is the wife of a possessed reverend, Julianne Howe-Bouwens. Once she’s revived (in this creepy scene), her confusion, anger, desperation and fear all come tumbling out as she asks over and over again, “Where’s my daughter”. Her few seconds on-screen create a big impact.
Also of note is actor Patrick Hendren as Jeremiah. It’s one of the few times in the film which contains real levity. Jeremiah is able to personally thank Richard following the removal of the demon. And Hendren’s few moments (pre- and post-exorcism) are genuine, true and heartbreaking. The brilliant lighting in this scene – helping these moments along – is also worthy of mention.
The film feels far too episodic. We never truly get a journey for Richard. We follow the character from case to case and while these individual sequences are sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes terribly frightening, sometimes emotionally moving and all the time extremely odd – we never get much from Richard, aside from the fact that he’s a drunk f***-up with a terrific gift/curse. We don’t get much history about his past – aside from his brother’s visit to try and help Richard out. You can surmise that this is not the first time Richard has been offered assistance from a family member. We are provided random stories by Richard as he works his exorcism magic on his clients – a story about a pony is a perfect example – but we never know if these personal tales are just tactics he uses to defeat the demon inhabiting these random people.
I was actually surprised by how many moments in the film were very frightening, considering that the film is definitely a horror/comedy. Of note is Richard’s second visit to a client’s home – the same one he goes to in the film’s opening. This particular female client sits in front of a sewing machine – apparently for four days straight – her fingers bloodied and oozing onto the fabric. The conversation between Richard and the woman is very subdued – a change from the other moments in the film. Even the lighting is almost natural (most of the film is bathed in purples and deep reds). It’s a terrifying exchange. And while not out of place in the film as a whole, it stands out – in a good way.
Other unusually unnerving sequences – Richard’s visit to a young man obsessed with mask-making, horror films and special effects. A stunning reveal as Richard lifts the man’s own mask.
But my favorite scene – just for the pure delight it offers – is Richard’s call to handle the case of an obese grown man. The client’s being watched over by his health care worker and his doting mother. The mother has prepared all of her son’s favorite foods in the hopes of getting him better. It’s a vast presentation of eats on the table before him. Richard always asks outside people to leave the room as he does his work – for their safety — so the room is cleared. In this sequence, the conversation, the clattering of the obese man’s teeth (he has a sort of muzzle around his head to keep the chattering to a minimum) and the food fight which follows are truly mind-blowing. I hate to overuse the word “hypnotic”, but I found myself enamored by these moments, physically leaning forward as the scene continued. Very well done.
There is no shortage of gore and more than that – of various bodily fluids – throughout the film. As in so many other exorcism pictures, vomit is the fluid of choice. But this film goes beyond that. Richard is constantly soaked in sweat. Everyone drools – blood, bile, saliva. Certain sequences have food at the center of attention (as I mentioned above) – plastered across faces and clothing. Why, even Richard’s food of choice – Spam – gets the squishy treatment (thanks also to the sound design). Everything in this film feels moist. And since that term is one of the most despised in the English language – you’ll find it an appropriate description for Accidental Exorcist. The film will give you the heebie-jeebies based on the wetness-factor alone. I was reminded of the “gluttony” sequence in David Fincher’s Seven. But instead of one grotesque scene – this entire films feels like that gross-out… all the way through. You’ll feel the urge to shower once the end credits begin to roll.
The ending isn’t the most clear. We can guess what has happened – something to do with the Giger-esque black demon/creature who hangs around Richard’s apartment – seemingly following the closure of each case. But I would have liked a bit more explanation. I have my own thoughts, and in most cases, I don’t necessarily like “spoon-feeding”, but here, I wanted more. Adding to my own “confusion”, I found that the film had an esoteric Jacob’s Ladder vibe.
I think the bottom line is that the film as a whole doesn’t quite make it, but individual scenes and moments are really memorable. So based on that, I can easily recommend Accidental Exorcist, keeping in mind the several reservations mentioned above.
Accidental Exorcist is currently available on DVD/VOD.