Who’s to say what is and isn’t real on the internet anymore these days? We’ve all seen a variety of paranormal based shows that purport themselves to be real, but deep down we all suspect are fully staged.
Shudder’s latest original film, The Cleansing Hour takes this concept and runs with it deep into demonic territory. The result is a legitimately tense and creepy paranormal thriller with kickass practical effects that isn’t afraid to take risks that arguably pay off.
Web of Lies
The movie’s titular web reality show sees a priest named Max (Ryan Guzman) performing exorcisms on camera while livestreaming to a wide audience over the internet. The only thing is, everything is completely faked and staged, complete with actors playing the possessed and special effects from just off camera.
Their whole show is nothing but a sham, concocted by Max and his best friend/producing partner Drew (Kyle Gallner). Max has the appearance of a priest, but the way he brings home fans for one night stands kind of goes against that.
His entire fake persona and way of living all comes to a head during one of his livestreams when his actress (who also happens to be Drew’s wife) becomes possessed by a real demon and from then on the show is anything but fake.
What follows is a tense and brutal exorcism in which the secrets and lies of everyone in the room become front and center. And Max, who has spent his career as a fraud must actually rise to the occasion and be the exorcist he claims to be.
The Last Exorcism Meets Reality TV
In the internet age we live in when likes, shares, views, and retweets become a form of figurative currency (and literal for influencers), it’s easy to see why a series like this would gain traction for its sensationalism.
And The Cleansing Hour does a really great job of exploring that idea. Throughout the fateful live exorcism, it occasionally cuts back to viewers from all over the world as they become enthralled with what’s happening. Very quickly it becomes something of a global event, which very easily could have been cheesy, but the movie handles it really well.
Amidst all this however is a very personal and compelling story of Max and Drew, and everything that led them down this path. Ultimately it makes for a very interesting juxtaposition, this global scale of viewers with a very personal and intimate story of two childhood friends and the shared trauma they endured. We all certainly have figurative demons, and the real demons are very good at bringing them out.
Max becomes a flawed, but very relatable hero. From the beginning, it’s easy to be appalled by his blatant fraud and arrogance, but as that’s all stripped away, it becomes easy to root for him as he rises to the occasion.
In any modern movie, it’s really refreshing to see good old fashion practical effects used for everything from monsters to action scenes. The Cleansing Hour fortunately delivers in this department as well.
It has its share of CGI, but with some of the demonic terror we get some awesome practical makeup and creature design, that’s even blended with CGI to make for an overall better looking visual. There’s not much more we can say about it without spoiling the movie, but just know that the practical effects were very welcome.
The Cleansing Hour remains an extremely well written, paced, crafted, and themed demonic thriller and to be honest, it’s arguably one of (if not the) best original movie that Shudder has released in 2020!
The Cleansing Hour is streaming exclusively on Shudder!