16th May2023

‘Exorcism in Utero’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Sam Bangs, Leonard Hoge, Steve Larkin, Stephanie Leet, Calvin Morie McCarthy | Written and Directed by Erik Skybak

While watching TV late one night, Peter O’Neill (Leonard Hoge) notices a curious sight from his bedroom window. A green light outside alerts him to strange occurrences in the house next-door, owned by the strictly religious Johnson family. What Peter witnesses leaves him scared, and his attempts to inform his family are met with disbelief.

Writer/director Erik Skybak then takes viewers into the Johnsons’ house, as they invite fellow churchgoer Herma (Sam Bangs) to housesit while they are on vacation. Later while she is alone, the guest ventures into the cellar where she discovers mysterious items, including a ring she tries on. The jewellery has a nasty effect on Herma, as a possession transforms her body and deteriorates her mind, threatening the guest and her unborn baby.

As unseen forces within an unfamiliar house threaten the expectant mother, the potential lies for a tale which taps into motherhood anxieties amidst Rosemary’s Baby style machinations. Sadly, such promise is hampered by the material itself, as characters barely act or speak like real people due to stiff performances and a screenplay that feels created by an A.I. No naturalism is found in the simplest emotions, with moments of anger and disbelief feeling forced. The only exception is a sudden case of epilepsy, which is a rare moment when the O’Neills resemble an actual family, yet it ends too suddenly.

An impression of uncertainty lies in the film, as though the creative forces lacked the convictions to fulfil their ideas. This is particularly felt during the serious moments, which feel undermined when immediately followed by lacking gags. A priest randomly wanders throughout the film until he is needed for the titular exorcism, an issue which opposes how the main antagonists are bizarrely non-existent for most of the film.

As a late scene involving a baby feels inspired by a vicious sequence in 1992’s Braindead, one wonders if the director was paying homage to Peter Jackson. The evidence stacks up with the horror-movie-loving child possibly being named after him, and notably wearing a Meet The Feebles T-shirt. Unfortunately, such influences do not extend to the film’s quality much like Casablanca homages did not aid Foodfight!

* 1/5

Exorcism in Utero will be released on digital platforms worldwide on May 23rd, courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures.

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