Accidental Exorcist (2016) Review by Bob Freville
Original Release Date: June, 2016 (Available on Tubi)
I knew writer/director/actor Daniel E. Falicki (Sector 5 Films) could do a serviceable job of making a no-budget horror movie. What I didn’t know was that he could do such an equitable job of acting. As Vanuck, the drunken exorcist or “witch doctor” of Accidental Exorcist, Falicki is not only convincing but poignant. We feel for this guy even when we shouldn’t.
Another thing about Accidental Exorcist that kept me on my toes was the humour. I really dug Falicki’s 13 Demons when I went into this one, but ‘Demons’ could not prepare me for the mix of humour and drama on display here. Vanuck is a believable lead without the brawn of modern movie heroes or the histrionics of your typical leading man. Falicki plays him as tortured and deeply empathetic, but he doesn’t hesitate to show us how irritated a constant saver of souls can get with his demons and the innocents they possess.
The atmosphere is suitably dark and completely Falicki’s own. I’ve seen a lot of shitty SOV torture porn getting ridiculous amounts of praise online. I’ve also seen a regrettable number of Syfy movies celebrated on the reg. Some of these pictures are horribly disjointed and make for a stinkier cheese than Epoisse de Bougogne. Accidental Exorcist is not one of these; it is a SOV flick that uses its limitations to its advantage.
Falicki has firmly established a style that makes the most of his microscopic budgets. The dude knows how to stage a scene in a simple but effective way. The bathtub sequence is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a low-budget horror film, and I venture to guess that it looks better on mid-grade video than it would if it were shot on the newest equipment with some film-mimicking filter.
An early equestrian reference to Robert Redford demonstrates the randomness of Falicki’s humour, while the bathroom scene displays his knack for a mis-en-scene that embraces the SOV aesthetic in a way previously unseen. The closest example I can think of – not that they are thematically or aesthetically similar, just equally zealous about the video format – is The Book of Life, Hal Hartley’s 1998 movie that experimented with first-gen prosumer video cameras long before video was accepted by the mainstream.
Like Hartley, Falicki has bothered to study the contrasts and textures of consumer-grade video cameras and builds his mis-en-scene around what works in that toolkit. It is also gratifying to watch a director who isn’t afraid of offending viewers or pulling punches in the 2020s.
Accidental Exorcist is a bizarre, engaging, fitfully grotesque portrait of what it might be like to be a reluctant down-and-out natural-born exorcist. I guarantee you’ll never think of food fights in the same way again after seeing this snarling, spewing, balls-out splatter movie. I was about to call it a splatter comedy, but that doesn’t accurately describe it, either. Its tone is pitched somewhere between the grungy gallows humour of TCM2 and the deadpan of Fargo.
Falicki’s movies are kind of a genre unto themselves; they dare you to coin a phrase that would best sum up their sordid qualities. I’ve tried several out—dungeon chuckler, sausage slasher, grue humour, boil burster, thromedy—and have yet to land on one that does it justice. Suffice to say you’ll know it when you see it.
Some of the acting is to be expected from a regional DIY flick, but the heart and guts are to be commended across the board. One scene involving a can of SPAM not only brought me to the verge of gagging but left me in genuine awe—Falicki’s follow-through is truly impressive.
There’s something to be said for a director who would cast himself in the role that requires the most, almost like he’s putting on a show for the next actor he works with: “Hey, if I can do it, so can you.”
Bob Freville is a writer, producer and director from New York. His LoFi vampire film Hemo was released by Troma. His X-rated bikersploitation novella The Filthy Marauders is available from The Evil Cookie Publishing. He is the writer-producer of the forthcoming Norwegian drug comedy The Scavengers of Stavanger. Look inside his head: @bobfreville