‘Oh great. Another exorcism short,’ I thought as Writer Aaron Horwitz and the appropriately first-named Director Damien Leveck’s The Cleansing Hour began. ‘It’s even set in a warehouse and being filmed.’ But then it genuinely usurped my expectations. Of course, A) having seen more shorts that I’ve had breakfasts (maybe) and B) this being a horror movie, I knew what the the plot’s triple cross was going to be. If you’re reading Popcorn Horror then as proper horror hounds you’ll also see it coming as soon as you recognise the double cross that precedes it. But by then you, like me, will be too hooked for that to matter. And frankly, would you really want to go without that triple cross just to have your expectations subverted?
The answer to this question, and the question itself, are both actually pretty interesting, and it’s one this film ably answers, for its own particular case at least. You see, a lesser film would have needed to genuinely have subverted our expectations, especially if it was an exorcism short. That would be its strength, its strong arm, its point of focus.
The first and only time I ever ate kudu was when I was living in South Africa. I don’t remember if the accompaniments or meat itself were cooked particularly well, I was just enjoying the fact I was eating kudu. And that’s good enough. It’s a memory I evidently still keep and enjoy given that I’m recalling it eight years later.
But this isn’t that. The Cleansing Hour is food you’re familiar with, but everything is exquisitely crafted from top to bottom. The potatoes are at once crisp and fluffy. The Yorkshire puddings have the right amount of crunch at the top and squidginess at the bottom. And that pork is literally falling right off the shoulder bone. You get the point.
The writing is wonderfully nuanced and imbues the characters with such depth that I could’ve already been watching them for 45 minutes. The actors take this writing and do exactly what actors are supposed to do. Sam Jaeger adds a pervy smarm to the shyster Father Lance. Neil Grayson is just manipulative enough to be dislikable, but not so much that he becomes a cartoon or that we want to see him murdered. Heather Morris also puts in a great turn as her namesake, being very likeable and vulnerable, while also summoning a mean demon impersonation.
Props also go to the ending, which Leveck and Horwitz crafted from the start. It gave me a real “holy shit!” moment which nicely commented on our enslavement to social media without bashing us over the head with it. When it inevitably gets remade sign these two up to create the new EvilSpeak.
The Cleansing Hour is one the best shorts I’ve ever see and well worth your time this Halloween.