Remember that last post I made, where I briefly wrote about horror comedies? Well, I found one that actually kinda worked. I said that you need to strike a balance between horror and comedy not swaying too far to either side, and what I didn’t realize is that you can also let both those aspects fall to the background and let the story shine through. The reason I didn’t really consider that a horror comedy with very little horror or comedy would work is because I thought it would get too cluttered and water down both the scares and the laughs, making it a homogeneous blend of boring. Today, I managed to find a movie that plays down the horror and the comedy, and doesn’t really suffer from it.
Ava’s Possessions is a dark comedy/ drama that also happens to involve Exorcist style demonic possession. It’s written and directed by Jordan Galland who has a whole slew of credits on IMDb, but hasn’t worked on anything that I’ve ever heard of before. I honestly only checked this movie out because of a recommendation from the YouTube channel Good Bad Flicks. Netflix’s weird rating algorithm listed it as one star for me so I was never really possessed (ha!) to check it out but then again, Netflix told me I would love Tammy, so I don’t know what I was expecting.
The movie starts up as Ava (Louisa Krause), a young New York woman striking out on her own, is exorcised of a demon possessing her body. Once she’s back to normal she sees the chaos and destruction she caused while possessed, and needs to put her life back together. While trying to get back into the swing of things, she finds some clues that lead her to believe something happened one of the nights she was possessed that nobody told her about. She goes off to try and get to the bottom of it all while trying her best to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society.
Looking at the poster and seeing the review “The Hangover but with a lot more demons” is really, really, inaccurate. Sure, Ava needs to try and figure out what crazy shit happened one night she can’t remember, but the humor in Ava’s Possessions is so different from modern big studio comedies like The Hangover. It’s so refreshing. This movie could have gone the Drag Me To Hell route with tons of gross-out humor and slapstick, but I’m glad it decided to play everything straight and have most of the jokes come from sarcasm and deadpan delivery. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it’s definitely entertaining. Some of the comedy also comes from the absurdity of it all, as in this universe demonic possessions are popular enough a church sponsored program called Spirit Possession Anonymous.
And that is where the movie’s main fault lies as well. Not the quirky world they establish where demons are common enough to warrant a possession support group, but the hamfisted comparison of demonic possession to drug abuse. Galland goes so far as to actually include a conversation about drugs between Ava and her conservative, stuck up parents in the first five minutes of the movie. Later in the film when Ava is attending her SPA meetings, she meets with the mandatory bad girl of the group who doesn’t listen to the group leader and tries to peer pressure Ava into inviting the demons back in. At the end there’s a line about facing your demons. It’s a little too in-your-face for my tastes, but honestly that’s my only big gripe with it. Other than that, the story and characters are all great, and the couple times the movie tries to incorporate horror elements can be legitimately creepy.
Galland also proves himself a decent director with Ava’s Possessions. The film is chock full of frames that pop with bright yellows and purples, giving a nice twist on the familiar orange-teal color complementary color scheme that every movie ever has today. The only other movie I can remember that does something like this is the 2005 horror masterpiece The Descent, which showcased lots of deep reds and greens. The actors are all given great direction (even in scenes with lots of actors in it, nobody looks awkward or out of place), and while there are a hell of a lot of Dutch angles, the movie doesn’t rely on them to create any of its tension. Galland employs some great cinematography for the most part, with lots of fluid camera work that really gives the movie a hazy, dream like quality to it.
I think Ava’s Possession is a pretty solid movie. It isn’t a brand new favorite by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun little movie telling a possession story from a different perspective. What does happen once the demon is gone? Does everyone’s lives just go back to normal after such a traumatic event? It’s interesting to see something like that explored in a movie. It’s got wit, charm, and was clearly made with a lot of heart, and it looks good to boot. The main cast gave really solid performances (some of the secondary and tertiary characters not so much) and the writing and dialogue were nothing to scoff at either. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes black comedies or kinda quirky indie dramas, or just really likes the colors yellow and purple. Seriously, there is a ton of yellow and purple. You don’t need to be a horror fan to enjoy Ava’s Possessions, so if you’ve got a Netflix account and a free hour and a half, give it a shot. If you have seen it, let me know what you think of it!