Thoughts on “The Cleansing Hour”

“The Cleansing Hour” is another Shudder exclusive that I happened to pick up on DVD for a reasonable price.  I’ve watched four of them before this one.  Two of them — “Scare Package” and “Party Hard, Die Young” — were really bad, and two of them — “Stay Out of the Attic” and “Shook” — were actually relatively good, and also happened to be the later ones.  This movie, then, is effectively the rubber match for evaluating if the Shudder exclusives are overall good or overall bad.

And to spoil it, this movie is actually pretty good.

The main premise is that someone who was raised Catholic but who … didn’t take to it, given that he was in a very strict Catholic boarding school is running what is essentially a popular Youtube channel where he claims to be an actual Catholic priest who is exorcising demons live.  He’s working with his long time friend from that school, who does all of the technical stuff while the “priest” does all the on-camera stuff.  Of course, it’s all a fake, and he hires actors to play the victims and doesn’t really exorcise anyone.  Moreover, he was never a priest — and possibly never even tried to become a priest — and lives a very hedonistic life, and is clearly only using the show as a way to get that.  However, one night their selected “victim” is killed on the way to the show and the friend’s girlfriend — who hates the showman and wants her boyfriend to leave the show — steps in at the last minute, but then is actually possessed by a demon, who wants to torment and humiliate at least the showman in exchange for not killing the girlfriend.

The movie spends most of its time as a Virtue Horror, with the demon taunting all of them to revealing their terrible secrets live online, including that the entire show is a fake and that the friend is skimming the merchandising money.  However, along with this the girlfriend — in the brief moments when she is released by the demon — pleads with them to stop doing what the demon wants and just let it kill her, because the demon is playing them.  What’s nice about that is that it makes sense that the demon is trying to trick them to achieve some hidden end, but for most of the movie we can wonder what that end is.

However, like the other two decent Shudder movies, the ending is a bit disappointing.  This time it doesn’t seem like it was done to set up a sequel, but more that the ending itself doesn’t come together.  What happens is that the demon is revealed to be the actual Devil, and he’s tormenting them — and insisting that they not cut or lose the feed — in order to draw as many people as possible into watching the show.  At the end of the time limit, everyone who was watching ends up become crazed, violent psychopaths who attack anyone who is near them.  At the same time, the girlfriend is released from the possession and we have a touching reunion as they get medical treatment.

The problem with this is that even after all of this we still aren’t aware of what the goal was that would justify the Devil doing this.  While what he’s doing caused chaos, he managed to infect a few million people.  Is this enough to cause a major disruption to the world and a huge overall increase in evil, perhaps even to the point of an apocalypse?  Then the happy reunion of the couple will soon be for naught as they are dragged into this new world of evil and have to deal with it.  But if it only has a minor and temporary impact, then what was the point of doing it that justified all that effort?  If the Devil scored a coup, then the happy ending for the couple and potentially the friends isn’t really a happy one given that the Devil scoring a huge coup is never going to be a good thing for the world.  But if it wasn’t a coup but was instead a minor and temporary victory, then it doesn’t seem like it would be worth all the effort to achieve.  So the happiness of the couple and the happiness of the Devil really clash here.

Still, that’s a minor issue that doesn’t ruin the movie.  The psychological torment works and the movie is paced well enough that we have time to note that it’s probably some kind of trick but not enough time to work it out ourselves.  That being said, I don’t think that there were a lot of hints dropped about what the actual nature of the trick was, other than the obvious one that it wanted a lot of people watching, although trying to cause discord between the two of them and getting the showman to sell out the girlfriend might have been a better goal, if not as dramatic a one.  Given that there don’t seem to be any hints that I could discover on a rewatch, I don’t have a great desire to rewatch the movie to discover those hints, and the plot and performances are good but not overwhelming.  It’s a pretty decent Virtue Horror/Psychological Torment movie though, and so it goes into the box of movies that I might rewatch at some point instead of the movie that I want to try to sell at some point.

So, for Shudder, so far it’s three decent ones and two bad ones.  I really do think that they’ve learned which movies work and which don’t and also might have more resources to put towards finding better unheralded movies, and so the later ones reflect that.  So I’ve gone from thinking that I probably should avoid their exclusives to thinking that I should definitely give ones that interest me a try, which is a great improvement.


One Response to “Thoughts on “The Cleansing Hour””

  1. Thoughts on “An Unquiet Grave” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] — that I found a lot more interesting, and then I followed it up with the decent “The Cleansing Hour” as well.  So I went from avoiding “Shudder” exclusives to being willing to pick them […]

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