Just when I thought I had seen every type of generic exorcism movie that existed, 80s-set horror comedy My Best Friend’s Exorcism proves me wrong, and then some. Starring a top-tier roster of rising young talent (including Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathy And, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu), rarely does a film’s mixture of horror and comedy scream in terror quite so harmoniously. Perhaps my favorite detail is that it places a close friendship at the core of its story. Whether you’ve come for the 80s vibes, dark humor, or its own personal bone-twisting brand of psychological horror, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is freshly baptized, and ready for your love.
Welcome to the school year of 1988. Taking magazine quizzes and obsessing over Culture Club’s Boy George, zit-addled outsider Abby (Fisher, 2022’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eighth Grade) and semi-popular edgy blonde bestie Gretchen (Miller, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Water Man) have been best friends since fourth grade. They are so close that they hold hands at school; each has one-half of a “best friends” keychain, and they often converse with one another in a language only recognizable amongst them. Sadly, after this summer, Gretchen will be moving away to pursue her dreams. As one final adventure, Gretchen and Abby join their two pals, image-obsessed Margaret (Kanu) and her secretly-in-the-closet sidekick, Glee (And, And Just Like That…), at Margaret’s family lake house. All bets are off, as the four girls bust out the pizza and ouija board for a night of bonding. A surprise guest—none other than Margaret’s horny, aggressively flirtatious boyfriend, Wally (Clayton Royal Johnson, Wildflower, Stranger Things 4)—brings along a special party gift in the form of enough LCD tablets for their entire crew!
Reluctantly, Gretchen and Abby agree to take the tabs together, but Abby makes Gretchen promise to stay by her side even if “I start bugging out.” A local urban legend introduced about a girl who was sacrificed at a satanic ritual seems to become important just as they collectively decide to go skinny-dipping in the nearby lake. Abby is the only one who doesn’t get in the water; Margaret’s nasty attitude and remarks about Abby’s acne result in Abby storming off alone, pursued almost instantly by a warm, consoling Gretchen. Wandering through the woods, they come across an abandoned building. I immediately felt a creepy atmosphere from this place—mostly pitch-black, and yet the girls eventually come across a glaring eye that spooks them silly.
Abby runs away fast, thinking Gretchen is behind her, but Gretchen gets pulled back shortly after scraping up her knee. When Abby goes back later to find Gretchen with the help of Margaret and Glee, something has changed. Gretchen is not the same person she once was. When they return to school, Gretchen is nearly mute, having little reaction to any kind of mental or emotional stimulation. Abby is the first to notice that she is simply not herself. Before one can say “possession,” Gretchen is projectile-vomiting up a storm, conniving to out Glee’s lesbianism, and hatching a scheme to destroy Margaret from the literal inside out. This is nothing compared to the humiliation she causes Abby, pushing her away as Gretchen’s behavior grows more erratic and unpredictable by the day.
Knowing the genre of film this is, one would assume that the majority centers around the titular exorcism of the title. Shockingly, it is not until the final twenty minutes that we actually delve into this arena. Of course, when we do, it is well worth the wait. An entire school turns on “Abby Normal” as she becomes a social outcast, but Gretchen’s star continues to rise in the shark tank of high school. Christian bodybuilder/musician Christian Lemon (Christopher Lowell, Promising Young Woman, 2014’s Enlisted) becomes Abby’s only hope for the possibility of saving Gretchen’s soul from certain damnation. Like a lighter Jennifer’s Body, My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses its brand of horror on the manipulations of best friends, and whether friendship itself can prevail over pure evil.
This sharply-scripted film borrows elements from bitchy teen 90s comedies such as Clueless and The Craft, emulating their energy through a uniquely original blender. I would not have guessed that it was based on a novel, yet apparently the text by Grady Hendrix is immensely popular. I can see it being a young adult favorite, and the attention to detail with My Best Friend’s Exorcism certainly makes more sense in context. The bond between Gretchen and Abby is concise and richly explored—importantly, I believed their bond was a true one, and appreciated Abby’s steadfast persistence in attempting to rescue her closest friend. “The power of Boy George compels you” to give My Best Friend’s Exorcism a chance to win you over as it comes to streaming right in the comfort of your home.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism gets possessed with the spirit of a good time when it comes to Prime Video on Friday, September 30th.