Exeter (2015)

A group of teenagers decide to party at an abandoned mental hospital and inadvertently summon an angry something that traps them inside. Being children of the 21st century, they try a DIY exorcism and employ all the tricks of Youtube and the Internet to survive. It’s old school horror versus the modern survivalist, and all the carnage in between.

Exeter tries, it must be said. It obviously wants to talk about the modern age, sibling relationships, and how teenagers deal with the sins of the previous generation. The film and the characters use humor – sometimes off colored, sometimes outright cruel – to deal with the situations they find themselves in, situations they aren’t prepared for in the least. These are ambitious themes for any project to take on, but horror seems like an especially suited genre to tackle them with.

Unfortunately, Exeter isn’t as smart or as nasty as it needs to be to pull off that sort of commentary. Certainly the film has its moments, but isn’t willing to give the characters enough depth for the themes to have any resonance. Even the sibling relationship between two of the characters, easily the most nuanced and interesting dynamic in the film, falls short at the end. Exeter can tell us that the brothers have issues and hint at why, but it doesn’t want to explore the issue fully and risk its lead character appear unsympathetic.

Visually, Exeter pulls out all the stops. This is a film that looks very nice in every shot. The lighting is spot on, the costumes work, and the setting manages to convey the essence of chaos and decay that come with abandoned places (they have a lot of junk in them) while not cluttering the scene. It’s a delicate balancing act, though one that Exeter has mastered. Still, it’s not enough to watch a film based on its looks, and I can’t honestly recommend Exeter on its content. It tries, but falls short.

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