J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Macabro ’15: Ava’s Possessions

Maybe you do not feel like a twelve step program after having a demon exorcised from your body, but the fact that its run by the Catholic Church should give it credibility. After all, it’s a little too late for agnosticism. Those that do not enroll potentially face prosecution for the crimes their bodies committed while demonically possessed. Ava Dopkins pragmatically opts for group therapy in Jordan Galland’s Ava’s Possessions (trailer here), which screens as the opening night selection of this year’s Macabro, the International Horror Film Festival in Mexico City.

When Dopkins comes to, Father Merrino is praying over her and her mother is sporting a conspicuous eye patch. These are both bad signs. Despite the incredibleness of it all, she soon accepts the fact that she was possessed. Unfortunately, she has a lot of fence mending to do. Seeking amends is also part of the Church’s program. Tony, their street-smart hipster councilor also teaches them techniques to ward of re-possession. However, at least one of her fellow group-members misses the feelings of power and arousal that came with her demonic guest.

Although she really should know better, Dopkins will help her rebellious friend perform a wildly ill-advised ceremony. Unfortunately, the results will further complicate her efforts to find a mysterious older gentleman, who may or may not be the source of the unsettling blood stains in her living room.

Possessions sounds like another Exorcist spoof, like the amusingly meathead-ish Bad Exorcists, but Galland takes the clever concept and spins out a fully developed narrative, building up a serious head of paranoia in the third act. For a horror mash-up, it is pretty darned creepy, representing a dramatic step up from his inventive but inconsistent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead.

Galland gets a major assist from the perfectly cast Louisa Krause, who hits all the right sarcastic, confused, and angry notes as Dopkins. As an effective counterweight, Wass Stevens is all kinds of badness as Tony. Possessions also comes fully stocked with colorful supporting turns from the likes of William Sadler, Dan Fogler, and Carol Kane, as Dopkins’ father, her attorney, and a paranormal bookstore proprietor, respectively.

Somehow, Galland finds a way to make a case of demonic possession even more disturbing, while generating a fair amount of laughs. Frankly, Eva’s Possessions is probably the film that most closely approximates the vibe of the Buffy and Angel television series. It is witty and self-aware, but it is all business when the dark forces strike. Highly recommended for horror fans, Ava’s Possessions continues its festival run tonight (8/19) and Friday (8/21), as part of the 2015 edition of Macabro.

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