Exeter (aka The Asylum, aka Backmask, 2015)

I watched this for completism’s sake, but I can’t profess to any great fondness for the gory side of the horror film (whereas the psychological stuff I’ve enjoyed in, say, The Babadook). Once it gets going, there’s certainly plenty of gore in Exeter, but the build-up is fitfully enjoyable (just an aside on the film’s name: it was retitled The Asylum for the UK market, possibly to avoid confusion with the county, but originally entitled Backmask, which I can imagine was picked because it sounds cool, though there’s only a passing reference to the urban legend of backwards satanic messages being hidden in rock music). As the makers seems to have started filming back in 2011, one can only assume there were problems in delivering the final cut, but thankfully it all looks very stylish and professional on screen. The setting is an eerie and dilapidated building (of course) hidden away in some rural backwater (naturally), which used to be a mental asylum (what else?) and is supposedly haunted by the lost souls who were dumped there to be forgotten (you get the gist). A group of youngsters camp out for a party and soon strange stuff starts happening. There’s a creepy priest who shows up early on, and elsewhere there are plenty of nods to The Exorcist. Otherwise this is a straightforward gory frightfest, with a disturbing sideline (thankfully fairly minor) in women being sexualised and then brutalised, surprising not least because the film is written by a woman. However, this is deeply embedded in genre territory, so there are rules to be followed, and the film does play by them. If you enjoy this kind of thing, then my review has probably been misleading, and this is a minor masterpiece. I just don’t tend to enjoy this kind of thing.


© Viva Pictures

FILM REVIEW
Director Marcus Nispel | Writer Kirsten McCallion | Cinematographer Eric Treml | Starring Kelly Blatz, Brittany Curran | Length 91 minutes || Seen at home (DVD), London, Friday 24 July 2015

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