The Exorcism of Karen Walker (2018) – Film Review

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Director: Steve Lawson
Cast: Shane Taylor, Janine Nerissa, Rula Lenska
Certificate: 15

by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow

No, it’s not a Hallowe’en edition of Will and Grace featuring Megan Mullally’s namesake alter ego, but a British chiller which centres on the eponymous young woman and her spiritual problems.

Key protagonist is Karen’s brother Mitch (Shane Taylor, who looks like a young Dean Stockwell – remember him from assorted David Lynch projects and Quantum Leap?). He and his pregnant British wife Diane (Janine Nerissa) move into a creepy old house, which looks like it’s in London. At first The Exorcism of Karen Walker looks like a remake of Hellraiser, with a similar set-up. (The house and hallway even look the same as Clive Barker’s seminal 1987 classic).

I’m guessing London is doubling for the US as psychic Rula Lenska charges in dollars, though she might be just a very savvy businesswoman catering for international clients. The movie takes time setting up its story with lengthy scenes and word-perfect dialogue. Everything has a slightly drawn-out feel, and could have done with some snappier editing.

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Anyway, Karen (Denise Moreno) is obviously possessed (thanks to the giveaway title), and with the aid of a special camera (which is like an Instax or Polaroid for Ghostbusters), we can see how freaky her aura is.

The film takes place in a world of few people, features barely any establishing shots, and could easily be adapted for a stage play. It’s well lit, the score is great, but punters wanting plenty of scares could be disappointed.

It’s a nuts-and-bolts tale which basically consists of character A delivers vast chunks of exposition; character B listens. Then B talks for a while and A listens. It’s not wrong, but cinema is obviously a visual medium and more ’show’ less ’tell’ would have helped the film enormously.

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“A few chills”

The genre has been explored endlessly since William Friedkin’s The Exorcist in 1973, and while he exploited every trick in the book for his shocker, this eschews the usual tropes of night shots, atmospheric lightning, smoke, chilly environments and prosthetics.

There are a few chills here and there, but not enough to satisfy hardcore horror fans. Due to a prolonged set-up and obvious framing of a couple of characters, the obligatory twist is signposted five minutes before the pay-off. Great scares are all in the edit. For example, have a long shot of a parked car in a spy thriller, chances are it will explode, to nobody’s amazement. No explosions here, but a similar framing problem means the twist is pretty much delivered on a plate.

Though clocking in at a lean 80 minutes, with a few more creepy dialogue-free shots in place of the seemingly endless exposition, this could have really taken off instead of taxiing along the suspense runway. If you like horror films that aren’t too scary, this is worth a look, but if you’ve spent decades absorbed by classic Amicus and Hammer offerings, The Exorcism of Karen Walker might test your patience.

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“Pumps new blood”

Elvis may have summed it up best: “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

However, full marks to Hereford Films for taking the Blumhouse approach to horror. Tight, low budget chillers that put bums on seats and should hopefully make enough cash to generate sequels. Anything that pumps new blood into the British horror film industry is all right by me. Hopefully their next offering will be more stalk less talk.


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