Their streaming “exorcism of the week” show a modest but stable hit, it is apparent to producer Drew that The Cleansing Hour has peaked, that the undeniable appeal of Father Max Tyler with his fervent deliverance of souls has saturated the niche audience, that despite flogging Vatican endorsed official Cleansing Hour merchandise and the 50,000 Twitter followers on Max’s as yet unverified account they are not going to grow without change.
Friends since childhood and through the shared trauma of their Catholic schooldays, they know each other too well, that Drew will suggest expanding their remit to ghost hunts and séances, that Max will refuse, yet they both keep secrets from each other which will receive a very public airing when a guest performer fails to show up, and instead makeup artist Lane, Drew’s fiancé, is required to play victim.
The Cleansing Hour a carefully structured and slickly produced fake constructed around blood squibs and flying props, makeup and showmanship, the last thing Max needs to be confronted with is a real demonic possession, one which will not respond to his pleas to dislodge from Lane’s tortured body and which will not allow them to terminate the broadcast – but as their ratings have never been higher, who is the loser?
Directed by Damien LeVeck from a script co-written with Aaron Horwitz, expanded from their own 2016 short of the same name, The Cleansing Hour was the opening feature of the first full day of FrightFest at the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival and the perfect wakeup call, smart and sharp and with full-on prosthetic effects from genre expert Tom Woodruff Jr and a strong ensemble cast.
A realtime progression of physical torment, twists and bloody humour, Heroes Reborn‘s Ryan Guzman is Father Max, cruising on his looks more than his faith, and Veronica Mars‘ Kyle Gallner is Drew, behind the desk and holding things together while The Magnificent Seven‘s Alix Angelis is strapped in the chair as the unfortunate Lane, pleading to be set free.
The clock ticking down, the exorcism can only be performed if Max and Drew can identify the uncooperative demon which in the best traditions of online interaction asks the audience to make demands of Max if Lane is to be spared, the first predictably for him to strip on camera, but it is his soul that the demon wishes to bare, confessing his sins to his viewers and his friends and making a deal with the devil whose repercussions he is too preoccupied to consider.