REVIEW: The Cleansing Hour
– By Stephen Harper
Like it or not, we live in a Reality TV world right now. Whether it be the Kardashians flooding every channel we turn on or Trump rising up from Apprentice decider to country ruler. Every single trade or occupation seems to have found its way onto our screens.
Although we do have numerous paranormal offerings through ghost huntings, mediums and documentaries, I have always wondered how long it would take for a TV show to materialise conducting exorcisms. Regardless if they were good or not there’s no doubt your curiosity would make you tune in?
Director Damien LeVeck has obviously had similar ideas with his new short film The Cleansing Hour, in which he explores what may happen if you mess with the unknown in front of millions of viewers.
The Cleansing Hour is an online web series in which people tune in to watch Father Lance (Sam Jaeger) battle demons through exorcisms in an atmospheric setting and always come out the winner on a weekly basis. Unknown to the audience the show is all an elaborate hoax thought up by two failed filmmakers. Drew (Neil Grayston), who’s the sort of brains of the operation, working and manipulating everything behind the scenes with Lance being the charismatic, confident servant of God. Everything is fine-tuned for the perfect performance from smoke machines, lighting and props to give the whole charade authenticity.
The two are at loggerheads as Lance has an apparent swagger about him, living the high life on the back of his online character’s success, whilst Drew is stuck stressed-out trying to deliver the show virtually on his own, except for Sound/Mic guy Braden (Jonny Radtke).
The show is prepped for as normal by Drew. He set ups all props and effects for the evening’s entertainment and direction is given to the actress who’s going to appear to be possessed. The actress in question is Heather (Heather Morris). At first she’s exactly what you’d expect: an enthusiastic wannabe actress trying to catch her big break. Once introduced to Father Lance, scripts studied and everything prepared, the stage is set, The Cleansing Hour goes LIVE!
We instantly see that geographically it’s a hit. Reaching other countries and various occupations and ages.
The show begins with its fantastic opening credits to find the unfortunate subject strapped to a chair moaning and groaning and Father Lance explaining the severity of the victims past, from child abuse to prostitution now to demonic possession.
As Father Lance begins his over the top performance, Heather starts displaying unscripted behaviour and it soon becomes apparent that they’re not dealing with an actress, but somebody who’s truly possessed.
On the downside that’s as far as my plot details can go without revealing major spoilers unfortunately. On the plus-side what I can say is you’re in for a real treat.
What we get with The Cleansing Hour is a short burst, an introduction into what could become a full feature or a TV show. I’m not sure if this is something the director ever envisioned, but that’s how I felt whilst watching it. I forgot I was watching a short film, it was like viewing a Pilot Episode to a new supernatural TV show and certainly one I’d definitely tune in for. For me a lot of supernatural shows are a little hokey and tend to eventually lean towards the safe. The Cleansing Hour has enough solid eerie foundations and likeable characters to build upon.
Talking of characters, the casting here is fabulous. (Grayston) is perfect for Drew, that is a somewhat intelligent, sarcastic perfectionist with a hint of geek. Heather Morris is fantastic in her dual role as the sweet and innocent actress to the wild-eyed possessed demon. Morris is a very successful actress already I know and although I never imagined her in this type of material, I must say she was highly impressive. The supporting cast were all pretty flawless including a somewhat silent, creepy turn from Radtke, but it’s Jaeger that steals the show. He’s cocky, arrogant, but undeniably likeable. He slightly reminded me of a cross between Aaron Eckhart appearance wise and the characteristics of Bruce Campbell’s Ash from Evil Dead. He’s a character that I’d love to see further explored as he’d be tonnes of fun.
The Cleansing Hour as a one-shot short film is very good, but the film has so much promise I urge director Damien LeVeck to further its adventures.
LeVeck has tonnes of experience as an editor, but The Cleansing Hour shows he’s an extremely gifted director too. Everything is polished, clean, with production values to die for. I’ve recently read that LeVeck has a passion for horror? Judging by how good The Cleansing Hour is and his Christian name being Damien, I’d say it’s the perfect fit!