Gravitas Ventures is publicizing Along Came the Devil as “an exorcism movie for a new generation.” God help us if it is. I can’t imagine this movie capturing the short attention spans of teens and young adults who have grown up with the instant gratification of social media. Its biggest sin is that it’s dull. Long stretches occur during which nothing much happens, capped by jump scares that don’t work due to the lack of suspense.
What’s so sad is that there are kernels of interesting ideas sprinkled throughout the script. At first, it doesn’t seem that Ashley (Sydney Sweeney) is going to be possessed at all. Living with her Aunt Tanya (Jessica Barth) and feeling abandoned when her older sister, Jordan (Kyla Deaver), leaves for college, she’s haunted by, sometimes literally, the ghost of her mother. In fact, a character will later ask, “Is it depression or demonic possession?”
Other interesting ideas, though, are squandered by their convenience to the plot. Reverend Michael (Bruce Davison) used to “be into” demonology and exorcism. Ashley’s friend, Hannah (Madison Lintz) “is into” angels and demons. Solutions are quickly learned, such as, “the only way to defeat him is to unlock the secret of his name and use it against him” and “the only chance is to get her back to holy ground after she’s sedated.”
Elements of the story do represent “a new generation.” Ashley has never seen The Exorcist. Hannah plays with an app that ghost hunters use. Pastor John (Matt Dallas aka Kyle XY) is a dreamy priest who, in the climax, will drag Ashley back into church kicking and screaming… in slow motion. It comes close to something that you’d see on the CW; but, honestly, it’s not even that good. Maybe if it succumbed to its silliness instead of trying to maintain earnestness, it would have been better.
It’s so easy to create “critic-quotes” with this movie. For example, when Reverend Michael says, “Some books are better left on the shelf.” I say, “Some movies are better left on the shelf.” When Along Came the Devil finally embraces the exorcism aspect, it squanders even that with a poor-man’s version of Tubular Bells. All it does is remind us that this is an inferior version. For me, The Exorcist television show was an exorcism story for a new generation. While it gets axed, movies like this get made.