“The Cleansing Hour” (Shriekfest 2016): Fake Exorcism Series Crosses Over into Deadly Reality in Outstanding Horror Short


Fast-paced, spellbinding The Cleansing Hour (2016) recently won Best Horror Short at the Shriekfest Film Festival and it is easy to see why. The short boasts an exciting story, fine performances, and marvelous production values in a tale of a reality series gone horribly wrong.

With a regular viewership of more than 5,000,000 people worldwide on the internet,  The Cleansing Hour is a so-called reality show during which a celebrity priest performs exorcisms. It is so popular that young kids will willingly scarf up their vegetables at dinner just to have a chance to watch it. Unbeknownst to its viewers, though, the series is a sham; priest Father Lance (Sam Jaeger) is an egotistical, womanizing actor and the supposedly possessed victims are actors, as well. Heather (Heather Morris) is the victim of the day and she does her best to impress series director Drew (Neil Grayston). Substitute sound technician Braden (Jonny Radtke) is filling in for the crew’s regular member.

The Cleansing Hour reality series director Drew (Neil Grayston, left) and main character  Father Lance (Sam Jaeger, center)  find themselves working with substitute sound technician Braden (Jonny Radtke) in  The Cleansing Hour short film.

Starting off with a comic tone, the short slowly transitions into much darker territory. As viewers of the short are let in on the ruse, different groups of web series viewers in the United States and South Korea are shown preparing for the latest episode to start. Aaron Horowitz’s screenplay does an ace job of introducing us in a brief amount of time to the different members of the cast and crew, letting us get an idea of their personalities and planting the seeds of how they might later react, as well as breathing life into the webcast viewers that we meet, as well. The entire cast gives fine, believable performances.

As Father Lance begins his usual spiel, it becomes evident that this attempt at exorcism is not what the crew is used to dealing with. The situation escalates and the roguish charm that Father Lance likes to display offscreen quickly gives way to concern. He and Drew find themselves in a quandary: With their viewership now more than double than usual because of the proceedings, do they venture into territory where they only play acted before or cut the feed before someone gets hurt?

Actress Heather (Heather Morris) seems to be improvising beyond the expectations of The Cleansing Hour‘s regular crew members.

The three leads display appealing comic chops and handle the tense moments equally well. Sam Jaeger is terrific as Father Lance, Heather Morris is a blast in her multilayered role, and Neil Grayston is fun as the director who tries to hold everything together as chaos begins to reign.  

The Cleansing Hour is superbly structured and paced by director and editor Damien LeVeck. He segues between horror and comedy atmospheres seamlessly. Director of photography Jesse M. Feldman does beautiful work, and the score by Sean Beavan and Juliette Beavan is aural icing on the cake.

The Cleansing Hour just started on the film festival circuit. For more information about the short, visit the official Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cleansinghourmovie or the Twitter page at https://twitter.com/cleansinghour.

The Cleansing Hour: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.