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.
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?
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 / 5)