Dead by Dawn 2017: The Accidental Exorcist (Plus Q&A with Daniel Falicki)
Director: Daniel Falicki
Starring: Daniel Falicki, Faye Sills, Sheryl Despres
Running Time: 105mins
“Accidental Exorcist” is a decent title for the film (not that the director agrees) as the lead character Richard Vanuck (Daniel Falicki) is not like your average god-fearing exorcists usually found in possession movies. However “There Will be Vomit” would be an equally apt title for the movie as this is not a movie for the weak of stomach or with a poor gag reflex as there is an awful lot of puke across the 105 minute running time even to the extent that there is a vomit montage towards the end./
Some of this is actually pretty funny but some of it seems to be gross-out for the sake of gross-out especially early on in the film. The story, such as it is, follows Richard Vanuck as he goes from possession to possession. Once he successfully unpossess someone he passes out, having absorbed the evil himself, and usually wakes up in a nearby park or something after being dumped by his employers. As this process repeated forms the bulk of the structure of the film it feel more like a series of vignettes rather than a cohesive feature film.
That said some of these vignettes are sharply written and very funny. Especially a segment where Vanuck has to try and successfully convince a reverend whose brother is possessed that he is a priest which is hilarious. There is also a cracking segment where Vanuck tries to quit the whole exorcism gig and takes up an office job, which goes about as well as you would expect, which nails the banality of office life and the silly hoops people often have to jump through in these roles. A lot of the scenes drag on way too long and the pacing is frequently off. It is fine for a film to be slow or deliberately paced but generally the viewer wants to feel the story is going somewhere or has some forward momentum where all too often the films detours for what seems like no good reason and in some places flat out stalls.
There are also few characters to latch onto either as we are introduced to characters when Mr Vanuck comes to unpossess a member of a household then they are never seen again. There is a few characters that leave a mark though such as Vanuck’s landlord’s son who carries a baseball bat nicknamed Gorbachev (as it has red mark at the top obviously). However the only character we really follow or have any investment in is Richard himself. Luckily he is an entertaining, sardonic and amusingly ramshackle character who spends most of the film wasted on various substances as this is his way to drown out the evil he takes in after each exorcism. Falicki plays the character with a certain amount of slightly off-the-wall charm as well and is generally impressive for someone who was not supposed to play the role (more of which later).
Towards the end of the movie there is a vague attempt to try and round the story and give the plot more form which is interesting but does not quite work. Although the final sequence is delightfully weird.
Verdict: There are a bunch of interesting element here that never quite coalesce. It is patience-testing and at times seem like about a 3/10 film but there are also moments of sharp writing and real humour. A very mixed bag.
Q&A with Daniel Falick
I almost feel it is a shame that I did not like the movie more as the Q&A afterwards was one of the highlights of the festival. It was easy to tell from the film that Mr Falicki may have a fairly short attention span and being rather hyper and he absolutely was as this turned out to be less a Q&A and more of a stream of consciousness from the writer/director as while he did answer the questions, he frequently went off on tangents or rants all of which were fairly amusing. Some of the highlights included how the lead was originally supposed to be a 50-year-old actor who dropped out mere days before shooting leading Falicki himself to have to stand-in (and as mentioned he does a decent) which led him into rant against SAG (Screen Actors Guild) who had been instrumental in the original lead dropping out, there was also an amusing rant against the producers of the movie who Falicki was obviously locked into a toxic relationship with and when asked what inspired him to make the film he said mainly his love of “The Exorcist” and his hatred of modern possession movies like: “The Exorcism of Emily…whatshername”. You will be unsurprised to learn the Q&A over ran a little bit but nobody minded as Falicki was such an amusing whirlwind of energy. Definitely one of Dead by Dawn’s best Q&A’s.
Words by Scott Murphy