A group of teens decide to throw a wild party at an abandoned hospital for deranged children and unleash an evil presence that aims to kill them all.
The plot description is one that has been used for numerous horror films, particularly within the last couple decades. People hang out in a place with a long history of evil deeds and evil deeds do indeed occur. I mean, what did you really expect?
2015’s Exeter doesn’t stray very far from the well-trodden path that countless other horror films set in derelict asylum or hospitals have traveled previously (or post). People, usually teens or young adults, show up looking for a good time or even an adventure “they’ll never forget”. They make a really dumb choice somewhere along the way (usually just be showing up at said “place of evil”) and pay the price for doing so! Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
As the film opens, we find a young, naked junkie preparing to shoot up. There’s more shooting up a few moments later when she shoves a pistol barrel into her mouth and pulls the trigger, spattering her thoughts on the floor behind. Naturally, this scene will have some vital importance that will only be exposed late in the film.
We are then introduced to Patrick (Kelly Blatz – Fear The Walking Dead, Prom Night remake), a teen who is helping clean out the hospital in preparation for it’s upcoming remodel. Patrick has been asked by Father Conway, the priest who once oversaw the hospital during it’s operation, to spend the weekend getting the place emptied. However, after telling a few friends about the deserted building, dozens of teens arrive to throw a wild, drug-fueled party.
Eventually, the party ends and only Patrick, his closet friends, and 2 other teens that they’ve just met are left behind. One of the teens is a guy named Drew, who has already established a reputation for his ability to “party” (i.e. “get high”), and the other a girl (Brittany Curran – SYFY’s The Magicians, 2008’s The Uninvited), who Patrick finds himself strongly attracted to. Patrick’s younger brother has also crashed the party and agrees to be the subject in game of “light as a feather, stiff as a board”. This parlour trick is seemingly all it takes to awaken the evil waiting within the building.
The trick lead to one of the group becoming “possessed” by the force dwelling within the abandoned building. While the presence is undoubtedly malevolent, it is actually responsible for only one death in the film. Instead, this malignancy is content to let its host be killed in brutal and gruesome fashion by the person’s own friends. When one of their number is “turned”, the others have no hesitation bashing their skulls in or impaling their eyeballs! This aspect of the film become a little hard to swallow, especially when we are shown that these possessed individuals are capable of reverting back to normal. Even Ash had to second-guess himself before chopping up his girlfriend with that chainsaw in Evil Dead, which Exeter feels inspired by at times.
Exeter was directed by Marcus Nispel, who helmed the remakes for both Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th. Like with both of those films, Nispel relies too heavily on jump scares, particularly those caused by loud sounds, to establish fright. Exeter regularly falls into some of the same old tired cliches that bury many modern supernatural horror films in obscurity. A creepy asylum, a priest who may be even creepier than the asylum, supernatural party tricks gone wrong, and people walking on all fours while in bent, contorted positions all make their obligatory appearance. There just nothing new to be found here.
Ultimately, the film’s biggest flaw may be that NONE of the characters are likable. The vast majority of these kids are angry, drug-addled losers who repeatedly turn on each other over every new inconvenience or obstacle. Quite frankly, as I see this kids littering up the prison systems of America in later years, the evil spirit may be doing society a favor by killing them now. Even our lead, while presented as the most virtuous of the group, frequently proves too morally ambiguous to really relate to or care about. Even though the film’s final twist should come as little to no surprise if you’ve been paying attention (and asking yourself the same few questions that I had), I was able to find some form of consolation in the fact the film’s “ultimate evil”, when finally revealed, shares the same opinion about these pathetic drugged-out little shits that I had.
Exeter (generically titled “The Asylum” for UK release) is entertaining enough to kill some time with, but probably won’t make many lasting impressions. It leaves more questions than it answers, but probably won’t be something you’re thinking about long after it ends. Performances are decent, with no actors particularly standing out. Stephen Lang, who appears as the priest, is by far the most recognizable face in the cast, but his role is so thin that most anyone could have filled it.
Exeter can be purchased on Amazon at the following link (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3blAlvv), but you’re probably better off just watching it for free on Tubi. (Tubi link: https://tubitv.com/movies/505516/exeter)