Review: The Disco Exorcist / Cert: 18 / Director: Richard Griffin / Screenplay: Tony Nunes, Ted Geoghagen / Starring: Michael Reed, Ruth Sullivan, Sarah Nicklin / Release Date: Out Now
As though we couldn’t get enough of them, The Disco Exorcist is yet another exercise in Grindhouse pastiche, and although it does many things well it ultimately fails due to a very flat script and some leaden pacing.
The concept sounds fun: Disco King Rex Romanski (Reed) seduces and ensnares the alluring Rita Marie (Sullivan) one night on the local dance floor and, although she is smitten, he strays the following night following a chance meeting with porn star Amoreena Jones (Nicklin). Rita goes ape-shit and invokes a curse on Rex which naturally leads to an all-out zombie onslaught at a sex orgy. See? Sounds like fun.
However, in order for them to really work, these faux Grindhouse movies have to be better than the originals. This isn't. It's all very well to say, “Well, yeah, but the acting is supposed to be bad, the dialogue corny and the pacing all over the place, but it's okay because we're all in on the joke”. Unfortunately, that argument will only wash if the result is funny, scary or thrilling. The Disco Exorcist isn't. The first 45 minutes in particular drag terribly and many of the worst lines are delivered with all the ill-deserved confidence of someone spewing forth comedy gold. Indeed, it looks as though the cast are really enjoying themselves at times but most of the supporting actors are so pantomime that they seem to be on the verge of winking at the camera after each line. Again, you can get away with this if it is funny.
Having said that, it’s not been made without love and isn’t devoid of merit. The three leads are likeable and engaging, and it has to be said that they all attack the frequent and varied sex scenes with gusto. Ruth Sullivan in particular delivers a performance that is pitch-perfect as the wronged woman who turns to witchcraft for revenge, looking and acting as though she's just stepped out of some fleapit cinema screen in order to sashay her way down 42nd Street.
It’s also very well lit, with an abundance of primary colours shot through a disco haze invoking the cheap glamour of the '70s club and porn scenes. Special effects are also good while being sufficiently rough around the edges to evoke that exploitation cinema feel.
Most Grindhouse movies have been forgotten because they were awful. However, the very best could be urgent, exciting, visceral slices of adrenalin-fuelled depravity that both appalled and delighted their audience. It was guerilla filmmaking successfully realised by obsessives with little money but talent in spades who were eager to push the boundaries, regardless of budget. The very best examples that reinvent Grindhouse (and for the very best example see Father's Day from Astron-6) emulate such films. The Disco Exorcist however is an intentionally awful film and an average faux Grindhouse spoof. Fans with a penchant for either may find something here that is worth their time. For us, this joke is over now. It was fun while it lasted but it’s perhaps time to move on.