DVD Movie Review: The Exorcism of Karen Walker

By Wes Maulsby 16.02.2019

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The Exorcism of Karen Walker (UK Rating: 15)

In the world of independent and Grindhouse filmmaking, the first impression is key. That initial glance at a film poster and the first few moments of a trailer are critical to ensuring that a potential buyer takes notice of the film. After that, all bets are off, as each does its best to live up to the poster that was created for it. Sometimes, it hits the mark and provides an entertaining experience; others fail completely and are left to get by on the hilarity of their failure. The worst option, however, lies in the awkward middle ground where something is competent enough to not become a laughing stock, but still missing enough elements to morph into a dull slog. It is that unfortunate final category where viewers will find the latest horror film from writer and director Steve Lawson, The Exorcism of Karen Walker (known as Aura in the US), which releases on DVD and digital download via 4Digital Media across the UK on 18th February.

As the title implies, this film revolves around the efforts to cast out a nasty spirit which has latched itself to the soul of a young girl, and which decided to stick around for three decades. After moving into the house of his uncle who has recently passed, the protagonist, Mitch, stumbles upon some unusual photos in the basement alongside a peculiar Kirlian camera. The photos show the auras of the subjects, which include the distressing image of his sister and her sister Aura when she was a young girl. His investigation of this photo and the meaning behind it leads him to discover the darkest secrets of his family, as well as the truth behind his sister's institutionalisation.

All of this is well and good, and it works for the most part. The acting is above average for this level of production, and the writing is mostly adequate, although lacking in subtlety. One of the main disruptors of this film is its pacing: this film flies by at a Yeager-esque speed that has no time for pulling over for any pit-stops. Most of the issues that sprout up in the film are promptly dealt with in the very scene they are brought up. Sister is in a mental institution? Don't worry; a convenient technicality means you can take her home today - how lucky! Need to know a dark secret that your mother has been keeping from you for decades? Well, just ask her over some tea and she will spill the beans without much hesitation, and with great consideration to your busy schedule.


 
When scenes aren't chopping down minor issues, they are lasting what seems like a few seconds in order to pump out some expository dialogue before racing on to the next thing. While not a major issue in a vacuum, for a film that struggles to crack 80 minutes, taking a breather every once in a while could have been a healthy decision. Additionally, it could have strengthened some of the more intense moments by allowing them to linger and burn into viewers' minds, as long as it is shot and delivered well, which this film is not.

The camera work is where The Exorcism of Karen Walker really falters and loses its audience. Most aspects meet the standard set for films of this type, but it can be hard to tell due to the dull, uninspired and predictable the camera work. Any time there is a conversation between two characters, it is done in classic shot-reverse-shot. Nothing else, as some dialogue segments will go on for minutes at a time with continuous and predictable shot-reverse-shot, which turns every expository scene into a boring trudge through muck. Prime opportunities for character development are lost when the beat of every scene follows the same script. It's utilitarian, and it gets the job done, but it in no way makes for any sort of exciting, or engaging filmmaking.

Another major consequence of the lack of creative shots is that the film has to spend all of its time telling instead of showing. Since there is no clever movement of, or framing of, the characters in these scenes, all of the necessary information has to come from dialogue. This necessity presents viewers with a very convenient road map that spares the audience the shock of any sort of big twist at the end, as they have been able to see it coming for the past 30 minutes. Whether this is compounded by, or the impetus for, the often blunt and upfront dialogue, the combination of the two factors leads to a frustratingly predictable conclusion.

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

The Exorcism of Karen Walker spoils any of the potential it possessed. It presents an interesting twist on the classic possession-exorcism horror flick via a more unorthodox means, such as its Kirlian photography and auras. Toss in some above average acting, and you have the makings for a surprising indie film. Instead, viewers are treated to a film that creates a paradox of horrific, thrilling, and intense scenes taking place in the most plain and benign ways imaginable, which muzzles any bite the film could deliver.

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