18 December 2014 | mgconlan-1
A real weirdie, but not what it could have been
The film was "High School Possession," a real weirdie Lifetime originally aired on October 25 and ballyhooed as usual as a "world premiere," which turned out to be dementedly silly even though the trailer was quite a "cheat". It's basically the story of a typical angst-ridden youth rebel, Chloe Mitchell (played by Jennifer Stone, whose animate-kewpie doll appearance is actually quite good for the role), whose life has gone off the rails since her mom Bonnie (the still quite hot Iona Skye) divorced her dad. Over the course of the movie, written by Hans Wasserburger and directed by Peter Sullivan (both of them with their tongues no doubt firmly jammed against their cheeks at the sheer silliness of it all), Chloe goes through not only the usual signs of movie-teen alienation — she snaps at people, claims they're out to get her, does drugs and alcohol, self-mutilates, cuts class and listens to loud, obnoxious music (only the device on which your standard-issue alienated movie teen plays their loud, obnoxious music has changed, reflecting how youth's preferred music storage media have changed: in the old days it was an LP player, then a CD player, then a personal computer on which she's downloaded songs, and now it's an iPod-like player she's listening to through ear buds — no doubt the next time Lifetime addresses this theme she'll be blasting out music on her smartphone!) — and a few others of her own, including carrying out three-way conversations with herself (the old schtick of having her "good" and "evil" sides audibly arguing with her and each other over what she should do next) and seeing weird little special-effects projections flying past her. Her best friend, Lauren Brady (Janel Parrish), is an investigative reporter for their high-school paper and is also the girlfriend of its editor, Mase Adkins (Chris Brochu). She decides to join a campus Christian group, "The Chosen," ostensibly to research an article about them but really to find out if Chloe is demonically possessed and, with secular psychiatry apparently unable to help her (her mom, played by Kelly Hu with one of the worst hairdos ever draped across the scalp of a basically attractive woman, has taken her to three psychiatrists, none of them have been able to help solve her problems, and the last one freaks both mom and daughter out when he recommends placing her in a mental hospital), maybe what she really needs is an exorcism.
"High School Possession" is basically a drearily ordinary teen-alienation movie with a 15-minute gimmick action climax uneasily grafted on, competently but decently directed and competently but decently acted as well. The roles of Chloe and Lauren have a lot more potential meat on their bones than Jennifer Stone and Janet Parrish find (though at least Jennifer Stone seems to have done her own voice when she was supposed to be demonically possessed — she didn't rely on an old-time actress to dub them for her the way Linda Blair was dubbed by Mercedes McCambridge in "The Exorcist") — though it was nice to see some genuinely attractive young men among the actors playing high-school students, especially Chris Brochu as Mase and Spencer Neville as Brad, as well as the surprisingly sexy William McNamara as Reverend Young. There aren't any "daddy" figures in this movie — unless you count the priest and Chloe's soccer coach (Michael C. Mahon) — because both Chloe's and Lauren's actual fathers aren't in the picture; Chloe's mom is a divorcée and Lauren's is a widow. Overall it's a decently made movie that can't overcome the fundamental silliness of the concept, with competent thriller direction but almost no sense of the Gothic (and what's a possession story without a sense of the Gothic?).