'Ava's Possessions': Fantasia Review

Ava's Possessions Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Fantasia Film Festival

Ava's Possessions Still - H 2015

A light riff on a staple of horror cinema.

Evicting a demon from its host is just the beginning.

A semicomic mystery imagining what happens after the credits roll on a demonic-possession fright flick, Jordan Galland's Ava's Possessions realizes the obvious — it ain't easy to reenter polite society after spending weeks unleashing hell — and then makes things worse. Obstacles both practical and supernatural thwart Ava's happy ending here in ways that should satisfy many genre fans, if not the most reverent, at fests; on video, the pic should have a modest reach.

The second question Ava (Louisa Krause) utters, once she understands she has lost the last month or so to a demon whose behavior she has no memory of — "Did anyone call in sick for me?" — establishes that we're in the world of quotidian details instead of operatic good-versus-evil. Which is not to say it's quite the real world. Here, possession is commonplace enough the judicial system has a way of handling it: Either you can stand trial for all the crimes your body committed while you weren't in control, or you can enroll in Spirit Possession Anonymous. Being possessed once increases chances of another possession tenfold, you see, and one must be trained to fight off that homesick evil spirit.

While Ava is struggling to clean up her apartment and mend fences with old friends ("you sorta acted like a megabitch when you were possessed," one observes) she attends AA-like sessions led by the hard-nosed Tony (Wass Stevens). But though she's eager to protect herself from her "uninvited spirit guest," another member of the group wants hers back. It was sexy to have a rule-breaking bad boy take control, she says; she's sure if she got him back she could keep him from being quite so homicidal.

Unwisely, Ava agrees to assist her friend's flirtation with the underworld, going to buy spells from an occultist (Carol Kane, delicious in her forces-you-don't-understand warnings). This complicates her attempts to make amends with those she injured while possessed, including a stranger named Conrad, the pursuit of whom opens up a whole new can of worries for poor Ava.

Galland's film plays more like a cable-ready mystery than a cult film in the making, offering just enough chuckles to stay afloat. Though sometimes clever, it doesn't offer anything like the deep-geek inventiveness of, say, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's movies. Still, it's a nice alternative to yet another self-serious Exorcist wannabe.

Production companies: Ravenous Films, Traction Media

Cast: Louisa Krause, Whitney Able, Deborah Rush, William Sadler, Carol Kane, Lou Taylor Pucci, Wass Stevens, Zachary Booth

Director-Screenwriter: Jordan Galland

Producers: Jordan Galland, Maren Olson, Carlos Velazquez, Douglas Weiser

Executive producers: Mike Landry, Mark L. Pederson, Aldey Sanchez, Gregory P. Schockro

Director of photography:

Production designer: James Bolenbaugh

Costume designer: Maria Hooper

Editors: Jordan Galland, Daniel Hahn

Music: Sean Lennon

Casting director: Stephanie Holbrook

No rating, 87 minutes