MARCUS NISPEL’S EXETER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Exeter marks a return to the straight-up horror genre for slice-and-dice specialist Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Pathfinder, Conan the Barbarian). This gonzo, surprisingly funny, high-energy, EXTRA-gory horror flick puts a simple and fresh spin on the classic exorcism narrative and throws in some twists along with a supreme sense of style. A bunch of teenagers have decided to turn a run down children’s mental hospital into the makeshift location of a rave, and after doing some excessive partying, a group of friends splinter off and begin to get into some seriously messed up situations with the ghosts of dead children. Possessions ensue, exorcisms are attempted, people can no longer be trusted, the bodies start to hit the floor, and the film goes totally nuts in the final act, featuring one of the nastiest bits of horror movie violence I’ve seen in a while. This isn’t my normal cinematic milieu, and I’m not as well versed in this sort of material as so many others clearly are, but I was drawn to the project by Nispel (long an effective stylist drawn to hardcore material) and the involvement of the great character actor Stephen Lang, who gets the film’s best scenes and lines of dialogue. One of those talents who spruces up any picture that is lucky enough to cast him, Lang clearly had a blast getting down and dirty with this bit of extreme nastiness. Shot on a low budget but never looking anything less than spectacular, Nispel and cinematographer Eric Treml bathe the film in saturated colors, lens flares, and jet blacks with cool blues, employing hand-held cameras with variable shutter speeds, creating a visceral effect that puts you in the middle of all of the limb-lopping, glop-filled fights and kills that Nispel so clearly has a ball in staging. One bit, involving the loss of half of one’s face, is, for the lack of a better word, horrifically memorable. Production designer Guy Roland and set decorator Sarah Hill Richmond had fun with the scuzzy and threatening solo location, and the editing by Blake Maniquis never rests for a moment but never overwhelms the picture with incoherence. For fans of this sort of extra-grisly yet still playful horror madness, Exeter should more than easily hit the mark.

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