I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, but when I do I want them to be scary or amusing, or both. I found Blackwater Valley Exorcism to be none of the above.
The story centers around the demonic possession of a young woman, and the efforts a group of people make to save her. This group includes her family, her father’s farmhands, a sheriff, a veterinarian and a priest who’s never dealt with this sort of thing before. Luckily, one of those farmhands just happens to be a former priest who has conducted an exorcism.
The film opens with a statement proclaiming that all of the exorcism scenes were conducted under the supervision of a real catholic priest (a bishop, in fact). That, and the story is based on a real event. This sets a pretty serious tone for the film, and that’s a problem – everything about Blackwater Valley Exorcism seems to take itself seriously. If the cast and crew had gone a different route, embracing an over-the-top, campy horror-style production, things might have been a lot better.
The scariest parts of this DVD are its cover artwork and the opening scene, before the characters begin speaking. Once they do, the stage is set for a bad made-for-cable movie. So many scenes in this movie are ruined by weak performances and/or lame dialogue that I was really surprised to hear on the commentary track the director discussing how well cast this film was.
I honestly didn’t care about any of the characters in this film, which made everything fall flat. There’s a lot of forced emotion in the performances, and the director forced elements of the story, which made the film almost completely unconvincing.
So the movie’s not too great. How’s the DVD?
Blackwater Valley Exorcism is presented on a single disc, in 1.78:1 (16:9) widescreen format. It looks pretty much like regular broadcast television, which isn’t a good thing for a movie shot in HD. The picture is very inconsistent, even from shot to shot within the same scene. It’s often soft and washed out, with skin tones that range from pale to ghost. There are a handful of nice looking shots, but those are entirely offset by others that look downright bad.
The menus are barebones, with no sound or animation.
This disc offers two audio choices: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The 5.1 mix is not bad. Dialogue is clear but flat, and there is a fair amount of directional effects. The decent, atmospheric score sounds full at times, and it may be the best part of the whole film.
Audio is English only, with Spanish subtitles available.
Blackwater Valley Exorcism comes with a basic set of extras, including a making-of featurette, an audio commentary by director Ethan Wiley, actor Cameron Daddo (Big Momma’s House 2) and the film’s cinematographer, and theatrical trailers.
The making-of featurette is titled Low budget demonology, and it’s aptly named. It’s basically a half-incoherent string of handycam clips that does very little of the things good making-of featurettes do, such as offer insight into the film’s production. It runs 25 minutes, and we meet the catholic bishop who served as a consultant for all of the exorcism-related aspects of the film. He was obviously taking it very seriously, but the rest of this making-of’s content contrasts his legitimacy. I felt bad for the director at one point, hearing what he wanted to have happen for the audience in a particular scene, because it just didn’t work.
The audio commentary is somewhat interesting, though the guys spend a lot of time discussing things other than what’s actually happening on screen, so the track doesn’t offer that feeling of watching the film with its makers. Daddo, who plays the rookie priest in the film, tends to interrupt Wiley’s anecdotes to make little comments that don’t add much to the proceedings. The cinematographer only joins about halfway through, and he doesn’t get too involved.
I’ve made it clear that I didn’t like Blackwater Valley Exorcism. In the commentary track, the director points out that a low budget forced the cast and crew to tell the story entirely through the characters, without big budget special effects. That’s my whole problem with this movie; unlike penny-pinching films that thrive on simplicity, this movie falls flat. The DVD presentation is so-so at best, so I can’t say I recommend this one.
Special Features List
- Making of Blackwater Valley Exorcism, featurette
- Director’s audio commentary
- Theatrical trailers