October Horrorshow: Exeter

It is a film like Exeter that makes me question this little film criticism hobby of mine. This movie is a bottom-feeding piece of shit, and no one should need any Johnny Come Lately critic to tell them so. It was released direct-to-video and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating below 30%. What more can I add? Not much, to be frank. But this film has done something meaningful when it comes to the Horrorshow. This will be the last low-budget shitfest that I found on Netflix that I will be reviewing. Netflix is a fine service...for television. But when it comes to film, Netflix is a showcase for the worst films Hollywood and elsewhere has to offer. It’s in Netflix’s interest to keep licensing fees for the movies it carries as low as possible. Producers of top-grossing films, which are still making money in direct sales, have no incentive to move their films onto something like Netflix or Amazon Prime until the money stream slows. That means that quality is subjugated to affordability, and we viewers get shit like Exeter.

There are only 31 days in October, and I will no longer waste what little is left of the month on anonymous garbage I found while browsing Netflix. I owe it to myself, and to my Loyal Seven readers.

But, since I’m already here...

Exeter is a little flick from director Marcus Nispel and screenwriter Kirsten Elms. It follows a group of hard-partying teenagers who accidentally awaken a demon, or some such, while fooling around in an abandoned asylum for feeble minded children.

Once upon a time, I used to be into urban exploration, crawling around in abandoned buildings taking pictures. Old hospital and asylum buildings are the best. Besides old industrial spaces, hospital buildings are our most plentiful abandoned commercial spaces. On the east coast, where I live, there isn’t a corner from Boston to D.C. where a person could stand without being within a couple miles of an abandoned hospital. For whatever reason, when a hospital closes, it tends to stand for a very long time before it’s ever used again.

And these places aren’t empty. Were one to climb through a shattered window or squeeze through a mangled doorframe, one would be confronted with winding halls and discarded medical equipment. There are silent, sunny day rooms on upper floors and dark, eerie morgues down in basements. Sometimes there are labs with jars holding dark-colored liquids and obscured medical samples. There might be offices with old IBM Selectrics or Wang word processors. There might be wheelchairs and gurneys galore, the hospital closed with such haste that this useful equipment never found a new home. The peeling paint and sun-bleached detritus of an abandoned hospital have an aesthetic appeal that many can’t see. But for those who do, these aged and decrepit places have just as much attraction as anything hanging in a museum. And that’s before considering the adrenaline rush that comes with exploring spaces where one is not supposed to be.

The downsides to urban exploration include the risk of arrest (not as great as one would think, but still a concern), and exposure to asbestos. The best abandoned locations are showing their age. A recently vacated space has yet to acquire the right patina. But places where the paint is peeling or the plaster is falling off the walls will have air choked with dust, and that dust will have some very nasty shit in it. But the most dangerous aspect of exploring an abandoned building is the condition of floors and stairs. More than once my exploring partners and I (never explore alone) would look down a hallway or up a set of stairs and call no joy, fearful of taking a long fall. Water and time wreak havoc on a building’s structural integrity, and one has to tread lightly and with surety.

So, the reason I watched Exeter was that it was filmed in an abandoned hospital, and I dig a location like that. That’s it. I knew going in that watching this movie would be a slog, but I didn’t realize how much of one. I paid attention to all the different directions in which the plot went flying, but still couldn’t attach any coherence to it. There seemed to be little care shown to the craft of filmmaking with Exeter, it having the feel of what a room of suits think a horror film should be. For all I know, that is the exact opposite of the filmmakers’ intentions, but I can only give my takeaway.

Exeter is a joyless, nonsensical mess. At least it had a neat location. Exeter is a far worse film than Alien: Resurrection.

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