Disco Exorcist, The (UK DVD)
Directed by Richard Griffin
Distributed by Monster Pictures
It's the late '70s, and the dance floor is the place to be. Out there amidst the flailing limbs and neon lights, no man is as seductive as Rex Romanski (Reed) – his legendary moves cementing him as the cream of the crop of the local disco scene, and thus also cementing him very firmly in the underwear of any young lady who catches his eye out there amongst the sweaty, cologne-slathered throng.
This time, though, Rex is about to make the worst mistake of his life. After dancing, and subsequently sleeping, with the mysterious Rita (Sullivan), Rex finds himself in hot water when he shirks his new beau for the irresistible allure of legendary porn actress Amoreena Jones (Nicklin). Yes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned – especially when said woman is a demon-worshiping voodoo priestess!
And so Rex ends up tortured from all angles by the behind-the-scenes antics of Rita's various rituals, leading to the demonic possession of his new love and a climactic orgy turned into a head-ripping, dick-mangling bloodbath.
If there's one particularly striking thing about The Disco Exorcist, it's just how wonderfully the presentation matches up to the mid to late Seventies exploitation schlock that it intends to mimic. In terms of visuals, sound and performances, this is exactly the throwback that all of those faux-"Grindhouse" entries that have flooded the genre since the Tarantino/Rodriguez experiment strive so desperately to be. Whereas, however, the majority of those end up overly succumbing to an unintentional and reluctant tongue-in-cheek tone at odds with their intentions, Griffin deftly keeps The Disco Exorcist playing it straight for the most part while chucking in the occasional shovelful of purely organic humour. It works incredibly well, maintaining its own sense of twisted integrity throughout, and, by its very nature, will serve to immediately turn off anyone who isn't a fan of '70s excess and aesthetics. Lighting filters abound on a consistent basis, while print damage, grain and cigarette burns are all over the visuals.
Speaking of turn-ons and turn-offs, similarly in keeping with the sleaziest of the '70s exploitation scene, The Disco Exorcist is quite literally bursting at the seams with nudity and sex. Barely ten minutes of runtime go by without sex, group sex or explicit nudity bathing the screen. This, in all honesty, is the film's biggest problem. Excess is by no means an unwelcome thing in a genre throwback such as this, but the narrative finds itself caught up far too often in reveling in sex and nudity while the horror elements slink further and further into the background. By the time the gory orgy climax hits, the admittedly fun low-budget splatter effects just don't quite manage to deliver enough sense of threat or urgency, leaving the final impression that you've just sat through a softcore porno with horror elements rather than a dedicated horror flick that also embraces the sexual liberation of the era.
Performances across the board are solid, with special note to leading man Michael Reed as the salt of the disco-earth Romanski and Brandon Luis Aponte as Rex's best friend and DJ Manuel. In a rather strange turn, it's interesting to see leading lady Nicklin, playing a porn star, being one of the (very) few female members of the cast who refuses to display any nudity – remaining clothed or strategically covered during multiple erotic scenes.
All in all, The Disco Exorcist is an authentically funky love letter to '70s horror and sexploitation. It's a shame that it gets so caught up in the latter, however, to its detriment. While it manages to maintain a playful approach that keeps it just on the right side of sleazy, it simply lacks sufficient focus on the horror elements. Griffin and Co. should be commended for their efforts in making something that really does feel like a 'lost' entry from the era – not to mention how entertaining it frequently is in a guilty pleasure sense – but the emphasis on sex overall will leave it far from a first choice of horror/comedy combo for many.
Monster Pictures' UK DVD release of The Disco Exorcist does a swell job of backing up the intended low-fi presentation, with any and all print damage, softness or other issues feeling entirely part of the experience and thus bereft of more obviously digital problems such as artifacting or other compression issues.
On the special features side, it's less impressive with only the green and red band trailers for the film itself, alongside a selection of trailers for the distributor's other releases backing up a throwaway deleted scene and a less than involving filmmaker commentary whose few notable moments generally involve the verbal ogling of the naked cast.
• Green band trailer
• Red band trailer
• Deleted Scene
• Monster Pictures Trailer Showcase
3 out of 5
2 out of 5