poster for The Wicked Within, one of 2015's 8 Films to Die For

Logo for the 2015 crop of 8 Films to Die ForReturning from a five-year hiatus and with a new partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the After Dark Horrorfest is back with a new crop of “8 Films to Die For.” All the films were released in select theaters and on VOD October 16, 2015, with a DVD release date of October 27, 2015.

One year earlier, a family was rocked by the tragic death of a young child. Now, along with a family friend, they have gathered together for a casual and at first seemingly cordial dinner, until they discover that a dark presence is with them in the house. As they try to deal with the situation and save one of their own, old secrets and lies come to the surface and threaten to tear them apart.

A priest attempts exorcism on a possessed Bethany in The Wicked Within.The Wicked Within is presented as a frame story, with several of the characters telling a psychiatrist about the events that took place in the house. They all look haggard, disheveled, and even bloody, so we know that something crazy is eventually going to go down. But the evening starts out very jovial and upbeat as the family jokes around together and tells funny stories. This is where the audience gets to know the characters and their relationship to one another. There is something endearing but also mysterious about each of them. There is evidence of family strife and heartache because of the child’s death, which you just know is going to be exploited and explored further as the movie continues.

The film starts out promising when it tricks you into thinking it’s e a ghost story. Spooky things like knives moving and doors slamming by themselves start to stir the pot, but then when one character starts acting strangely and it is revealed that she’s the victim of demonic possession, things start to get weird and  hard to decipher. However, the possession angle actually works for the story they were trying tell because the demons are always all-knowing, and this family has a lot of things to hide. To their credit, the characters don’t let these things consume them and continue to fight for each other throughout the movie. So even when they reveal their various secrets and sins, you can still feel for them and understand them.

Possessed by the devil, Bethany taunts and manipulates her family.The elements of the possession are absolutely nothing new and nothing we haven’t seen time and again: the demonic voices, the superhuman strength, speaking in tongues, it’s all there. There’s even a point where a priest is brought in to possibly perform an exorcism, and he actually says the line, “The power of Christ compels you!”, to which the demon replies with a pretty on-the-nose Exorcist reference. This would all make you think that The Wicked Within would be rather silly, but the material is handled very well. I think much of the credit for this goes to actress Sienna Guillory, who plays the possessed character, Bethany. Bethany is portrayed as being the weakest of the bunch–which is probably why she was chosen to be possessed–but Guillory’s acting is anything but weak. Her line delivery and physicality shows that she and the filmmakers were taking this seriously and this really helps in selling her part of the story.

The Wicked Within is definitely an odd film that ends in a completely different place from where it started. There are plenty of twists and turns to the plot that keep things interesting and keep the audience guessing; but though the whole thing is executed well with good actors, it didn’t leave me fully satisfied. The setup is the only thing that differentiates the story from others of this ilk, and the clichés and recycled plot devices don’t add anything to the story. Nobody really feels redeemed or changed in the end (especially because of that one final twist ending) and the morality lesson seems like too big of a concept for this relatively small movie.

WICKED RATING: [usr 5]

Director: Jay Alaimo
Writer: Stephen Walllis
Stars: Sienna Guillory, Gianni Capaldi, Michele Hicks, Eric Roberts
Year: 2015
Studio/ Production Co: High Five Films, After Dark Films
Language: English
Length: 91 minutes
Sub-Genre: Possession