Ava’s Possessions (2015)

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Jordan Galland’s Ava’s Possessions is a colourful and creative romp, but it’s also burdened to the point of self-destruction. The 2015 horror comedy is strengthened by a high-spirited aesthetic and imaginative cinematography by Adrian Peng Correia, plus it features an enjoyable set of performances.

But Galland’s screenplay can’t settle down long enough to work out its numerous ideas. Despite laying an interesting foundation, the picture dives down countless avenues and leaves an awful lot on the table. Its 89-minute runtime feels oddly bloated as a result.

Louisa Krause is Ava and she’s been possessed by the demon Naphula. The movie begins after an exorcism and she’s trying to put her life back together. She isn’t sure what she’s done under the control of Naphula. Her parents (William Sadler, Deborah Rush) are worried. Ava seeks the counsel of her lawyer (Dan Fogler), who tells her to join Spirit Possession Anonymous.

The program, dubbed AA for the demon-possessed, is led by Tony (Wass Stevens) and helps people process their possession experiences. Ava meets Hazel (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), who enjoyed her possession and wants help getting possessed again.

Ava’s Possessions is best when it focuses on the support group and any related entanglements. There are a number of funny scenes as Ava tries to unpack what she’s done under Naphula’s heel. She encounters a prostitute (Alysia Reiner) and learns about a wild night in the back of a van.

But there’s more. Ava meets Ben (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is somehow connected to an engraved watch she pinched. There is some romantic stuff and there are some surprises. Ava’s sister (Whitney Able) and her fiancé Roger (Zachary Booth) play critical roles.

Galland thrives when he delves into the post-possession experience and uses black comedy to discover how Ava comes to terms with a period in which she wasn’t herself. In that most religious wisdom suggests exorcism as a corrective for the condition of demonic possession, the argument that the controlled aren’t accountable is theologically sound and worthy of cheeky exploration.

Krause navigates with gobsmacked cool and she’s a joy to watch. She proves to be kind of naïve, which seems to suggest a basis for Naphula’s interest. But she’s also tough as nails, which sets her apart as she circumnavigates an existence of hookers, pimps, priests, demons, and talking bear dolls.

Galland’s employment of a vibrant palette makes Ava’s Possessions look like a neon parable. Correia uses idiosyncratic shots and Dutch angles to explore a wobbly world. This is especially prevalent when Ava sees things past the shadows, like when she and Ben cartwheel into bed for a fleeting excursion.

As good as some of Ava’s Possessions is, its bulk is conspicuous. The attention is all over the map and Galland’s wealth of concepts diverts more than it informs. Storylines range from the silly to the conspiratorial and the initiative of Ava’s journey is lost in waves of double-crosses and messy revelations.

By the time Ava’s Possessions lurches through its clichéd conclusion, it’s hard to overlook the evidence of wasted opportunity. There are a lot of captivating pieces and the performances are amusing, plus Sean Lennon’s score sets neat ambiance. But there’s too much going on to warrant a full-bodied endorsement, even with the great Carol Kane selling spells and stealing scenes.

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