Coming to the screen from Hereford Films, The Exorcism Of Karen Walker sees the British indie outfit switch genres from their usual output of movies. Having released the likes of the ‘We Still Kill…’ series and last year’s true crime story The Krays: Dead Man Walking, Hereford turn from gangster flicks to the horror genre for a feature based around Kirlian photography, a quick Google will tell you is a technique used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges.
The film opens to a couple – Mitch (Shane Taylor) and Diane (Janine Nerissa Sothcott) – moving into a massive house, inherited from Mitch’s uncle, much to the dismay of his deeply religious mother (Jane Mcfarlane). Diane is pregnant, so the offer of a much bigger house is clearly welcomed at a time when their family is due to expand. However, things aren’t all they first seem. We learn that Mitch’s sister – the Karen Walker of the title (Denise Moreno) – has been committed to a local mental institution, years previous, following a stint living with their late uncle in said property. The discovery of an old Kirlian camera in the mansion’s basement gets Mitch thinking – maybe the two are connected. Sitting Karen in front of the camera seems to baffle Mitch’s further, so he hires the services of local psychic Ada (Rula Lenska) for some advice, though her thoughts on the family’s situation may not be what h wants to hear. Could there be something more paranormal and sinister at work in his sibling’s body?
It’s clear from the outset that The Exorcism Of Karen Walker – known as Aura in some territories – didn’t have the biggest budget, but that’s almost part of its charm. Clearly inspired by the likes of the old British Hammer horror movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, filmmaker Steve Lawson and co. have crafted a feature worthy of attention in a very busy genre which continues to grow in popularity year after year.
The realms of low-budget filmmaking is where you’ll find most of the top-quality horror fare from over the years, and will always be the best new discoveries will always be found, particularly in this new era of the streaming services. The Exorcism Of Karen Walker stems from a great, original idea by producer Jonathan Sothcott, and the resulting film is crafted extremely well, perfectly capturing the essence of the old features it frequently pays homage to, and the four actors at the heart of the story, Taylor, Nerissa-Sothcott, Lenska and particularly Moreno (pictured above), pleasingly play out the narrative.
Rather than base their story in the UK – where Hereford’s previous movies have all been set – the filmmakers opt to set ‘Exorcism’ in America, not only adding a new flavour to their repertoire, but also setting themselves new challenges and ambition too. It is glorious to look at, the cinematography dark, moody, and full of foreboding creepiness.
The film is a slow-burner, for sure, and its raw nature may not suit all tastes, but as the story gradually works its way to a frankly jaw-dropping, affecting final scene – which I did not see coming – it’s hard not to walk away completely satisfied.
The Exorcism of Karen Walker is out now on DVD.