Monday, December 14, 2015

Film Review: The Chosen (2015)

The Chosen (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not great and it's not terrible — it's merely decent."

A child-stealing demon known as "Lilith" attaches itself to a little girl, forcing the family to sacrifice six other family members for her safe return...

The Chosen follows Cameron (Kian Lawley) and his dysfunctional family. Immediately, you're thrust into this fairly large family consisting of uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, nieces and so on – most of which live in the same house. It's a large family tree you're expected to understand within minutes. It takes a little longer than that, but you'll eventually get the gist. So, Cameron is Angie's uncle. Cameron takes Angie to visit her mother – a former drug addict. During the trip, the pair stumble upon a neighboring dispute. At this point, the demon latches on to Angie. Angie becomes sick and begins showing bizarre symptoms of aggression. Cameron finds he must sacrifice 6 family members in six days in order to save Angie from the demon – so he does that. It all leads to a predictable ending. The ending was a little cheesy, too.

Conceptually, The Chosen is an interesting film. It uses that concept to ask some chilling questions: would you sacrifice six relatives to save one? If so, who would you chose? I liked this concept and it's used well enough – not exactly to its maximum potential, but it works. Like most modern horror films, The Chosen offers plenty of jump-scares – some work, some don't. The jump-scares that didn't work simply felt a bit silly. I actually found myself laughing during at least two. There wasn't a lot of tension, either, which renders some jump-scares to simple loud noises. More suspense would have helped amplify the bang, but alas. There's also a pinch of humor tossed into the mix - I intentionally chuckled during those moments.

Aside from failing to meet its potential, The Chosen also has a few glaring issues – the usual suspects. The film often relies on blatant plot contrivances to create tension or doubt, like an obnoxious uncle suddenly 'caring' about the family while Cameron plans his sacrifice. It doesn't happen once, but twice. It's just too convenient. There are also some huge holes in logic for some characters, something we see more often during the latter half of the film. On that point, there's also a lot of bizarre exposition. The character backgrounds spurt out with little reason or momentum. All of a sudden, you'll be hearing this long confession of something we only knew a little about.

The acting was hit-and-miss. If I'm understanding correctly, this is YouTube personality (I've never heard of him) Kian Lawley's first leading role. For the most part, he's fairly decent. However, when the role requires more conviction, he's severely lacking in the emotion department. With a little more passion, he could be a fine actor. The rest of the cast suffer from similar issues. The performances are often either overacted or undercooked. The stilted dialogue/writing is also to blame – they sound like they're reading directly from a script without much emotion.

The film is shot well enough and the music is standard. (Except for the ill-fitted rap song at the end. Didn't match the tone at all.) The editing was a little overdone, though, it actually contributed to some
of the unintentionally humorous moments. The film is written by Ben Jehoshua, Barry Jay Stitch, and Andrew Scheppmann; Jehoshua also directs. Jehoshua is lacking in the suspense and atmosphere departments when it comes to direction – there is no buildup. As for the writing, the dialogue is stilted and the narrative is flawed. It's not a complete mess, but it often feels like it's lacking the necessary tuning to effectively tells its story — the plot contrivances and blatant exposition are used as crutches.

Overall, The Chosen is a decent film. It's not great and it's not terrible - it's merely decent. I really enjoyed the concept, just thinking about it is interesting, and there are some strong scenes in here. Although far from the best, the acting is also serviceable. Unfortunately, it does feel a bit ineffective due to some writing and direction flaws. If you need something to kill 90-minutes, you could do much worse than The Chosen. (As a side note, I really like the poster for this film.)

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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