Film Review – The Old Ways (2021)

A feisty young woman with several dark secrets becomes the hostage of superstitious demon fighters in Veracruz. Can she survive a deadly game of exorcism bingo and avoid being drowned in goats milk?

Entertaining possession thriller The Old Ways follows Mexican investigative journalist Cristina after she has a disturbing encounter in an ancient cave. Awakening as the prisoner of a glaucoma eyed shaman she starts to realise that she may indeed be under the control of the evil Succubus Posteki.

Beginning with a well-orchestrated jump scare prologue and ending with an outrageously implausible twist The Old Ways knows what it wants to be and for the most part how to get there. It does have a propensity for kitchen sink theatrics, however, there is enough enthusiasm and imagination to distance it from the recent swarm of possession flicks.

Director Christopher Alender drew inspiration for this voodoo infused potboiler from matriarchal stories recounted to him in Puerto Rico. After much compounding research, he and writer Marcos Gabriel have enabled a convincing world-building process that encompasses witchcraft folklore from a wide range of mythologies and belief systems.

Rather than confuse matters this approach keeps things fresh and lively. The Old Ways merges these diverse influences beautifully as it weaves them into the overarching narrative and incident-packed diabolical milieu.

Highlights include a slithery animal attack that will have ophidiophobians shitting themselves and a spot of invasive cleansing surgery that is hyper graphic in its gunkyness. But for me, the standout idea here is the icons representing the composite processes of demonic detachment chalked on the walls of Cristina’s cell. Each one is marked off with a bloodied handprint as the gruelling endurance test of pain and faith progresses in a quest to call a full house of depuration. This simple narrative mechanism both bookends the frenetic set pieces and underpins the structure of the film like visceral live-action chapter indents.

As is the case in the current horror movie meta it is near impossible to say if The Old Ways Will hit the mark with all genre fans. But it is fair to say that it is a very well thought out flick that emanates a sense of comradery between both the players and audience. Self-aware and determined never to be dull it is a superior piece of work that may well go on to find cult status.

Those hankering after an unpretentious horror fix that does not strive to confound, that recuts a well-worn fright flick template with class and dignity, will love going back to The Old Ways.

★★★★

Horror, Latin American Folklore, Possession | USA | 2020  | 18 | Digital HD |12th October 2021| Dark Star Pictures | Dir. Christopher Alender| Brigitte Kali Canales, Andrea Cortés, Julia Vera.

Content WarningsAbuse, Death, Kidnapping, Strong physical violence, Blood/Gore.
This is a repost of our 2021 Arrow Video FrightFest @ Glasgow |Original review ink