Studio: Terror Films
Director: Ben Jehoshua
Writer: Barry Jay Stich, Ben Jehoshua, Andrew Scheppmann
Producer: Joe Dain, Jim Klock, Miles Fineburg
Stars: Kian Lawley, Angelica Chitwood, Mykayla Sohn, Chris Gann, Casey James, Emily Ann Killian, Melissa Navia, Penelope Richards, Barbara Goodson, Harvey Popick, Dayna Devon, Elizabeth Keener
A young man discovers that the only way to save his niece from a demon’s curse is to sacrifice the souls of six family members.
I’m too out of touch with 21st-century teen culture to be in the know when it comes to online-enabled celebrity, though I understand such status can be gained without quantitative abilities aside from a charismatic knack for amassing social media followers like the Pied Piper. Perfunctory research reveals that “The Chosen” star Kian Lawley is one such internet icon with mass appeal for constituents of a certain demographic, with that demographic seemingly made up mostly of teenage girls.
Lawley, who turned 20 in September 2015, currently commands a Twitter base of 2.36 million followers, which is a number only half a million shy of the 2.91 million people subscribed to just one of his YouTube channels. I clicked on the first video link uncovered to gain more insight into the Teen Choice Award-winner and promptly clicked away after Lawley and his pal began an impromptu rap about drinking their own pee. Global fame achieved through Vine, Instagram, Periscope, or Platform-du-jour content creation is a concept outside my comprehension. But it isn’t intended to make much sense to my generation anyway so hey, if a kid can become some sort of success by simply recording the goofy goings-on in an average group of bumbling buddies, more power to him/her, I guess.
One thing I do know something about however, is ballot stuffing when it comes to B-movie user ratings. The tactic has become so entwined with indie horror that misperceived effectiveness has all but washed entirely down the drain thanks to fans being repeatedly burned by plants pumping up PR with empty accolades and imaginary praise. How else to explain perfect scores for “The Chosen” from 69 of 97 iTunes voters (71%), yet just 102 of 292 (35%) IMDB users for a paltry 3.7 weighted average if not for a little lopsided skullduggery?
Except this appears to be an anomalous case where instead of faulting overzealous filmmakers or marketers, Kian Lawley’s tween-centric fandom can seemingly be blamed for misleading plaudits. It isn’t a sign of the electronic entertainment times, it’s the smell of bullsh*t when virtually every other five-star user “review” contains multiple emojis, a declaration of adoration for the YouTube sensation, or both.
So what say we separate real-world wheat from fame-related chaff and look at “The Chosen” without cartoon hearts bulging from the eyes, yes? Let’s start with the story.
If you could spare the life of a loved one by sacrificing six family members to an ancient demon, would you do it? Of course not, nobody would. But that doesn’t stop “The Chosen” from using that premise when 19-year-old Cameron becomes caught in the crossfire after his little niece Angie is possessed and six deaths from their bloodline is all that can lift her curse.
Good thing Cameron has an invalid grandfather already on death’s doorstep, an ailing and irritable grandmother, and an a-hole uncle living at home. That’s three easy picks down and only three more to go.
What about those pesky additional three though? Oh look, here comes intolerable Aunt Jean and her annoying son Randy for a visit! What would Cameron do if he weren’t born into a family of easily dispatched douchebags? What would he do if he didn’t even have six available family members at all?
The final pick could be even trickier. Wait, what’s this? Cameron’s girlfriend makes a timely reveal of an unwanted pregnancy? Just how far is this misguided teenager willing to go to solve one problem by creating at least a half dozen more?
The plot of “The Chosen” is so bafflingly daft that suspending disbelief for a single second is impossible. More ridiculous is how fast everyone boards the lunacy train carrying this idea without so much as looking at the fine print on a ticket. Starting with Cameron hearing a kooky story from his sister’s crazy neighbor all the way up to his mother offering about 60 seconds of resistance to her son’s wild claims, a feather could push these people into instantly believing the batty backstory of first man Adam’s first wife Lilith making a pact with Lucifer to become a child-stealing force of evil.
After Cameron marks his first victim and a computer-generated smoke cloud comes in for the kill, he retreats to the bathroom for a brief puking outburst and sheds one tear before jumping into quick cover-up mode and moving on to plotting his next indirect murder. “The Chosen” devotes less than one minute of screen time to developing any sense of remorse in the boy, but does spend ample time introducing an out of nowhere nun character who pointlessly coerces Cameron into continuing his kill streak before inexplicably vanishing into thin air.
While the news is mostly bad for the film on the whole, the same isn’t necessarily true for the filmmakers. Loaded with expository dialogue preoccupied with referencing people by names or relationships, and cheapened by digital FX miles away from the bleeding edge, only those apologetic acolytes of Kian Lawley would ever tout “The Chosen” as “good.” Yet there is a professional effort in the simple production that is too readily dismissed by all of the easy to make knocks on the narrative.
“The Chosen” features so much crying over fallout from infirm grandparents, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, and untimely infanticide that its style fits better as family drama than as suspenseful horror. There is no big-screen cinematic value in the presentation, though it would work well for a cable TV movie-of-the-week, which “The Chosen” resembles. That reads like a swipe, and in one way it is. But it is also meant to indicate that director Ben Jehoshua and his team demonstrate technical competency, provided it is paired with something more appropriate than the implausible thriller on hand here.
Additionally, speaking as someone unfamiliar with top draw Kian Lawley prior to this movie, I can objectively say that once you move past the trying-too-hard toothpick between his lips and contrived coolness of rolled-up denim shirt cuffs, Kian Lawley does a fine enough first-time job playing a plain part that the script would never let be outstanding anyway. I apologize for not pairing that simple sentiment with emojis. I’ll leave that to the fawning young ladies who would have you believe “The Chosen” is a movie worth mention as an astoundingly amazing addition to genre entertainment. I can assure you with certainty that it isn’t.
Review Score: 40