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THE OLD WAYS (2020)
Directed by Christopher Alender.
Written by Marcos Gabriel.
Starring Brigitte Canales, Andrea Cortes, Julia Vera, Sal Lopez, AJ Bowen, Westin Meredith, Julian Lerma, Elizabeth Phoenix Caro, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez
A headstrong reporter from the US named Christina (Brigitte Kali Canales) returns to the Mexican village where she was born and is taken captive by a bruja (Julia Vera) and her assistant (Sal Lopez) who claim she is possessed by a demon—the same demon who possessed her mother. Chained to the wall and imprisoned in a small cell, Christina must battle her own inner demons, including an addiction to drugs, as well as a supernatural demon she didn’t know she carried.
THE OLD WAYS isn’t the most original of films. It’s basically a possession film where the lead’s inner demons interconnect with a supernatural invading force. What makes it different is that we don’t see and priest compelling the possessed to leave with the word of the lord. It uses, to coin the title, the old ways, in this case, old Mexican shamanism to dispel the demon. Now, I guess witches and the devil might be dance partners in American lore, but in Mexican culture there’s good and bad magic. So using one form of supernatural force to dispel another isn’t as counter-productive as it seems. This fact adds a layer to THE OLD WAYS that separates the film from others in its possession subgenre.
THE OLD WAYS also has a very likable protagonist. Brigitte Kali Canales is basically a Mexican Lois Lane, leaping into trouble head first and living by the seat of her pants most of the time. Though she is warned not to enter a cursed cave for her story, she does so anyway, which awakens the demons and gets her into this mess. The problem is that Christina doesn’t have a Superman to rescue her here, so we are left with this Lois Lane type confronting what makes her dive into danger so often and coming to terms with that. It makes for an interesting character to follow. One who is willing to dance on the edge and snap snide in the most inappropriate of times.
I also liked a lot of the effects used in THE OLD WAYS. The old long hair from the mouth gag is used to grody effect. As are some other tried and true symbols of possession such as when Christina encounters a bunch of snakes in her cell. This is a well made film and even when the CG and practical effects are mixed, it makes for an entertaining and vividly exciting film to watch. The high production value definitely elevates the film even though for most of the movie, it’s just Christina’s cell where all of the action plays out.
The one problem I had with THE OLD WAYS is that is kind of just peters out by the end. The demon isn’t dispelled—it simply leaps into someone else and its up to Christina to help out someone else. I get it that this one takes the story into a less predictable route, following another person who is possessed in the third act. But it almost feels like the idea for a second movie was squished quickly into the end of THE OLD WAYS and it just doesn’t have the same impact as the rest of the film.
If you’ve seen possession films before, you know how this one is going to go. Still, the change in locale and flavor of the opposition to the demon make it feel superficially different. Canales is a charismatic lead and the effects are subtle, but effective. You could do a lot worse than THE OLD WAYS. I commend the film at least for trying to go a different route in a very predictable subgenre of horror.