Review: Exorcism in Utero Plays Its Horror, Comedy Too Silly to Be Truly Scary

Marking his feature film debut, writer/director Erik Skybak brings us the tantalizingly titled Exorcism In Utero, about Herma Frigg (Sam Bangs), a young pregnant woman fresh out of a bad relationship who jumps at the chance to housesit for the deeply religious Johnson family going away for a couple weeks to do missionary work. Herma is without a place to live, so the free accommodations will give her a chance to decompress and find new digs. 

Next door to the Johnsons is the far-less-religious O’Neill family, which includes jokester dad Frank (Steve Larkin), mom Debra (Stephanie Leet), daughter Ally (Allegra Sweeney), and horror film expert, youngest sibling and flaming redhead Peter (Leonard Hoge), who has been secretly watching the Johnsons and suspects they are up to no good in their basement. Herma confirms this suspicion when she goes into the basement (which Mr. Johnson warned her not to do and definitely feels like a trap) and finds what she thinks is a sex dungeon but eventually reveals itself to be a place where women are trapped and babies are born. Herma puts on some sort of devil ring that she can’t get off her finger, and suddenly her pregnancy is accelerated, causing her to feel severe pain and transform into some sort of husk of her former self (the makeup in this movie is actually quite impressive).

Seemingly possessed from within, Herma also has terrible dreams and sometimes sleepwalks into the O’Neills’ home. She mostly seems to wander into Peter’s room, which at first freaks him out, but eventually causes them to form a bond when he realizes his knowledge of all things horror might make him less scared and more able to help. At some point, a priest named Father Bresson (Calvin Morie McCarthy) shows up and attempts to steer this seat-of-your-pants exorcism in a way that saves Herma and her baby while casting out the demon inside her, which is a more literal demon than anyone realizes.

The scary parts of Exorcism In Utero aren’t particularly scary, and even though the film might qualify as a horror-comedy, it isn’t that funny either. What we’re left with are a couple of strong performance from Bangs, Sweeney and Leet, playing the only other main character that has some idea of the child-bearing hell that Herma is going through. A great deal of the film is played too big or too silly, with the result being a fairly tone-deaf production overall. And the more the filmmaker tries to convince us Peter is a huge horror film buff (with obvious references to The Evil Dead and John Carpenter’s The Thing), the more I winced. I appreciate the effort, but you’ll have to go for deeper cuts than those to sell me on that ginger nerd. Still, if Skybak isn’t quite as gun-shy about digging deeper into his themes moving forward, I’ll be genuinely curious what he’s got lined up next.

The film is now available on all digital platforms.

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.