Hot Docs 2023 Review: It’s Coming

by Andrew Parker

Director Shannon Alexander examines the apparent supernatural haunting of an everyday family in the thin, only somewhat engaging documentary It’s Coming.

Thirty-six year old day trader and mother of five Ashley Roland has always had some sort of connection to the spirit world, but after moving back into the Brooklyn apartment she partially grew up in, the vibes are getting stronger and scarier, thanks to an apparent black magic doorway that wasn’t closed by the unit’s previous owners. While seeing otherworldly entities is nothing new for Ashley – who has witnessed such phenomena since the age of eleven – the spirits in their apartment are starting impact her children, particularly her son, Javier, who has struck up a “friendship” with something known only as “Kitty.” Ashley sees her family heading down a dangerous path that she can’t control, so she enlists the help of a medium and some exorcists to help set things back to normal.

The effectiveness of It’s Coming depends wholly on the viewer’s belief in the supernatural, because Alexander’s approach is so minimalist and restrained. Alexander wants to show the viewer more-or-less how everything is (save for a few moments of slightly manufactured spookiness), and sometimes the nuts and bolts details of a haunting can be rather banal. There are strange smells, sudden noises, EVP readings, cleansings, smudging, incantations, and a bit of spirit board reading in a hotel room, and every bit of it is up for individual interpretation, and how frightening it is depends on what spooks the viewer.

It’s clear that Alexander wants to be on Roland’s side and show It’s Coming from her perspective and life experience, but there’s a distinct vagueness that’s necessary to have all of this stick together. It’s wonderful to see a strong black family at the centre of such a story, but a bit more personal detail might’ve made skeptics buy into this narrative on a more emotional level. It’s more interesting than great.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 – 11:45 am – Scotiabank Theatre 7

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