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Published: 2010-08-26 - 21:40:21
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The Last Exorcism Review

By Joe Lozito

Occult Following

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Don't be fooled by his lies. And by "his" I mean the marketing guy who came up with the Ad campaign for "The Last Exorcism". Though the poster shows a young girl in a decidedly Linda Blair-esque pose - and though the film is co-produced by "Hostel"-meister Eli Roth - this isn't some blood-soaked fire-and-brimstone horror movie. "Last" is a take on demonic possession in a post-"Blair Witch" world. And for a time, it's a pretty effective one - that is until it succumbs to the forces of evil (in the form of a "shocking" ending).

"Exorcism" is made in a faux-documentary style, like "Blair", "Paranormal Activity", and most recently "The Fourth Kind". The film's rather clever premise revolves around Reverend Cotton Marcus, a southern preacher who's made a living performing phony exorcisms for people who believe they are possessed by demons. The Rev, tired of the hypocrisy, intends to get out of the business. But first he hires a documentary film crew to follow him to his final performance (hence the film's title) in order to blow the lid off the apparently rampant fraudulent-exorcism racket.

Cotton and his crew (a cameraman and soundwoman) accept an assignment at the Sweetzer farm deep in Louisiana, which the film sets up as a kind of religious melting pot. Sweetzer's daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is an innocent 16 year-old, home-schooled by her father after her mother's recent death. It seems there have been issues of sleepwalking and slaughtered livestock down on the farm and it is suspected that Nell (and her inner demon) is the culprit. The Rev performs an impressive show for the family, and everything seems to go as planned. That is... until it really, really doesn't. I guess you could say it was an exorcise in futility.

No fair giving too much away. The director Daniel Stamm, working from a nicely restrained script by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, does an admirable job setting it all up. His talented cast of relative unknowns (led by a charismatic Patrick Fabian as Cotton) possess the type of naturalism that is an absolute must here. Ms. Bell does a nice job alternating creepy innocence and creepy malevolence on a dime (check out the scene when she steals a wry smile at the camera just as a door closes). It's hard to tell which attitude is more chilling.

The idea of a lapsed preacher going up against a real demon has potential (potential which was already realized in "The Exorcist"). But the fun of "The Last Exorcism" is watching as the filmmakers take fairly standard horror tropes (is there anything spookier than someone standing still and unresponsive in an unlit hallway?) and apply a documentary treatment. It's a shame the filmmakers didn't stay true to the film's premise. When the eerie violins and loud shrieks intrude on the otherwise quiet soundtrack, it comes off as obvious manipulation, and the ending is both promising and unrealised. Perhaps it was the promise of a wider audience, or a bigger payday, or even a sequel, but one way or another the filmmakers were tempted to overdo it. Someone should have led them not into temptation.

What did you think?

Movie title The Last Exorcism
Release year 2010
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary If you ignore the marketing, this is actually a clever and creepy (if ultimately pointless) little thriller possessed by the soul of a horror movie.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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