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The Last Exorcism

A movie released August 27, 2010

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"If You Believe in God, You'll Have to Believe In The Devil..."

  • Aug 28, 2010
Rating:
+3
Let’s cut to the chase; if you don’t like the first-person POV style cinematography and storytelling first seen in movies such as “The Blair Witch Project”, then in movies such as “Diary of the Dead”, “Paranormal Activity” and the Spanish Horror hit “[REC]” then you may not be the right viewer for “THE LAST EXORCISM”. The film was co-produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm and was meant to emulate the documentary style filmmaking that employ a very similar ruse to get its viewers’ attention, that is it pretends to be ‘real’ footage.

“The Last Exorcism” doesn’t pretend though, it shows that it is a movie and you never see a fictional headline or script that may suggest that the ‘documentary’ is real, but it does rely on the powers of suggestion to feel real. The film’s opening act shows Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), his wife and child in interviews that discuss the existence of demons, but it never tries to fool the viewer, though it relies on the viewers’ ability to buy into its style. The film does say that more exorcisms are being performed today than anytime in known history; the truth to this claim, I don’t know. But I do know exorcisms are still being widely performed even in these modern times.

                   Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus and Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer in "The Last Exorcism."

                  Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer in "The Last Exorcism."

Rev. Cotton Marcus is a somewhat popular religious leader who is said to have performed numerous exorcisms. Marcus is a showman, he makes his ministry lively and fun; but he does have a secret, he doesn’t exactly believe in God or the devil and uses his congregation as a business. When news of the Vatican forming an academy where exorcists may be trained, Marcus sets out to prove that exorcisms are a farce and that it is all dependent on the mind of the one being exorcised. Taking two others, they go to an isolated area where they have been summoned by the father (Louis Herthum) of a young 16-year old girl named Nell (Ashley Bell) who her father believes is possessed. Marcus performs a fake exorcism and her father is satisfied, that is until strange things do happen without explanation, that may cause Marcus to believe in the devil, but can he call upon God for salvation when he himself is without faith?

The film takes strong inspirations from “Blair Witch Project” and William Friedkin’s horror classic “The Exorcist”. But it doesn’t try to pretend that it is either one of those films. You will hear Marcus say that he is no “Father Merrin”, and that he is only on the business of exorcism. It brings the viewer in a position to question what is real and what is not, and to maybe acknowledge that there false prophets, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t real ones either. The direction by Daniel Stamm does generate a feeling of tense, unnerving emotion; but it is kept simple for most of the film’s entirety.

                         Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer, Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus, Louis Herthum as Louis Sweetzer and Caleb Landry Jones as Caleb Sweetzer in "The Last Exorcism."

                        Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer in "The Last Exorcism."

I enjoyed the way the film does go into the issues about religion, of faith and the existence of God. The script by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland keeps most of the ‘documentary style’ cinematography grounded, it doesn’t become an issue for the film’s plot as it mostly focuses on the character of Rev. Marcus who can just be so charming and then truly despicable as he slips in a banana bread recipe in a sermon to prove that no one listens to these things. Yes, religion is a business that relies on the beliefs or what people want to hear or feel; but it is never about what they need to hear and what people need to feel. It is somewhat exploitive and quite disheartening to see the antics of our fraudulent minister; but sadly it may actually happen in real life.

What I did like in “The Last Exorcism” is the fact that it doesn’t make its characters seem idiotic and dumb; Marcus and his crew know that they have come across something beyond their comprehension. They know there is something scary going on and they want to leave, but Marcus experiences a crisis of conscience that something makes him want to see things through. Maybe it is ego, maybe it is his own human conscience for using the very scriptures to make a profit that can save him, we‘ll have to read between the lines ourselves. The viewer is privy to Marcus’ development as a character as he and the viewer do begin to question the authenticity of the possession.

                          Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer in "The Last Exorcism."

The POV-style cinematography is kept rough and unpolished to emulate that realistic feel. It is good as we see some needed gaps in the screenplay. I do have to question some things as the characters do seem to almost break that ‘fourth wall’ and it doesn’t offer definite answers as to how the footage is being seen by its audience. (No explanations of a fictional camera being found or anything). The scenes of demonic possession was simple and doesn’t have too much of that Hollywood feel. No hoarse demonic voices, no scary make up or exaggerations; they kept the scenes grounded to feel ‘authentic’.

Bell (who plays Nell) does fit the role of the possessed young girl; she looks rather creepy and yet so innocent, I was happy to see the sense of restraint in the use of make up and special effects to express the possession scenes. Cotton Marcus is a man who preys on the beliefs of people and the manner with which he fakes an exorcism is quite funny and yet, a little disturbing since it can definitely be true. Fabian does pull off his character well as I thought it was nice that his character wasn’t too much of a stretch in his 'the man who cried wolf character'. The direction was decent, but I thought while Daniel Stamm did hit some high notes, he couldn’t exactly attain the suspense “Paranormal Activity” or [REC] did achieve.

The film has its share of flaws in the screenplay; Stamm couldn’t achieve that methodical approach to build the suspense from a series of little scenes that can make the movie seem more real. At the last act, the film became a little rushed as Stamm felt like he wanted to reach its climax very quickly and failed to make a truly effective definition of its premise. I cannot discuss the final act without spoiling its intended impact on its narrative, since it is better you don’t know what is coming. The ending was a little unsatisfying because it relied on a twist that is comparable to “Blair Witch” just when it is starting to get real exciting, it ends. I am not sure; I guess the POV gimmick did hamper it in the end.

Recommended with Caution, RENT it first.
[ 3 Out of 5 Stars]
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When You Believe in God, You'll Have to Believe In The Devil... When You Believe in God, You'll Have to Believe In The Devil...

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January 10, 2011
You are the master of flow and message. It is fun to read what your friends think. Judicious review.
January 10, 2011
Thanks, JP! check out the comment thread under Devora to see a real creepy vid.
January 10, 2011
Yep, I just watched that just before your comment. Scary.
 
January 08, 2011
Your review makes this movie sound so much better than it is i couldnt get thru the first 30mins of it...i loved the blair movies but this was just borrrrrrring
January 08, 2011
I understand. This was one of those...how do you say it...For specific viewers perhaps? Yeah, I appreciated this for the ambition and maybe even for its guts to try and show something about the hidden world of preachers. But I would not be surprised at all if someone found it boring. I hope the upcoming film THE RITE would be better..
January 10, 2011
....seven days.....(kkrrriinngggg) bwahahaha!!
January 10, 2011
You sir have way to much fun tormenting me hahaha
January 10, 2011
I only torture the people I like (imagine what I do to those I don't like LOL!) I hope you've seen RINGU because it is phenomenal and much darker.
January 10, 2011
I actually saw that one b4 i saw the ring i really liked it but it didnt scare me at all
January 10, 2011
I see....because probably the American version had a better "seven days" demonic voice line hee-hee!!
 
September 19, 2010
Good point about the ending...it did have that rushed, BLAIR WITCHy feel to it. I liked it better than BLAIR as a movie (rather than as a phenomena, which BLAIR was)...because with BLAIR it felt like ALL buildup. At least LAST EXORCISM had some top-notch creepy scenes prior to the rushed climax. Excellent review.
September 20, 2010
I agree. Blair was a phenomena but arguably this may have the better plot. Thank you for the read, I loved your take on this one as well.
 
September 05, 2010
I think the title tells me how the movie ends. I doubt they can surprise me.
September 05, 2010
um....you may be right, I got it right the first guess. Plus, if you've seen the "Balir Witch Project" then you'll know how it stops short.
September 06, 2010
That's what I thought.
 
September 02, 2010
I was wondering about this movie; I'll take your advice and rent it. Wonderful review Woo and thanks for sticking the video of the Emily Rose exorcism - gave me the cold chills!
September 02, 2010
Hey, Brenda! Glad to see you up and around the site again. That vid was indeed freaky...if you go further down this comments, I linked a vid under Orlok's comments about the short doco on the surviving family of Emily Rose...
September 02, 2010
Gonna check it out now..thank you!!
 
August 31, 2010
once again you have convinced me to give a movie that i swore i didn't want to see a chance lol fabulous review!!
September 02, 2010
Thanks, vampire! always nice to see you around my reviews :)
 
August 30, 2010
Great review. I think I'll take your advice and wait for the DVD release!
September 02, 2010
Thanks, Sheila. This was good, but I have to say, it could've been a lot better.
 
August 30, 2010
Meh, after The Exorcism of Emily Rose, I think I've had enough of a dose of movies on exorcisms :P Trippy that this one takes on Blair Witch POV shots though! Thanks for sharing, Woo :)
August 30, 2010
Thanks for the read, Lady D. Oh, this is real footage/story from the story behind "Emily Rose"--creepy!

August 31, 2010
Oh, I've seen that. It's freaky!
September 02, 2010
OMG crap - this video was creepy - I'm gonna sleep with the lights on tonight!
 
August 30, 2010
I have always found your reviews to be thoughtful and fluid, SIr Woopak. You did a great job, and enjoyed how judicious you seem, balancing what is good with what is not. It doesn't surprise me that the main character is a charlatan. His disbelief reminds me of Damien Karras in 'The Exorcist,' and he's also like the Pardoner or Summoner in Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'. I think his character's premise is plausible, but seems unusually blatant. I feel like I now know what I'd be going into, but I'm not sure I will take your same journey--you trailblazer, you! I've already seen 'The Exorcist,' '...Emily Rose,' and '...Blair Witch." Many pro and amateur critics are crying, "Foul" for the ending, so your tempered approach seems like the best way through it. Thanks, and I have to say, this is the best review I've read so far. Gratefully, JP
September 02, 2010
Yes, thanks, JP! It is always nice to read your comments! That is a great catch on the Summoner analogy...I wish I could've thought of that. I am a sucker for movies such as this one, I dunno movies on exorcism, false prophets and the occult. This wasn't bad, but I do know a lot more folks would need a stronger resolution to all of it. Thanks, JP!
 
August 29, 2010
hella good review pakman, super creepy film, dont know if I'll check it out tho lmfao. But still the review entices me
August 29, 2010
Thanks, Sonic! Hey, Jenny is here too, y'know. Look her up...I forgot her new screenname here but she's under my friends' list.
 
1 2 Next
More The Last Exorcism reviews
review by . February 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****     If there's anything really "wrong" with "The Last Exorcism", then it's that there's nothing bad about it yet there's nothing good about it either. The film intends on riding its mockumentary/ "Blair Witch"-style premise as long as it can, and in a number of ways it's more of a success than past efforts. But I've seen better. In fact, I've seen much better. "REC" and "Paranormal Activity" are both great examples of horror films which use their "Blair Witch Project" …
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
COMMENTARY ELEVATES THIS TO 5 STARS
      THE LAST EXORCISM      I will admit that when I first heard about this I was actually interested in it unlike another handheld style flick that was coming out. I have always been into these exorcism movies and it also had Eli Roth and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake producers on board so I was into it. After finally seeing it I had to say I was impressed with some things and not so much on others. I will say that it is a good movie but it could …
review by . January 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Faux Horror-mentary Has High Haunt Count
It's the amateur hour to be sure, but they do a lot with very little.  As a faux documentary, Louisiana preacher, Rev. Cotton, would like to make good on his track to perform phony exorcisms.  In a straight-forward fashion, he shows his duplicity up front, so he can expose exorcism once the headlines show what harm well-meaning people have done to a girl during the ritual.  Things fall apart to be sure, but the results, while not always startling, have a creepy haunt count. Subjectively, …
review by . September 05, 2010
      The horror documentary--a brilliant bit of filmmaking if done right, a curious experiment if not.  Either way, the mocumentary filmmaker is ahead of game because idea itself so novel.  For starters, the documentary format precludes any notions of disbelief--it goes step further than the mere willing suspension of disbelief, and presents itself immediately as "real" and "true".  Following on that, documentaries are, quite often, understood …
review by . August 28, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
THE LAST EXORCISM is yet another horror movie told through the use of "captured by someone who just happens to be filming for some other reason" device. Examples include THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (which started it all, for better or worse), PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (captured by a home camcorder), DIARY OF THE DEAD (captured by the camcorder of a college student, plus other video from the web), CLOVERFIELD (camcorder), QUARANTINE (local news cameraman with an endless battery), etc. In this current film, …
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
"If you believe in God," says Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), "then you must believe in the Devil." This eternal clash between good and evil is the backbone of Christian faith, and Marcus understands that. Growing up in Baton Rouge as the son of a preacher, he was groomed to become one himself at a very early age; looking back on his life, he admits to the camera that, while he learned plenty about behaving like a preacher, he never really learned about what he was preaching. …
Quick Tip by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
I found this to be a good film but the real goodies here are the commentaries on the DVD/Blu-Ray release. Both are very good with one being the director and the actors and the other being the producers. Both are good with the director/actors one being more fun and lively and the producer being one of the absolute best learning commentaries I have ever heard. If you are interested in behind the scenes stuff and how films are made this is the commentary for you. The other bonus features are good as …
Quick Tip by . January 09, 2011
There's a wonderfully little idea wrapped up inside THE LAST EXORCISM that -- given the hands of a competent director -- may actually have blossomed to frightening realization: a charlatan preacher goes about trying to prove faith is misguided when he attempts a 'Punk'd'-style documentary about fake exorcisms. The twist? He's actually caught in the middle of what may (or may not have been) a real-life incident of possession. Again, in the hands of a competent director, THE LAST EXORCISM could've …
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Wiki

The Last Exorcism is a movie directed by Daniel Stamm

A troubled evangelical minister agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew.

When he arrives on the rural Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer, the Reverend Cotton Marcus expects to perform just another routine “exorcism” on a disturbed religious fanatic. An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer has contacted the charismatic preacher as a last resort, certain his teenage daughter Nell is possessed by a demon who must be exorcized before their terrifying ordeal ends in unimaginable tragedy. Buckling under the weight of his conscience after years of parting desperate believers with their money, Cotton and his crew plan to film a confessionary documentary of this, his last exorcism. But upon arriving at the already blood drenched family farm, it is soon clear that nothing could have prepared him for the true evil he encounters there. Now, too late to turn back, Reverend Marcus’ own beliefs are shaken to the core when he and his crew must find a way to save Nell – and themselves – before it is too late.

Poster art for "The Last Exorcism."
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Details

Director: Daniel Stamm
Genre: Horror
Release Date: August 27, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Huck Botko
Runtime: 87 Min
Studio: Lionsgate Films
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