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, the events are captured through the raw footage taken by a low-budget documentary filmmaking team.
But I must give credit once again to a device that continues to work effectively, at least in the realm of the horror movie. I have trouble imagining a successful romantic comedy, for example, or a courtroom drama (but then again, no one has tried, so maybe I'm wrong). I know a lot of people literally get sick at all the jerky camera motion...but I find it all quite compelling. There's something about the dread that builds because it seems like you never know what the guy wielding the camera is going to capture...and more importantly, what he ISN'T going to capture. Often, we hear screams or unsettling noises off screen, and the camera man never catches the visuals to go with it. Or sometimes the camera swings past something and we catch only a brief, terrifying glimpse. It's all becoming somewhat hokey...but if it's done with some care, it still works. It works in THE LAST EXORCISM.
In the opening section, we meet Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a revival-tent style preacher from Baton Rouge. He's been preaching and healing since he was a child, and he's also made a good living performing exorcisms all around the south. Turns out, however, that he has long since lost his faith...and he's become a cynical performer...effective in his use of vocal cadences, bible-thumping, scripture quoting and in having the general demeanor of a fire-and-brimstone kind of guy. But he claims the exorcisms are done to help people who really need psychological help...but often fall prey to folks who really believe in demon possession. He uses tricks to convince folks the demons in them have been driven out...because he believes they are simply delusional and that he can break the delusion without actually performing dangerous rituals on them.
Do you see where this is going? A film crew is going to follow him on one of his cynical exorcisms...in fact, his last one, because the film will expose him. So he's drawn to a rundown farm house somewhere in Louisiana, where the Sweetzer family's teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) seems to be possessed. Her family is just her grief-stricken father, who after the death of his wife has withdrawn his children from the dangers of the world and her enormously creepy brother Caleb.
The movie takes quite awhile building everything up, from introducing the characters to exposing all the little tricks Rev. Marcus uses in his fake exorcism. At first, all seems to go just as Marcus expected, and Nell is cured. But circumstance draws him back...and he is forced to reevaluate his dismissal of demon possession. Lots of screaming, cutting, running, swearing and more screaming occur...all captured in jerky style by the ever-present camera.
The ending of the film is more over-the-top than the events leading up to it earn. And many in the theater were clearly disappointed by the abrupt conclusion...so be warned, this isn't a perfectly satisfying movie with a great dramatic arc and an artful resolution. But while not quite as on-the-edge-of-your seat nerve-wracking as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY...the creepiness factor is quite high.
This convincingly tense atmosphere is helped by better than usual performances for a low-budget movie of this ilk. No performers are well known here (they can't be for such a filming style to work), but they are a cut above folks like the stars of PARANORMAL or OPEN WATER or BLAIR WITCH. Fabian is quite commanding and convincing as a charlatan with good intentions. He's our de facto guide through the turmoil, and he gives us just the right amount of oily insincerity mixed with genuine concern. And when the you-know-what hits the fan, he finds reserves of bravery. But just as compelling is Ashley Bell as the victim, Nell. She is utterly convincing as a sweet, naïve girl who has been homeschooled and sheltered for years. There's a touching scene early on when she acquires the shoes from the sound engineer...it's simple but says a lot. And later, when the you-know-what hits the fan...she can scream and slash and snarl with the best of them. I would also point out Caleb Landry Jones as Caleb, Nell's brother...who has a mysterious agenda of his own. In his first scene, he gives Marcus a smile that gave me goosebumps up my arm.
THE LAST EXORCISM is not a classic like THE EXORCIST. Likely, it will fade from memory in fairly short order. But sitting there in the dark, packed theater, popcorn and Dr. Pepper at the ready...I had myself a very enjoyable 99 minutes of being creeped out. If that sounds like fun to you...then I suspect you'll enjoy the film.
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 … more
** 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" … more
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 … more
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, … more
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 … more
"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. … more
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 … more
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 … more
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.