The Last Exorcism ***
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, second generation evangelical Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has had a crisis of faith. He has invited documentary camera crew, Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr) and Daniel Moskowitz (Adam Grimes) to record his last days as a minister. Cotton explains that the exorcisms he and his father before him have performed are all fraudulent and he will expose his secrets for the cameras. He takes the crew on his final exorcism, to a farm in rural Louisiana where Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) has requested help for his possessed daughter Nell (Ashley Bell).
They meet with resistance in the form Nell’s brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) who clearly doesn’t want them there. Nevertheless, Cotton performs the fake exorcism and ‘cures’ Nell. He takes his fee from Louis and leaves the farm, however things are worse than anyone could have imagined…
Produced by Eli Roth and well directed by Daniel Stamm who focuses the film on the characters and mood rather than cheap shocks or gore. The mockumentary style has been used with increasing regularity in the horror genre since the breakout success of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in 1999. This is better than the ‘Diary of the Dead’, ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ and its sequel, but is nowhere near as good as ‘Rec’. That’s not a huge criticism as ‘Rec’ is an outstanding addition to the genre.
The main reason the movie works, at least for the most part, is that the actors are all excellent, individually and as a collective they are really believable and manage to sell the documentary feel of the movie. Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are real standouts, they both show incredible range. Ashley Bell is a star in the making; there is one particular moment where Cotton opens Nell’s bedroom door and asks who she’s talking too, deadpan she answers “No one”, as Cotton closes the door, Nell gives a disturbingly sweet smile straight to camera.
The Last Exorcism is a good suspenseful drama with a different and original take on the possession/exorcism sub-genre. That’s what it is, what it isn’t, is a good horror film. There aren’t any real scares, it’s a refreshingly realistic approach to exorcism and if you buy into the characters on concept is genuinely disturbing in parts.
There has been a fair bit of criticism of the ending and fair enough as it takes a huge turn from the preceding 80 minutes; it’s a clear homage to ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and feels added-on. If the movie had ended 10 minutes earlier I would have been much happier; however as with most of these things if you choose to go with it you’ll enjoy the movie.
Quality: 3 out of 5 stars (4 without that ending)
Any good: 3 out of 5 stars (4 without that ending)