The Last Exorcism (2010)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: August 28, 2010
Reverend Cotton Marcus is a fraud. We learn that from the get-go. He was raised as the son of a preacher and it's always been something he's just done; it's in his blood, so to speak. And, lately, he doesn't even know if he believes in God anymore. He spent years defrauding people out of money, performing so-called 'exorcisms' that we're really more like an elevated form of hypnosis - he used smoking crosses, fishing wire attached to objects to make them move - anything that might help convince already susceptible people that a demon might be in the room. Now, Reverend Cotton Marcus has decided to expose exorcism for the hoax it is by allowing a documentary crew along for what he is dubbing his 'last exorcism'. He draws a letter at random from someone seeking assistance and he and the crew are off to the backwoods of Louisiana to save the young girls soul.

This is the set-up for Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism", produced by Eli Roth and shot in the same style as "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity". Patrick Fabian stars as Reverend Cotton Marcus and spends the first part of the film showing us all of the tricks exorcists use to fool their clients while also catering to the zealot-like religiosity of a young girl named Nell (Ashley Bell) and her grieving father, Louis (Louis Herthum). Then - something happens. Nell starts acting more and more strangely. She starts producing sounds and voices that could come from no one else. She starts acting violently towards others. She starts contorting her body in odd positions and speaking Latin. Always the skeptic, Marcus continues to believe she is not possessed, but merely a mentally and possibly physically abused 16-year-old girl kept isolated by her father. Marcus and the crew become invested in the story and cannot bring themselves to leave, even with the threat of violence against them.

There isn't much more I can reveal about "The Last Exorcism" without divulging the ending of the film, which I won't do. It was such a surprise to me - and in a good way. You have an idea where this film is going throughout and then it knocks you completely out of your comfort zone and you're tossed into something so unbelievable that it seems so eerily perfect. But, don't think this film is all ending and nothing else. Director Daniel Stamm has crafted an entertaining and engaging horror film that is the best of its kind since "The Blair Witch Project". It relies on building characters and mood rather than needless jumps and scare tactics that only work in bad Wes Craven films. Stamm is smarter than that. He understands the material itself is unnerving enough to not need that which is why some of the biggest audience reactions were from things as simple as the girl staring into the camera. When you think a character in a film is evil, everything they do becomes far more frightening to you.

Yet what really separates this film from most other horror efforts out there is Patrick Fabian. I don't know where they found this guy but he is just fantastic as Reverend Cotton Marcus. Equal parts Barnum and Bailey and equal parts Dr. Phil, Fabian turns Marcus into a sympathetic character even though we know what he is doing is fundamentally wrong. He also takes Marcus on a journey from having zero faith to starting to realize his faith may be what he's needed all along. Sure, we've seen that story told before - hell, we saw it told in "The Exorcist" - but we've never seen it told in such a subtle and personal way. Fabian is supported on all sides by fine talent, most notably Ashley Bell as Nell, Louis Herthum as her father and Caleb Landry Jones as her brother, Caleb. These supporting performances are what help push "The Last Exorcism" over the finish line in terms of quality. And that is what is missing in so many lame horror films these days - actors. Directors assume they can rely on the conventional tricks of the trade to rake in the horror dollars. Once again, Daniel Stamm is just smarter than that.

"The Last Exorcism" was the most entertaining and engaging horror film I have seen since maybe "The Descent". You think you've seen it before - and, on many levels, you have - but you've never seen it done with this much passion, energy and creativity. And, I re-affirm - the ending will either knock your socks off or leave you cursing all the way out of the theatre. Personally, I was applauding inside because it was nice to see a film that threw comparisons to the wind and went for it. I don't know how much involvement Eli Roth had in this film, but I feel like I am maybe starting to like him a little better as producer than I do as director. If he can keep churning out films like this, he'll win me over. Until then, I cannot wait to see what director Daniel Stamm has in store for us next and I highly recommend "The Last Exorcism" to anyone and everyone. It's the best horror film of the year, hands down. 9/10.
waxtadpole3657 #1: waxtadpole3657 - added 08/29/2010, 03:59 PM
Well that's pretty awesome to hear. I usually agree with your reviews, and I'm seeing it on Wednesday, so I'm pretty excited now. A lot of people have said the ending is just awful (and completely negates any redeeming factor the rest of the movie had). Guess I'll find out on Wednesday.
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 08/29/2010, 11:08 PM
You will either love it or hate it. I feel towards the former.
mongoose665 #3: mongoose665 - added 09/04/2010, 05:54 AM
People went in expecting big explosions and Avatar CGI, after the credits rolled, every single person in the cinema went "that was shit" with the exception of me. They expected something over the top and scary, but it was scary, scary in the way of being realistic.
waxtadpole3657 #4: waxtadpole3657 - added 09/05/2010, 09:35 PM
So yeah, I loved the ending. I really don't see how it "ruins" the rest of the movie. In the realms of a horror film about demonic possession, it's not far fetched at all. Someone listed how it can lead to a few inconsistencies in the plot, which I can kind of see, but not enough to ruin the movie. I loved the film.
Lucid Dreams #5: Lucid Dreams - added 09/05/2010, 10:45 PM
Why would anyone expect Avatar CGI in this movie?
C L #6: C L - added 12/28/2010, 09:57 AM
I literally just finished watching it 3 minutes ago. Wow. I liked it and was thinking there was one kind of ending coming and then it turned into something else. Good movie. 7/10
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