"Exorcism is alive and well..."
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Fabian) is having trouble with his faith and is determined to show that the church’s use of exorcisms is one that is used just to put people at ease and not actually battle the devil and his minions. Thinking possession does not exist, he agrees to have a documentary team follow him to show how he uses technology and tricks to make people believe that he is driving a demon out. Picking the Sweetzer family, he heads to their farm to perform his last exorcism on Nell, a young troubled girl who her father thinks is possessed by a demon and responsible for the deaths of many of his animals. When he arrives however, Reverend Cotton Marcus and his documentary team soon realise that this might actually be the real thing.
When you hear about a documentary based around “Found” video footage, questions are bound to be asked but when it comes to horror the only question you should be asking is “Will this scare me?”
Since ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was released in 1999, the ‘found footage’ plot device for horror has become commonplace. Films like ‘Diary of the Dead’, ‘Rec’, ‘Paranormal Activity’ and from a science fiction point of view ‘Cloverfield’, have shown you footage with the camera been an actual character. Whether it is film or video, the camera or the camera operator becomes a key character and a plot device for the movie, bringing footage into the first person view. The question that ‘The Last Exorcism’ asks however is, do you believe this?
Shot in a documentary style, this is about a camera crew following Reverend Cotton Marcus on his last exorcism. Instead of proving that people are actually possessed by demons or the Devil himself, the Reverend wants to show how he uses technology and tricks to bring spiritual relief to very religious parishioners who cannot explain the presence of what they think in evil in their house. For this last exorcism, he chooses the case of Nell, a young troubled woman whose father is convinces has been possessed, changing her. With cattle and animals been killed on the farm and a complete change in personality for Nell, her father believes there is only one reason for this, demonic possession but Reverend Cotton Marcus sees this as a chance to ease their fears via a fake exorcism. This makes for a documentary style drama that will have you on the edge of your seat but then it all falls apart.
The documentary approach for ‘The Last Exorcism’ works for two thirds of the film. The unknown cast improvises throughout, making reactions to what they are seeing very believable, adding the fear that definitely builds. Patrick Fabian is excellent as Reverend Cotton Marcus and Ashley Bell is utterly convincing as the very troubled Nell. There is a genuine sense of foreboding and a build up of tension that will draw you into the story but in the final act the problems become all too evident.
The Reverend is sure that Nell is faking and there is something underpinning her reasons for putting her family through this. As they investigate her however, other people within the small Southern town become aware of what Cotton and the film crew are doing. This sets up a twist in the plot that you will never see coming but is so stupid and over-the-top that is ruins all of the excellent work that had gone on before. Director Daniel Stamm, writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland and producer Eli Roth need to take all the blame for this because in trying to do something different, they have just made the audience ask the question “What the Hell?”
‘The Last Exorcism’ has so many positives, like the performances, the documentary style approach and the believability of the dialogue but however good the first two acts are, they are ruined by a truly terrible final act. It is very hard to get horror right and this film had real potential to be real horror fest but instead it is just extremely disappointing.
- Audio Commentary with Producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman, Marc Abraham and Tom Bliss
- Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Stamm and Actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum
- Audio Commentary with Witnesses to an Exorcism: Haunting Victim, Deliverance Minister and Clinical Psychologist
- The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism
- Real Stories of Exorcism
- Interview with Daniel Stamm and Patrick Fabian
- Interview with Eli Roth and Ashley Bell
- Ashley Bell Audition Footage
- Patrick Fabian Audition Footage
- Caleb Landry Jones Audition Footage
- Louis Herthum Audition Footage
- Protection Prayer
- 2009 Cannes Film Festival
- Teaser Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer
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