Film Review with Robert Mann – The Last Exorcism

Film Review with Robert Mann - The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism **½

Seeing the words “Eli Roth presents” in the marketing for The Last Exorcism will no doubt give many people a certain sense of expectation from this film. But you may as well throw away many of those expectations right now. While Roth has developed a reputation for filmmaking of the most sickeningly gruesome and violent, his films Cabin Fever, Hostel and Hostel Part Two being clear examples of this, this film (which carries his name but it not actually made by him) is a horror movie of much more the psychological kind, in fact being awarded an American PG-13 rating, something that should be good news to any more squeamish horror fans out there. Following in the footsteps of films such as Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, [Rec] and Quarantine among many others, this is the latest film to adopt the documentary/found footage approach to horror filmmaking, with the intention here obviously being to make us believe that what we are watching is actually real, even if, unlike The Blair Witch Project, we clearly know this not to be the case. After underwhelming exorcism themed films like Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, can this latest attempt at an exorcism themed film follow in the footsteps of The Exorcism of Emily Rose in providing both a fresh take on the exorcism movie and being a genuinely good one at the same time? Both yes and no apparently.

Arriving at the isolated Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), the charismatic preacher Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is expecting to perform his usual fake exorcism on a disturbed religious fanatic. An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer is certain his teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed by a demon. Facing his conscience after years of parting desperate believers with their money, Cotton plans to have his film crew record a confessionary documentary of his last ‘exorcism’. But when they see the already blood-drenched farm, it’s clear that true evil is at work. With no turning back, Reverend Marcus’ own beliefs are shaken to the core as he and his crew must find a way to save Nell – and themselves – before it is too late.

The Last Exorcism could almost pass for a real documentary such is the level of realism on display here. While often proving somewhat annoying and distracting, the shaky camerawork, the out of focus shots, the poor lighting and the conversations taking place off screen really do create a sense that what we are watching is in fact real. This is aided considerably by dialogue that sounds completely authentic and acting that is so uniformly excellent that it is easy to forget that we are watching actors at all. Patrick Fabian’s on-screen charisma makes him completely believable as a smooth, confident preacher who is convinced that he knows and is doing what is right. Ashley Bell’s transformation from innocent Christian girl to violent, foul mouthed possessee is shockingly realistic. Louis Herthum is perfectly unhinged as the mentally unstable father. And all the bit players never fail to completely convince either. All this realism serves to make what happens on screen all the more scary and, while this is not the most gut wrenchingly terrifying film you will see about exorcism (or anything for that matter), it is still a very chilling film to sit through and one that has its fair share of scares. So, why the low rating, you’re wondering. Well, while the film starts out as an interesting exposé of the hoax behind exorcism and even seems headed back in that direction at one point, when the (apparent) supernatural element is introduced the film heads into more familiar and predictable territory. Also, the presentation of the film almost like a complete finished documentary with footage edited together and interviews included destroys the illusion of the film being real footage that has been found, thus detracting from the impact of the overall film. The real crime on the part of the filmmakers, however, is the lame tacked on ending which completely ruins the film, both ending it on a needlessly predictable note and destroying the integrity established by the more interesting content that features earlier in the film. If only the film came to an end five minutes earlier an extra star on the rating may have been warranted but, as it is, The Last Exorcism is a decent horror film that suffers because it promised to be different but has ended up too much like many others.



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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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