Film Review – The Last Exorcism

Last Exorcism one sheet US

I like it when horror movies surprise me, and The Last Exorcism managed to, despite being potentially hamstrung by it’s “found footage” premise focusing on an exorcist operating in the Bible Belt.

The faux documentary follows preacher Cotton Marcus (an excellently charismatic Patrick Fabian) who has has been preaching since he was 10, following in the footsteps of his father. The family deal in making money, saving souls and exorcising demons. He talks about how “every faith has exorcists, but all you hear about is the Catholic church, you know, because they’ve got that (movie)…”

Marcus is immediately likeable, a true showman, who recognises the frenzy his congregation gets into, but ultimately wants to ensure that his wife and son have the best life possible. He asks the crew to document an exorcism, the last one he will perform, to prove that it is all performance and trickery. While he admits that perhaps his faith is lapsing, he is no Damien Karras, wracked by guilt.

He and the crew travel to Ivanwood, Louisiana, to perform an exorcism on Nell Sweetzer, a 16 year old girl who is kept in isolation by her father. Cotton is uncomfortable with exorcising a child, his reason for this being the last one is due to a reported death of an autistic boy, he wants to ensure children are not put at risk.

Nell’s father Louis (Louis Hertham) is convinced she’s possessed, citing cattle mutilations around the farm and Nell’s bloodsoaked clothes. Nell remembers nothing and while Cotton suggests to her father that she is possessed by a demon called Abaddon, he creates the atmosphere for a fraudulent exorcism.

Needless to say, it’s after this that things get a little very strange and Cotton finds himself facing a situation he never imagined, and hamstrung by the lies he has already told regarding Nell’s “posession”.

It’s a movie of two halves, the first building up Cotton and his showmanship (the exorcism is excellent), the second descending into chaos as Nell’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and uncontrollable. Ashley Bell is excellent as Nell, in a performance that ranges from sweet innocence to hissing bile. There are neat little twists as the plot moves towards an inevitable conclusion, and perhaps one twist too many before the end, which loses a little of the momentum and smarts that the previous 90 minutes have shown.

There are inevitable small nods to The Exorcist, but none of them cumbersome, and the film goes for a creepy rather than gory or gross vibe. Director Daniel Stamm also directed A Necessary Death, another faux documentary, so has this format down to a fine art. Most of the shots have a tight, claustrophobic feel, ideal for the latter half of the movie. Similarly the script by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland has little fat, and the movie is a neat and tidy 95 minutes.

The Last Exorcism is a smart, surprisingly witty, creepy film, that manages to escape the shadow of William Friedkin’s seminal movie, with a modern twist and some excellent camera work.

This is the closing film at Fright Fest this year and opens in the UK on Sept 3rd.

Warning – trailer is a little spoilery imho.

This post was first published at Blogomatic3000 on the 8th August.

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on August 21, 2010.

One Response to “Film Review – The Last Exorcism”

  1. […] wait. I’m expecting it to be utterly risible, but you never know it could be a gem like The Last Exorcism. Either way, I’m […]

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