Movie Number– 110
Title– The Last Exorcism (2010)
Running Time– 87 minutes
Director– Daniel Stamm
Writer– Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
Starring– Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Iris Bahr
Visiting the movie theatre two weeks in a row is a luxury I don’t generally indulge in, but the exception had to be made thanks to two horror movies being released that I was very interested in seeing. I detailed last week’s new release (Piranha 3D) with a positive review, and this week, horror stays 2D with the release of The Last Exorcism.
It isn’t often I will go see a movie simply because of a producer. Let’s be honest, they just provide the money, not any of their talent (yes, I know they have final say over the product, but they are a far cry from the director). Eli Roth, however, has gained my trust with horror movies, and if his name is on the movie, I will go see it (Roth was a producer for The Last Exorcism). I can’t say that Eli has let me down, but he has given the green light on some terrible marketing.
Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a southern preacher from Louisiana who preaches to earn a living, following in the footsteps of his father. Cotton also performs exorcisms for extra money. The thing is, Rev. Marcus does not believe in demons, and may not even believe in God. Instead, he puts on a show for the families who he is exorcising – unbeknownst to the family, of course – rids them of their “demon” and collects his cash to feed his family; he provides these families with a “service of the mind”.
Marcus is content with his way of living until he reads a newspaper article about a 10-year old boy that is killed by the family preacher during one of these exorcisms. He decides that he needs to do something about these dangerous deeds, and brings in a professional documentary crew to film his next exorcism. He randomly chooses a letter he receives in the mail and he and the crew head out to Louis Sweetzer’s (Louis Herthum) farm to perform an exorcism on his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell). What follows will leave viewers asking “what?” as they exit the movie theatre.
From the trailers, this movie appears to be a thrill-a-minute scare-fest, even going so far as adding in screening audiences screaming and hiding their faces from the big screen. While there are a few jumps and tense moments, this is not what the movie is about. The movie is much slower than the preview had me expecting, with the first 45 minutes or so, focusing on character development. In fact, I was laughing my ass off in this first part of the film, and not because it was bad. The main actor – Patrick Fabian – has a long history in television, playing various comedic parts, and that shined through in the first part of this film. Don’t get me wrong, this was nowhere near as funny as Piranha 3D, but I’ll be damned if my obnoxious laugh wasn’t out in full force. With that said, the movie did a nice job of establishing the characters, and allowed me to form opinions of each that would be tested throughout the final half of the film. For some, though, the beginning of the movie will be too slow, and the “good” parts will not be good enough to make up for it. As I mentioned, there were a few scares, but it was nothing like what the trailer lead me to expect. Also, it’s imperative to mention that The Last Exorcism, unlike some films like Legion, has very little pro or anti-religious commentary, and does not try to preach to the audience either way. This is important to me because there is nothing worse than being preached to at the theatre.
Ashley Bell – a New York University School of Tisch graduate – was sweet, and perfectly cast as Nell. Both her look and her dialogue brought out the innocence of the character that is necessary in any film like this. She even performed her own stunts for the movie, which was pretty impressive, though nowhere near what was done in The Exorcist (1973). Patrick Fabian was fun as the Reverend, and his comedic chops shone through, which I didn’t expect at all. He did a nice job of taking the serious edge off the film, and had he not, The Last Exorcism could have been a complete failure. Nell’s father, Louis – Louis Herthum – was fine, but probably the most uninteresting character in the entire movie. The standout part was the supporting role of the older brother, played by Caleb Landry Jones. I’ve not seen him in anything else, but he came across as a very talented actor, and created a memorable character with the few lines of dialogue he was given.
Any horror fan would be able to see The Blair Witch Project (and Children of the Corn) influence that The Last Exorcism undoubtedly contains, even after taking away the fact that the entire movie is filmed with one camera as a documentary. Luckily, this was a “professional” documentary crew, so there was less camera shaking and higher quality picture. Some might be tired of this effect, but if it helps to add to the tension in a movie and doesn’t make me want to vomit (Cloverfield comes to mind here), I have no problem with it. It works for The Last Exorcism, but there are other areas that might turn the mainstream audiences off, including the weak ending, and the long, character developing first half.
It is hard to give The Last Exorcism my recommendation for anyone thinking about seeing it in theatres because of how mis-advertised the film is. If after reading this review, though, anyone is still interested, then by all means, pay the $10 and enjoy. If people know what to expect coming in, there will be a lesser chance of disappointment. Don’t anticipate a scare-a-minute roller coaster ride, because that is not what The Last Exorcism is. Instead, it is a character driven look at how far some people are willing to go for their beliefs. My suggestion? Wait for the Blu-Ray of The Last Exorcism, and pay a couple bucks more to see Piranha 3D in theatres.
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Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.