The Last Exorcism is unequivocally the smartest horror film that Eli Roth has associated himself with.
Now don't get me wrong...I'm among the minority that actually roots for Mr. Roth's endeavors and would welcome a feature length film of his Grindhouse mock trailer, Thanksgiving any day of the week. However, I usually take his films for what they are and nothing more...mindless forays into horrific fun. I'm not too sure what his true role in this film is other than producer, but he's been pimping this film for quite some time now. The true star of this film is director Daniel Stamm. He keeps the film's tense pacing within the story's confines and never falls prey to the typical horror trappings of cheap jump scares usually thrown in because of the lack of faith the filmmakers have in their audience. This film puts its complete trust in you...the intelligent viewer and does not attempt to hold your hand throughout.
We are introduced to Cotton Marcus, a troubled evangelical minister who has somewhat lost his way in terms of his religious faith. We are introduced to him and his film crew in a manner of a documentary being filmed to expose the fraudulent aspects of the modern day exorcism. The entire film is done in a found footage/documentary style that sometimes feels unnecessary due to the mood music inserted during certain scenes. I think that if the filmmakers focused on the actual story and ditched the whole shaky-cam gimmick, it would've come across much better as a more complete film. Cotton is played perfectly by Patrick Fabian, who you will certainly not recognize from anything else he might've been in. His character is the anchor from which every other performance must take their balance from. He invites his film crew down to the Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer where he believes his daughter Nell has been taken over by the devil himself.
We are introduced to the Sweetzer family by way of a haunting performance by Caleb Landry Jones as the Sweetzer son named....umm....Caleb. Then we meet Nell. A young girl who looks as if Michael Cera threw on a wig and got himself possessed by demons. Perhaps I still have Scott Pilgrim in my head from last week. Anyway, this is when it gets interesting. Cotton does all he can to insure that the Sweetzers get the exorcism they "think" they need in order to save young Cera...I mean Nell from the demon Abalam. He fakes an exorcism ritual in order to make Nell's father believe that the demon has been exorcised and "cure" Nell of the possession. Cotton collects the cash and drives off on his merry way...with film crew in tow. Now...this is where shit goes a little south of heaven.
Cotton and his crew end up staying at this little motel 5 miles down the road and wake up in the middle of the night only to see Nell in the room. Well...I won't give too much else away for fear of spoiling the true scary bits from the film. But, I will say that The Last Exorcism could have been a much scarier film. It wasn't. In comparison to the one true horror film that has scarred me even before I was brought into this world...The Exorcist...it doesn't hold a ritual candle.
But, it is a smart film. The film later deals with incest, cultists, family loss...all the while shaking it's cynical little finger at organized religion and faith. It has many elements in the film that definitely gives it the substance to stand head and shoulders above its contemporaries...but, as a solid horror film...I'd have to say it lacks overall scare value. I think the marketing is mostly to blame for this. We are shown Nell up on the corner of a ceiling like she's fuckin' Spiderman in the movie poster...however, there's no trace of this scary imagery within the film. In fact all of the good "horror" money shots are shown in mostly all the trailers. I think most gorehounds will be disappointed once the credits role and you can't blame them when you think about what you've been promised with the marketing campaign.
The Last Exorcism is a good film with good solid acting and a good atmosphere. It's just not the scary possession film that we've all been waiting for. Getting back to the shaky camera thing...I think its time is spent. Don't give us anymore fuckin' "found footage" films and stop causing us headaches with all that "running with a fuckin' camera" nonsense. It's annoying. The film would've been much better if they just presented it as a narrative or something. Ok....all done.
The Last Exorcism gets a solid 7 out of 10.
Thanks for reading,
Ok...for those that have seen the film...I'm going to discuss the ending....so, if you haven't seen it yet...
DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING...AS IT CONTAINS BIG SPOILERS!!!
For those that have seen the film....please highlight the following text with your cursor and join me in discussion...
I loved the ending! Come on, man! Satan worshippers and demon baby sacrifices! Movie magic at its best! I seriously thought the film was going to give us a lame conclusion with it's neat little girl feeling ashamed of her pregnancy bow tie ending. But, low and behold...Logan turns out to be gay and Cotton 180's the fuckin' Jesus van back toward hell! A huge smile wrinkled across my face once I saw the pentagrams and Satanic images drawn on the walls when Cotton and company got back to the Sweetzer house. Then the Satan worshippers and the demon ritual! I fuckin' loved it when Cotton gets his faith back in aces to fight the fire demon. And I applauded how the film ends with Nell's drawing coming to life. Cotton = flames. Check. Interviewer chick = dismembering. Check. Camera guy = decapitation. Check. I've read quite a bit of hating on the film's conclusion on the internet and I gotta say.....it's definitely the marketing's fault. I even found myself wanting more after I saw Cotton walking towards the flames. But, I understood the ending we ultimately received. So, I wasn't disappointed. I'm just saying....if there's some sort of sequel to this......count me in!