The Last Exorcism 
Director: Daniel Stamm
Not afraid to ride the coattails of The Blair Witch Project or even Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism is one of the more recent titles in the increasingly popular “mockumentary horror” genre. Filmed as if it were a documentary, the movie follows Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a Louisiana man of the Lord who casually admits to faking his way through a bunch of exorcisms. He has an elaborate setup for the process, complete with electronic props and ominous sound effects (from an iPod) to try to make the experience authentic. Reverend Marcus has decided to expose the exorcism business (hence the documentary crew) and he decides to do one last ritual to prove that this is all bullshit. He randomly selects one letter request that takes him to a rural farm where the family’s teenage daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), is seemingly possessed. It doesn’t take long for Marcus and crew to realize that something is seriously wrong at the farm.
I greatly enjoyed the premise of the movie, and the opening scenes of the Reverend exposing his religious “services” were nothing short of brilliant. I loved the idea of seeing a religious con man on film, as well as the subtle shots related to this (such as Marcus slapping a Jesus Fish magnet on the back of his car before hitting the road). The back story provided is entertaining, and it is aided by a charismatic performance from Fabian.
When the documentary crew hits the farm, the movie takes a startling turn and shows its horror chops. Something is definitely not right with Nell, and the “mockumentary” camerawork shows a first hand account of how messed up she is. Relative newcomer Ashley Bell delivers a stirring performance, showing off a character who can be both sweet and nasty with equal ability. There are a number of jump-inducing moments on the farm and the atmosphere is tense upon arrival, where the crew is greeted by Nell’s rock-throwing brother (Caleb Landry Jones).
The Last Exorcism is good enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, but it has one major problem that is directly related to its faux-documentary style: its abrupt, cheesy ending. Obviously I can’t get into details here, but the ending is unbelievably over-the-top and seems out of place compared to the previous 80 minutes. It’s unfortunate that a better ending could not have been used, as what they came up with is really weak and is bound to infuriate many (or even most) viewers.
Still, even with the lackluster finale, The Last Exorcism is one of the better American horror offerings to come out in the last couple years. Strong performances from Fabian and Bell add some personality to the film, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the nerve-wracking atmosphere. The Last Exorcism is ultimately a good film that could have been even better with a more satisfying ending.