Movie Review: The Last Exorcism [2010, Stamm]

The Last Exorcism [2010, Stamm]

The Last Exorcism [2010]
Director: Daniel Stamm
Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

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.

The Last Exorcism [2010]

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.

The Last Exorcism [2010, Stamm]

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.

7/10

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class [2011]

X-Men: First Class [2011]

X-Men: First Class [2011]
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

I feel obligated to admit right away that I am not much of an X-Men fan. I know very little about the series and its characters, and I have only seen the original 2000 film. It’s not that I am opposed to the series in any way, it’s just that I could never be bothered to dig into it. Until now.

X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the original movies, and it focuses on the origins of the groups led by Professor X and Magneto. This concept intrigued me quite a bit simply because it would tell me, a non-fan, how exactly everything came to be.

X-Men: First Class [2011]

The movie takes place predominantly in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A young mind-reading Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets a fellow mutant, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), who shows him that he is not alone in the world. Their paths intersect with Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) who is on a revenge mission to kill the Nazi bastard (Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw) who murdered his mother. The two future leaders team up and recruit a bunch of other mutants including Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz) and Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones) to take out Shaw and his small band of accomplices, the most noteworthy being Emma Frost (a terrible January Jones), who are now attempting to start World War III.

While the majority of the characters get their fair share of screen time, the bulk of the action is placed on Professor X and Magneto. McAvoy and Fassbender are more than up to the task for their roles, as they both deliver strong performances with impeccable chemistry together. The acting is generally pretty good all around, except for the aforementioned January Jones, whose only duty is seemingly to show off the movie’s required amount of cleavage. Jennifer Lawrence in particular is quite good as Raven, and she is certainly building momentum after last year’s brilliant performance in Winter’s Bone. I also enjoyed Rose Byrne’s role as a CIA agent who is working with the mutants.

X-Men: First Class [2011]

X-Men: First Class doesn’t have any major “holy shit” moments and relies more on dialogue than action, but it still moves at a brisk pace even considering its 132 minute run-time. I found the back story to be quite fascinating, and this movie has inspired me to continue delving into the series — something the 2000 film couldn’t even do. While I feel more could have been done with the film’s 1960s setting, it still made good use of the ongoing Cold War and offered an interesting fantasy alternative as to what really happened. As far as summer blockbusters go, this is one of the better ones to come out this year.

8/10