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

Movies Watched [June 2011]

Happy Fourth of July weekend everyone! I will be out for the next few days, and I won’t be back with new content until Monday or Tuesday. Gonna give the ol’ camping thing a try, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. Until then, here is a summary of my movie viewing from June, complete with links to the various reviews.

In order of viewing (number represents year overall total, not this month):

87) 13 Assassins [2010]
13 Assassins [2010]

88) Dead Alive [1992]
Dead Alive [1992]

89) Wet Hot American Summer [2001]
Wet Hot American Summer [2001]

90) The Last House on the Left [1972]
The Last House on the Left [1972]

91) Super 8 [2011]
Super 8 [2011]

92) X-Men: First Class [2011]
X-Men: First Class [2011]

93) Nowhere Boy [2009]
Nowhere Boy [2009]

94) X2 [2003]
X2 [2003]

95) Somewhere [2010]
Somewhere [2010]

96) Breathless [1960]
Breathless [1960, Godard]

97) 30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks [2010]
ESPN 30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks [2010]

98) Rabbit Hole [2010]
Rabbit Hole [2010]

99) The Virgin Suicides [1999]
The Virgin Suicides [1999]

100) Back to the Future [1985]
Back to the Future [1985]

101) The Last Exorcism [2010]
The Last Exorcism [2010]