Review: The Last Exorcism (2010)

I’ve been wanting to see this movie since it came out in 2010, but either didn’t have the time or I forgot about it entirely (shame on me, I know).  I am nothing if not a huge fan of Eli Roth’s work, be it as director, producer or actor. Say what you will, but his twisted, gory movies are good.

Having seen Cabin Fever, Hostel and it’s sequel, when I heard Roth was producing this I instantly thought of a gorefest/brutal horror movie. My, how wrong I was.

The Last Exorcism tells the story of minister Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a man who lost his faith in God. He routinely performs fake exorcisms on “possessed” people, operating on a simple belief: if said people think they need an exorcism, then he will act accordingly and eventually help them get better. After reading the story of a young boy who died during such an exorcism, he comes to realize the dangers the practice possesses. He agrees to have one last exorcism filmed as a documentary so he can expose it as nothing more than a fraud.  Working with producer Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr) and cameraman Daniel Moskowitz (Adam Grimes), he heads for Louisiana where he’s supposed to exorcise Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), a 16-year-old girl.

The pace of the movie is slow, the only dynamism coming from the hand-held camera way of shooting, which in turn lets you get accustomed with each character. The minister who no longer believes in God or demons, the sweet girl who may or may not be possessed, her father who’s unshaken in his belief that the devil took hold of his daughter.

With a dozen little twists and red herrings, you never really know what to believe. Much like Cottons’ character’s internal crisis of faith, the movie is constantly ambiguous. Different scenes and settings tip the scale either toward a real possession or back to a mental disease( see schizophrenia). Not even the ending ruins that ambiguity, not for me anyway.

You should definitely watch this one with an open mind. Don’t expect anything too bloody or too flashy or too in-your-face obvious. The film’s poster is very misleading for there aren’t any actual resembling scenes in the movie, with the girl dangling for the ceiling.

Focusing more on character development than on actual scare tactics, when the horror does make its way into the movie it’s subdued, more subtle than blatant, not drawing out any definitive conclusions for the viewer. It’s a nice change: from over the top exorcisms scenes in other movies, to what actually takes place during the barn exorcism.

The ending, I’m sure, pissed off a lot of people. In my opinion, it is a perfect choice, as it doesn’t completely answer everything, still leaves room for a non-supernatural explanation, ties off some loose ends ( like the role and level of participation, or lack thereof, of the creepy Caleb Sweetzer, Nell’s brother) and is reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby. All in one!

Performance wise, they’re great all around. Patrick Fabian did a terrific job in portraying a charismatic, fun, faithless, slightly arrogant, but also caring character and Ashley Bell was downright creepy and chilling; both due to good acting skills and on helluva freakish skill-hypermobility. She did all the contortions and bends seen in the movie herself.

Daniel Stamm did a good job directing this mokumentary, making the film be as real as it could be, drawing viewers in and engaging them in the film’s main theme: faith. That in turn only makes me want to see his other mokumentary drama even more. (A Necessary Death-2008)

More of a suspense drama than a horror, if you enjoyed The Blair Witch Project in styles of   filming and like a good mindf**k horror movie(pardon my french), I recommend you watch The Last Exorcism.

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