The Last Exorcism
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones
Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Release Date: August 27, 2010
PLOT: A skeptical preacher (Fabian) travels down South to expose a fraudulent possession, only to find out that there may be some truth to the claims.
WHO’S IT FOR? Fans of Paranormal Activity and the pseudo-documentary horror might want to keep an eye out for this one. Like I always say, it’s a bit of a gamble with these exorcism flicks, but if you stuck around for The Unborn and aren’t totally turned off the genre, you’ll probably enjoy this.
EXPECTATIONS: I’m not a huge “based on true events” horror kind of a guy, but Lionsgate has a pretty good track record with horror in my book. I was expecting The Exorcism of Emily Rose with hopefully fewer courtroom scenes.
Patrick Fabian as Cotton: Cotton is given ample backstory in the beginning of the movie, which slows it down, but Fabian is just so damn charming. One of the things that’s nice about the character is he differs from your standard “non-believer.” He’s a fleshed out, oddly compelling protagonist which, in a horror movie, is a rarity. Part humor and part horror equals a slick talking preacher who’s fun and frightening to watch as the movie plays out.
Ashley Bell as Nell: Bell sells the character. At times, she’s a down home Southern innocent. Other times, she’s stark raving mad and foaming at the mouth, but always believable. Perhaps more impressive than her acting are her abilities to contort. Not since The Exorcism of Emily Rose have I seen the body move that way. It was as unsettling as it was impressive. Either way, she was surprisingly capable in the role and always engaging to watch.
Iris Bahr as Iris: Cotton’s second in command never really does much. She’s cute in a tomboy-ish way, but that is legitimately just about the only thing I can say about her. She’s got the second most screen time so she earned the write-up and she never took me out of the picture, so there’s that. But when it comes right down to it, she’s not too memorable once the credits roll.
Louis Herthum as Louis: The overprotective father with questionable motives is quickly becoming a staple of these sorts of movies. He never inspires nor detracts, but provides decent filler as the troubled father of Nell. He’s a believable character although at times I found myself wondering why he did the things that he did. Still, the mystique adds to an otherwise fairly one-dimensional character to make him a little more interesting.
TALKING: The Last Exorcism is charged with an interesting task. It’s filmed documentary style so the dialogue has to seem natural and organic to these characters, but how natural can you make something sound when you’re talking about the occult? I was surprised by how authentic the voices of these characters were, which really helped in allowing me to invest in their journey. The director said that he wanted to rid the movie of any traces of artificiality and he did a fantastic job with that when it came down to the dialogue these characters were given.
SIGHTS: I was pleasantly surprised by what The Last Exorcism had to offer on a visual level. It takes place in the South, so it’s got all of the right creepy Southern gothic atmosphere to sell it. The rundown appearance of the house and the barnyard creates an uneasiness as a viewer. For hardcore horror fans, you may be wondering about the gore. There isn’t a whole lot of blood to be seen throughout the movie, but the images of violence that are used are certainly memorable. As a big horror fan, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve felt actual discomfort at the sight of violence but The Last Exorcism found a way. Most importantly, the documentary style, while normally a tired trick of the trade, serves a real purpose in cementing the reality of the movie, but sometimes the shaky cam proved to be too much for me.
SOUNDS: There isn’t too much music to speak of, which is a blessing and a curse. I’m tired of horror movies relying on their score to lead the scares, but the lack of musical cues in The Last Exorcism is surprisingly noticeable. Besides, the lack of music, the sound cues are nothing too special. They work for the environment, but don’t really strengthen the movie except for an occasional scare which is almost always accompanied with a screech or other horrific sound effects.
BEST SCENE:When Nell takes the camera and wanders out to the barn and bashes the cat to death with it, I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach. But with horror that’s a good thing, right?
ENDING: It… ended. It was somewhat abrupt, but it left me thinking so it worked on that one level at least. Still, I’m not sure whether it was as effective as it could have been.
QUESTIONS: A couple here and there, but nothing a good discussion with a fellow film-goer couldn’t sort out. Like, what do you think that cult at the end was all about? Most of my questions deal with personal views rather than logistics of the movie.
REWATCHABILITY: I’d wait for DVD but sure, why not? At 87 minutes, it’s hard to consider it a waste of time.
The Last Exorcism is a surprising entry into the exorcism genre of horror movies. It’s nothing too original, but considering some of its predecessors (I’m thinking of movies along the lines of The Unborn rather than the original The Exorcist) there have been worse crimes committed against the genre.
I think that was one of the things that helped me going into this movie. My expectations were admittedly pretty low, but I was surprised by the heart of the story, the realism of its presentation, and the quality of acting. Most horror movies these days are lacking on all three of these fronts, but The Last Exorcism truly does deliver.
My only complaint deals with the third act, which jerks the audience around so much I eventually thought I was going to get whiplash. However, that’s part of the fun of the ride. I know that the end will be pretty divisive for most folks, but the more and more I thought about it, I began to appreciate the abruptness of it.
Sure, it won’t be winning any awards anytime soon, but considering some of the recent entries into the horror genre, you could do a lot worse than The Last Exorcism which has fun with its own self awareness, the conventions of the genre and some of the horror legends that have come before it.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10