"The Last Exorcism" Movie Review

9/15/2010 Posted by Admin

"The Last Exorcism"

Movie Review

Directed by Daniel Stamm, written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, 90 minutes, rated PG-13.

By Christopher Smith

Not surprisingly, Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" has nothing on "The Exorcist," but for awhile, it does have something going for it. It builds suspense nicely, it takes its time to reveal its horror and when it does offer it up, Stamm succeeds in unnerving you with what unfolds onscreen.

And then comes the ending.

The movie that inspired it won't be revealed here--it's such a rip-off of that film, it would ruin it for audiences if it was revealed--but when it hits, it's tough not to feel cheated by it. The good news? The people at my screening seemed to be digging the movie until that moment.

Based on Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland's script, "The Last Exorcism" is shot like a documentary, but it isn't a documentary--just as last year's "Paranormal Activity" wasn't a documentary. It's about a fraudulent Evangelical preacher named Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who lives in Louisiana and has charmed the locals into believing that he can perform exorcisms.

The irony is that Marcus doesn't believe in God--he's lost his faith. For him, performing exorcisms is something close to performance art. If he can make his subjects believe that he has pulled the devil out of them, Cotton believes he's done his job and has earned his pay.

And then along comes Nell (Ashley Bell), a sweet young woman who really is possessed. Her father (Louis Hertham) and bitter brother, Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones), know it, but initially Cotton thinks he's just doing another routine job. Since he has decided that this will be his last exorcism, he allows a camera crew to come along with him and film the event. It's their footage we see in the movie. Through them, what Cotton wants to show to the world is that exorcisms are just a load of hooey.
Too bad doesn't have a clue what awaits for him in Nell.

After forcing her to undergo a staged exorcism that includes plenty of praying, Bibles pressed to the meat of Nell's forehead and even a crucifix that heaves puffs of smoke when Cotton presses a hidden button, he takes his money, checks on Nell, who now seems to be cured, and then leaves the scene. Trouble is, when he and the film crew drive away, they start to question certain events that didn't feel right to them while they were at the house. An interview with a boy at a restaurant causes them to rush back. Could it be that Nell's father is raping her?

At this point, the movie boils with energy. When they return to the house, the walls are covered in a hive of Satanic hoodoo. And then there's Nell herself, who does a little crab walk, speaks in tongues, slaughters animals at will and bends her body in unnatural angles. Since you like her and do feel something for her, the movie's success at once relies on putting her through hell--and then pulling her out of it.

Cotton and company rise to the occasion, a real exorcism commences, and then the movie takes an abrupt turn for the worse.

But enough said about that and the film--anything more would give too much away. Still, here’s the thing: Movies are like a feast--and people always remember the dessert. With this movie, the unfortunate news is that they'll remember the ending, which is a shame because what comes before it is well acted, suspenseful and well done.

Grade: B-

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