Title: The Last Exorcism (2010)
Director: Daniel Stamm
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell
Whenever a new film about exorcism pops up, I always expect the worst. The reason being that very few of these films dare to go where William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) went. A lot of these films don’t have enough gravitas to show the things they gotta show, some of them completely pussy out on the whole exorcism angle. An example of this was The Unborn (2009), a reworking of the whole exorcism thing that was a horrible mess of a film. What a disappointment! And don’t get me started on Lost Souls (2000), That Wynona Ryder vehicle fell flat on its ass! The last good film about exorcism I saw was The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). I remember that one had people screaming and shouting inside the theater. Point is, when done wrong, this kind of film can seem cheesy or simply stupid, when done right, it can scare the pants off of you. So on which camp did The Last Exorcism fall in? Was it scary?
The Last Exorcism tells the story of Reverend Cotton Marcus, a priest who decided to turn his back on faith. He suddenly comes to the realization that religion is a lie, and that spirits and demons exist only in peoples minds. To him, people who say they are possessed only think they are possessed, he thinks its all in their heads. It’s all psychological slavery. He could be on to something if you ask me. But, even though he has lost his faith, he continues performing exorcisms because he believes he is giving peace of mind to the people who think they are possessed. He is freeing them of their fear. At the same time, Cotton has agreed to film a documentary about his experiences as an exorcist. He wants to expose exorcism for the sham that it is. So he allows a crew of documentary filmmakers to follow him around as he practices an exorcism. Problem is that reverend Cotton and the film crew has stumbled upon something that they are not fully prepared for.
I loved the angle this film takes. Essentially, it stars a priest who says religion is a complete scam which is a pretty ballsy move for a Hollywood movie. Usually, Hollywood films shy away from this sort of theme because it tends to polarize audiences. Those who believe will want to boycott the movie because it’s speaking against their believes, and Hollywood doesn’t like people boycotting their films, cause that can mean they will loose money. Take for example The Golden Compass (2007), an anti-religious film that could have been more successful had church goers not aimed their guns at it. Which is why this films premise surprised me, it stars a non-believer! Us non believers (yup, you can count me in) don’t get a whole lot of movies made for us, cause not believing in religion is not a popular thing. Its not something the grand majority of people agree with. Most people who don’t believe in baby Jesus are sometimes even afraid to make such a statement. Me? I wear my non believer flag proudly, we all have to learn to co-exist in this universe is all I say. And we all make sense of the universe in our own personal way. So let’s all be happy, no matter how we think the universe started, and no matter what we think might happen after we die.
The film does a good job of establishing the ins and outs of Christianity. It explains all about Satan being cast out of heaven, and how a whole bunch of Gods angels decided to follow Satan. These treacherous angels that were cast out of heaven along with Satan are what we know as demons. And if you believe in God and his angels, then by default you have to believe in demons. In other words, it explains extremely well exactly what a demon is, which I loved. And the film does a great job of exploiting peoples fears of demons. Because let’s face it, a lot of people out there think demons and angels are real, and that they can posses you and make you do all sorts of nasty things. Which is exactly why films like these make tons of cash at the box office. Hell, this movie alone made its budget many times back already!
What I enjoyed about this movie is that it has its main character trying to prove that people who are possessed really aren’t, and that it’s all in their heads. Which is exactly the way I feel about these matters. It also does a good job of explaining what preaching is all about, and how it works, which is also something that I loved. It shows very well how sometimes people follow a religious leader blindly. Whatever the preacher says is instantaneously taken as true. So if a preacher says demons and Satan are after you, you are most likely to take his word for it. I’ve never seen anything supernatural and doubt I ever will. I’m dying to see flying books or red eyes glowing in the dark. I’d die of happiness if I ever heard a voice talking to me from “the other side”. But alas, nothing has ever happened to me that would prove the existence of the supernatural. Asking me to believe in these things is like asking me to believe in Unicorns or The Lochness Monster. Still, the idea of the supernatural sure lends itself for some entertaining movies! The Last Exorcism being one of them.
The whole film is shot as if it was a documentary, and we follow Cotton into the Sweetzer family’s home. Nell Sweetzer, the young girl in the family is apparently possessed by ‘Satan himself’ and so we get to see Cotton performing an exorcism on her. But is it real or is it ‘just in her mind’ as Cotton believes? That is the fun part of this horror flick, figuring out if it’s all real or not. Will the movie side with believers or non-believers? Are demons real in this film or not? Not gonna tell you guys, but I have to say the trip towards the answer is a spooky and atmospheric one. I like how long they can stretch it without revealing the answer to this question to the audience. They maintain a great deal of dread, suspense and horror all the way ‘till the end. So Kudos to the movie for that! Spookiest part of the movie is Nell, the girl whom Cotton is performing the exorcism on. She contorts and bends in such a way that seems inhumanly possible! Cool tidbit of info: the actress playing Nell is double jointed, so this explains why they were able to film these scenes without the aid of visual effects.
On the negative side of things, The Last Exorcism did disappoint me with its last ten minutes. Not because of the films ultimate revelation, but more because of the way it was done. I wasn’t at all satisfied with the way the film ends; it just felt kind of like a cheap way out in a way. Appropriate for this kind of film, but ultimately not well executed. And another thing that kind of pissed me off was that poster with the girl crawling up the wall is a total scam since that scene does not even appear on the film itself. But aside from these negative points, this one was on the level in my book. Well, that’s enough for you guys, I’m not going to reveal anymore so you can enjoy it when you watch it. It’s a spooky good time, intelligent, well acted and heavy on the atmosphere at times, it takes place in New Orleans in the middle of these swampy woods so that adds to the whole spookiness of it. Truly isolated areas make for great horror films. So, this was a good exorcism flick, if only it had put a little more effort in those last 10 minutes we would have an amazing flick on our hands, as it is, this one is just good. Which isn’t a bad thing!
Rating: 4 out of 5