Rating: 3 out of 5
Despite what the posters tell you, The Last Exorcism isn’t an Eli Roth film so don’t be expecting a gore-fest of Hostel proportions. Instead this Daniel Stamm film is yet another faux-documentary styled horror show much in the vein of The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Haunted Changi and well, numerous others.
I have to admit that the found-footage format is exceedingly effective in the horror genre (and comedy) especially - but the sudden abundance of its lo-fi ilk has induced a certain amount of horror mockumentary fatigue. It’s come to a point where there isn’t anything in a film like this that we haven’t seen before (or often) and in a genre where surprise is paramount, that’s one hell of a drawback.
The main subject of this faux-documentary is Southern minister Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a charismatic preacher with Obama-esque oratory skills. His panache at capturing his audience’s attention makes him a fabulous pastor but after decades of preaching on autopilot, Reverend Marcus has grown into quite the religious cynic and supernatural sceptic.
Despite not believing in demons or possessions, Marcus has been performing fraudulent exorcisms for years. The preacher rationalizes that these exorcisms are a type of psychological catharsis for true believers. If a mentally sick person believes that he or she is possessed by devils then it stands to reason that a fake exorcism would have a placebo effect that could provide therapeutic relief.
In an effort to clear his conscience, Marcus has agreed invite a documentary film crew along on one last exorcism. The idea being that this behind-the-scenes peek at the tricks of his trade will help prevent any more of the faithful from being exploited.
Responding to a plea for help from backwoods farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), Marcus heads to Louisiana with camera in tow in order to perform an exorcism on Sweetzer’s homeschooled 16–year-old daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell).
It becomes ominously clear soon enough that something disturbingly bizarre is going on – the question is whether this is just the manifestation of a traumatised girl’s mental disorder or if this really is, finally, a case of legitimate demonic possession.
The first half of the movie, focusing on Marcus’ life and history of deluding his flock is actually very entertaining and wryly comical. As mentioned, this format works exceedingly well for comedy too (see This Is Spinal Tap please) and the absurdity of some of the smarmy preacher man’s parlour tricks are hilarious to behold.
It’s when the film turns into full-blooded frightener that The Last Exorcism begins to fall apart. The creepy moments and jump scares can be telegraphed from miles away and it’s this overwhelming sense of predictability that detaches you – despite the fabulously convincing performances of Bell and Fabian.
This along with an inserted soundtrack and instances of post-editing further distances you from the naturalistic grounding that a faux-documentary is supposed to evoke.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.