The Last Exorcism (2010)

Cotton is excellent at what he does, and what he does is perform. Exorcisms, mostly. Ironically, Cotton is also an atheist, but there is a lot of money to be made in 'faith' healing. He finally quits the practice after a news story surfaces about a young boy who was suffocated to death during a failed attempt at ridding him of his demons. Now, Cotton has hired a film crew to follow him and document one final case of exorcism, where he hopes to disprove its very existence by exposing himself as a fraud in order to prevent others from suffering a similar fate. What he doesn't know is that the devil has other plans for him...

THE LAST EXORCISM is a clever and ambitious attempt on the subject of demonic possession that is sure to leave audiences divided. It takes the same Mockumentary approach as Scott Glosserman's brilliantly scripted BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, presenting itself as fact but with more than a hint of sardonic humor. Unlike so many other low-budget features that use the 'found-footage' approach as a cover-up for poor filmmaking, the stylistic choice here is, in every way, essential to the plot. Patrick Fabian comes off as being a bit eccentric at first, but as the film progresses, Cotton drops his preacher 'persona' and allows Fabian to become increasingly believable. The young victim, Nell, is played by Ashley Bell, who is deathly terrifying in the role. Her subtle smiles and cold, dark stares are equally chilling, but what may be most disturbing about her possession is that each of her contorted movements and frenzied attacks are strictly grounded within Bell's physical range. There is no projectile vomit, levitation, or head spinning here, just wild-eyed insanity and bestial rage.

Plenty of ambiguity can be found all throughout the film. Cotton is at least upfront about his deception, but from the second he steps onto the Sweetzer farm, it seems like he is the one being lured into an elaborate hoax. Even the controversial ending must be taken with extreme prejudice, since it is opens itself up to countless interpretations. On top of the obvious battle between good and evil, THE LAST EXORCISM touches on several other powerful themes, including the restoration of faith and the fearsome effects of religious fanaticism. Two points of contention do act against the film, hoever. The filmmakers cheat by enhancing the audio and injecting frightening sound effects over several of the scenes, which directly counts against the authenticity of the footage. Also, Nell's violent and bloody outbursts are never again examined after Cotton and his team make their shocking discovery before the closing scenes.

Like THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE (and quite unlike the recent EXORCIST prequels), THE LAST EXORCISM presents something that is truly unique and original to the genre, making it a welcome addition to the long line of exorcism films from the past several decades.

Rating: 9/10.

If you liked THE LAST EXORCISM, check out:
BEHIND THE MASK, BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE.

13 comments:

  1. great solid review, i am interested in seeing this and you put it back into the ball park...

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  2. I'm with you on this one. A superb movie! I fully expected it to get reemploy all the gimmicks of the possession genre, but it's a blast. Patrick Fabian nails his role!

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  3. I know my Amazon reviewer rating is going to take a severe hit because people that hated the film only rate the reviews on whether or not they agree, and not based on the quality of the review. Lame. iZ, be sure to check it out, and grab BEHIND THE MASK while you are at it!!!

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  4. Yay, we agree for once!!!!!!!! I'm really glad you liked it. I've been curious to hear your thoughts on this. I've heard people say that this is "unoriginal" and I can't believe they actually watched the same movie.

    The stellar performances really make this film great. Additionally, though the ending has divided a lot of people, the conclusion is so important to the film and gives it some heart in my opinion. That may sounds strange at first, but as you mentioned, it completes the theme of Cotton rediscovering his faith and purpose.

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  5. Wow. I have this sitting in my "to be watched" stack. Definately moving it to the front of the que! Thanks for the great review.

    Cheers!

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  6. really enjoyed this film - and really enjoyed your review of it. One of my faves from last year.

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  7. So you're saying it was good? Dang it. I was so looking forward to not seeing it. Well that's out the window now.

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  8. I had put it on the do not watch list until now as it looked very lame from the previews; however, your review has me curious as it looks like an interesting rental. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  9. Very nice and fair review Carl. This was easily one of my top favorites form 2010...maybe even 2009 as well. I know a lot of people hated the ending, but I rather enjoyed it.

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  10. Great review. I especially liked your point about how they were enhancing the video. However, I guess I am in the minority here. I didn't think the movie was bad, but not as great as everyone here thinks. I give it credit for being original, good acting, and I really loved Cotton as a character. One problem with the movie for me is that the previews made it seem like it was going to be scary, and I didn't think it was scary at all. That was a disappointment I couldn't get over. And the ending, it just didn't do it for me.

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  11. I hated the ending at first much like I did in HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, but after much thought I have come to appreciate it. I thought that Nell was creepy as hell, but the scares were certainly tamed down to a safe PG-13

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  12. I don't think they were cheating by enhancing the sound effects. By the end, it's obvious Nell was possessed all along. The demon was playing on Cotton's lack of faith. He was given more than one opportunity to put the pieces together and by the time the truth was revealed, it was too late for Cotton and his two friends.

    The only real question mark I can think of (Aaron of Death Rattle mentioned this, as well) is who would have discovered the found footage considering the devil cult would likely have destroyed it. But that's a minor quibble. Still, a real nice BLAIR WITCH style surprise by way of ROSEMARY'S BABY.

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  13. Playing into my theory that the cult was a fake used to instill the fear of God in people, I could see the cult intentionally releasing the video back into the public in order to prove the existence of Satan and exorcisms, but that would mean that there was never a possession and the whole thing was a fraud.

    I was OK with the enhanced sound effects for the devil noises etc, what I didnt like was when the suspense mounted and you would get the stereotypical "BUDUMP" musical note to excentuate the mood, something that would have to be edited in by an exterior source and nothing that would have existed in that imagined world. BLAIR WITCH lacked those musical cues entirely, but many of the recent "found footage" films have done this sort of musical commentary that is entirely out of place for this style.

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