It’s hard to find a good horror movie these days. The majority of ideas have been done to death. It’s rare that an original and good idea comes along that manages to scare and entertain us at the same time. With the Daniel Stamm directed and Eli Roth produced The Last Exorcism, we’re still waiting for that good idea to come along.
The Last Exorcism follows Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a con-artist who performs fake exorcisms for a living to religiously devout believers. Being the next in a long line from a family of preachers, Cotton has crafted his art since he was a small boy. On this occasion, Cotton has decided to let a film crew follow him on his last official exorcism since his decision to quite due to morality reasons. Deciding which job he’ll take on for the film, he randomly opens a letter from a Louisiana man named Louis Sweetzer (Louis Hertham) pleading for help in exorcising his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell).
Upon arriving at the farm house in Louisiana and receiving a less than warm welcome from Nell’s brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones), Cotton and his crew begin prepping the fake props and stunts that will give credit to his false exorcism. After performing his services and giving the audience a few laughs, Cotton and his crew leave to stay at a local hotel. Later in the night Nell arrives at the preacher’s room incoherent and bloody. The crew returns Nell to her home and then things start to quickly unveil themselves.
After returning Nell home and consulting with a local preacher, Cotton struggles with the prospect that Nell is truly sick due to years of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Odd things start to happen and Louis’s innocence in the matter comes into question. What is happening to this poor girl who we eventually find out is with child? While Patrick Fabien is the main focus during the film, Ashley Bell gives us a solid acting performance. She manages to work with a script that could otherwise have taken a turn for the worse. Louis Hertham brings his role to life with the heart and desperation of a father that has nowhere else to turn.
The Last Exorcism does many things badly, but one that stuck out to me the most was the horrible attempt at mixing joking comedy with suspenseful horror. It’s not very easy to build suspense in a horror film while also inserting one liners, sarcastic remarks, and ironic situations. This film would have been better off sticking to the suspense factor and leaving the jokes at home. The script, written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, is believable at points, but overall comes out very staccato and forced.
Shot in the style of a documentary, shaky cam and all, you can’t help but compare this to recent hits Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. What these films did that The Last Exorcism couldn’t pull off was the element of surprise. What’s going to happen? When will the ax drop? When will the big payoff come? I never asked myself these questions during this film. It was all pretty predictable. No suspense means no big scares. The only time I somewhat enjoyed this film was when the one liners and sarcastic remarks were delivered by Cotton. The big reveal at the end of the film was somewhat different, but was delivered in such a non-shocking way that I barely cared.
The Last Exorcism rehashes the formula of The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose while bringing nothing major to the table. It even fails to perform on nearly the same level. If the marketing campaign for this movie has you curious, wait until it hits DVD and Blu-Ray to waste your time and money.
4 out of 10
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