The Last Exorcism

Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum
Directed by: Daniel Stahmm
Rated: PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material
Movie Released: 2010

With the chilly winds of October blowing through the land, and little kids across the nation dressed up as ghouls and goblins roaming the streets for candy, it seemed like the perfect time for a good old scary movie. Late on Thursday evening/Friday morning my job forced me to watch a print of  The Last Exorcism. That’s right folks, some weeks I get paid to watch movies at 1:00 AM! As it turns out, when your choices of film are The Last Exorcism or My Soul To Take and you are not a horror buff it came down to a simple coin flip to decide. A heads up coin flip chose The Last Exorcism and so the projector was fired up and away I went on this journey into demon possessions.

Now as many of you know, my horror movie back ground really comes from living with From Midnight With Love and contributor, The Mike. With his feet firmly rooted in all things frightful, The Mike has always been and always will be my horror guru. Many of the horror films I have seen were diversions from studies in my college dorm days and while blood, guts and gruesomeness make me squirm with unease, I found myself sitting through some really strange stuff. My background on exorcism films really revolves around The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose and I’m sure only a few others that have slipped my mind. In fact, in thinking back to my exorcism movie experiences, I was reminded of the website Final Girl, and her exorcism movie flowchart.

I went in to The Last Exorcism knowing little about the film, and quickly found one thing I really enjoyed; the film flows like a documentary of an actual exorcism.  The film follows a preacher who has lost his faith in God and performs fake exorcisms.  He tells the camera that all exorcisms are fake; he is simply performing a service that makes people think they are being healed, which in turn heals them.  As the documentarian follows this preacher for a small southern town to perform an exorcism for deeply religious crazed father things go a little crazy.  From the get go our troubled preacher, Cotton Marcus, thinks this is going to be the standard dog and pony show he’s pulled 1,000 times before.  He meets Nell, the farmer’s daughter who is supposedly demon possessed and slaughtering animals at night.  With her father believing it is the work of Satan, Cotton goes to work doing what he does best, “casting out” demons.

It was pretty apparent to me (or so I thought) where this film was going after the first 15-20 minutes of the film.  While I was initially hoping that maybe this wouldn’t be true, I found myself sucked into the films style and really enjoying the slow burn ride to the end.  Even an exorcism film virgin can tell you where this film is headed.  Of course the “exorcism show” isn’t going to work in this instance, and the faithless preacher has to begin questioning if there truly such a thing as demonic possession.  That’s all fine and dandy though; like I said, it’s fun uncovering it with him.

The Last Exorcism runs a whole 88 minutes (That’s right folks it’s a long one!).  I can honestly say for 84 of thoseminutes the film had me intrigued.  The plot kept taking some twists and turns that made it intriguing and I was having a good time and experiencing a little bit of fright.  And then….the last 4 minutes happened.  As the conclusion of the film unfolds I sat in my theater seat staring blankly at the screen before busting out with a “What is going on here?!?!?” cry.  Suddenly everything that the film worked so hard trying to distance itself from came crashing down.  With out going into detail (however, I will put a small invisible spoiler blurb at the bottom for those who want to highlight and read it) the film seemed to turn into exactly what I didn’t want this film to be.  I left the movie thinking that it was victim of one of the following: 1.) The writers were idiots and didn’t know how to end this thing or 2.) This totally got messed up in the editing room by some horror moron with a re-write.

As I said, I enjoyed the style of the film and really enjoyed Patrick Fabian as the preacher.  Fabian ons this role, and is one of the most believable characters on film I have seen in quite some time.  Also Ashley Bell who takes on the role of possessed girl, Nell does a great job with the script she is given.  I found it interesting that a a little trivia fact is that Bell has hyper-mobility, meaning she did all the bends and contortions of her body on her own.  No special effects were used despite the fact that it looks like some were most likely used in the film.    Where this film went wrong for me was of course the ending, and secondly I always have a dislike for the way Christians are portrayed in these types of films.  They always make them out to look like nut jobs who couldn’t get any nuttier,  but then again maybe you have to be a special sort of nuts to be inhabited by demons.  It always makes me wonder though, why exactly do demons theoretically pick the most religious families they can find?  After all, if I were a demon I think I would want to spend my time on earth hanging out with Dexter Morgan.

When it was all said and done, The Last Exorcism was a little indie movie that could.  I had a lot of fun with it.  It gave me some thrills and chills and wasn’t your standard horror film (at least in some regards).  While this normally isn’t my cup of tea, I enjoyed it and would suggest it to others (the last 4 minutes not with standing).  Well done Hollywood.

BoxOfficeBoredom Bonus Features:

The Mike’s (our resident horror buffs original review of the film:  Click Here

And now for Jason’s spoiler filled rant (highlight below):

Aaargh!  What was that?!?!?  The film spent some much time making you think that everything was a hoax and there is an explanation for everything.  There seemed to be some deep rooted psychological message there and then it suddenly gets cast aside for Satan worshipers, demon babies, giant fireballs and a crazy brother with a pick axe?  It felt to me  like the film just didn’t know how to end; it was like the writers got done and then said, “Wait this is a horror film- we gotta end it with ill explained Satan worshipers and slasher antics! ”

When Cotton returns to the farm after finding out that Logan’s sexual orientation really doesn’t make sense for him to be shaggin’ in the back of his car with Nell, I was expecting something totally different than what I got.  Because the film had strange supernatural occurrences that had all been more or less explained by shame and a deeply troubled, psychological disorder, I was expecting the following:  I expected Cotton to return to the farm to find out that Nell had been raped by the town preacher and everything that followed was a psychological result of it.  That would have explained why the father pulled her out of the church because of a suspected problem (one that even he didn’t know the true depths of).   In fact, the whole time it didn’t make too much sense to me that such a religious family wouldn’t attend a church at all so I kept thinking there was more than what was being led on at the church.  Now of course, yes, there was- but I wasn’t expecting the Satan worshiping, demon baby, anti-christ fiasco that ensued.  I was looking for something a little more grounded.  Perhaps a little more opened ended, but logical explanation like the end of An American Haunting.

If any of you horror buffs know if the ending was changed and Hollywood-ized I would love to know about it.

Thanks for reading and a listening to my rants!

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