Plot: A documentary crew follows a sham Exorcist named Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) to a remote farm, where he’s been hired to exorcise a demon supposedly possessing the soul of the teenage daughter (Ashley Bell) of a devout evangelical Christian (Louis Herthum). Cotton intends to expose modern day exorcism as a scam, but once he arrives at the farm, he begins to doubt whether or not he’s actually witnessing a genuine case of demonic possession.
Review: If the distributors behind THE LAST EXORCISM were planning to build buzz by screening film at the Fantasia Film Festival, I think their plan backfired- big time. It’s obvious that they’re trying to turn this into a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY phenomenon, as each member of the Fantasia audience was forced to sign a release allowing infra-red cameras to film their reactions throughout so the footage could be used in the film’s trailer.
Suffice to say, I don’t think they’ll be using any of the footage they caught at Fantasia due to the simple fact that THE LAST EXORCISM isn’t scary, and there weren’t many jumps or screams in the 700 seat Hall auditorium. In fact, towards the end of the film, several audience members seemed to turn against the film, and were letting out cat-calls during the “shocking “conclusion.
Truth be told, THE LAST EXORCISM isn’t THAT bad. For the first hour of the film, I was really enjoying it. The faux-documentary gambit, which admittedly has been done to death recently, was actually used quite well here. I loved the main character, a likable family-man reverend named Cotton Marcus, who’s been preaching since he was five years old, but now- after a crisis of conscience, is no longer sure he’s doing God’s work by taking part in Exorcisms, which he’s convinced are all phony.
Leading man Patrick Fabian is terrific as Cotton, projecting a likable charm which makes him completely believable as an Elmer Gantry-style, silver tongued preacher. Once Marcus gets to the farm, and meets up with the supposed victim, the naïve, likable Nell (Ashley Bell), the momentum continues to build, with the question of whether or not the girl’s actually being possessed left ambiguous.
However, THE LAST EXORCISM completely falls apart in the final act, which is a ridiculous take-off on many other better- films about demonic possession, such as THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY, and even the recent EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. The final twist is indeed jaw-dropping, but not in the horrifying way the filmmakers obviously intended. It’s unintentionally funny, and far from scary, and the Fantasia crowd- which would normally eat this type of thing up, reacted badly. This does not bode well for its eventual reception by horror fans once it comes out in August. It’s hard to be frightened by something when you’re too busy laughing at it.