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Review: The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism
08.24.2010
5 10

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 the 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 infrared 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. THE LAST EXORCISM isn’t scary and there weren’t many jumps or screams in the 700 seat auditorium. In fact, towards the end of the film, several audience members turned 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. It’s hard to be frightened by something when you’re too busy laughing at it. Perhaps the problem here is that the ending almost feels like an afterthought. For most of the film, we're led to believe one thing, but then the rug is totally pulled out from under us during the last twenty minutes. Sometimes this works beautifully, but the twist here is downright moronic, and cheap.

Frankly, I feel like the whole "found footage" device has been done to death in the last few years, and needs to be done away with. Remember when Hollywood used to make real horror films? Something like THE LAST EXORCIST, or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY might work on the audience once, but I have a big hunch neither would hold up well to repeat viewings. Heck, getting through THE LAST EXORCISM once was enough of a challenge. It's not exactly amateur hour, but it feels too easy, like the filmmakers aren't even trying. The gimmick just kind of sells itself, but really- it's been done over, and over, and over.

Hopefully people will stop falling for these cheap types of horror flicks so that we can get something truly horrifying back into the multiplex. Until then, skip this and rent the original EXORCIST (or the underrated EXORCIST 3 for that matter) instead. Even after dozens of repat viewing, you'll still find Friedkin's original film much scarier than anything you'll get here.

RATING: 5/10

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Source: JoBlo.com

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