class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-21793″ style=”margin: 10px;” title=”The Last Exorcism” src=”https://www.heyuguys.com/images/2010/05/The-Last-Exorcism-220×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />At the time of writing this review it’s been almost 24 hours since I watched The Last Exorcism. I’ve spent that time thinking about the film and trying to figure out what exactly my thoughts are on it, and how I really feel about it. For a film to have that affect, you could say that in itself is a success.
The Last Exorcism follows Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he documents his experience as he conducts one final exorcism. You see, Rev. Marcus has been a preacher his whole life. He performed his first exorcism at the ripe old age of 10 and had been doing them thoughout his life ever since. He has his reservations about his chosen profession and questions his faith and religious practices. You get the sense that the good Reverend is disenchanted with his profession. He proves his point that his flock will praise anything he says by throwing in a banana bread recipe into his sermon.
As Rev. Marcus discusses his work with exorcisms he cites a newspaper article that reports on an exorcism gone wrong that resulted in the death of a child. Wanting to expose exorcisms to be the fraud that he believes they are, Rev. Marcus agrees to do one final exorcism and enlists the services of a documentary film crew to capture the entire process. Responding to a letter written by a concerned father, the team heads out to a farm in the backwoods of a small Louisiana town. There they meet the father, Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), his 16 year old daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) and his son Caleb (Caleb Landry Jone). Louis tells Rev. Marcus that he believes his daughter to be possessed by demons and requests an exorcism be done. His belief is fueled by the deaths of his livestock and the animal blood that covers Nell’s clothing. Nell, of course, remembers nothing of these events.
After listening to the family’s story, Rev. Marcus decides to do the exorcism and as he prepares, the film crew records the entire process. This part of the film shows us that Rev. Marcus truly doesn’t believe in what he’s about to do. He’s set out to prove that exorcisms are nothing but smoke and mirrors. The exorcism goes according to his plan, but he’s not prepared for the events that happen after he and his crew leave the farm.
I can’t say much else without spoiling the film, so I’ll stop there. If this film proves anything it’s that it is possible to tell a creepy horror story effectively even with a PG-13 (15 rating in the UK) rating. A film doesn’t need to be full of blood and gore in order to be scary. While there is some disturbing imagery in this film, it doesn’t cross the line into gratuitous gore, which is nice. Subtlety is key in horror movies. It’s the suspense that is scary. In that respect this film delivers for the most part. What really brings it home are the performances by Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell.
Ashley Bell plays Nell and her performance is so organic you wonder where the actor ends and the character begins. Nell has a naive innocence about her and the fear of what’s happening to her is tangible. You feel sympathy for her but you’re scared of her at the same time because you don’t exactly know what’s going on with her.
Patrick Fabian bring a smarmy charm to Reverend Marcus. He’s intriguing and charming, but when you see the discontent and how he proves his point, he shows some unpleasant qualities and you can really see how he thinks his entire profession is just a farce. As the film progresses however, you can see him transform back into a man of faith that is driven by the need to help this young girl. I found myself liking him and disliking him at the same time. Fabian is a craftsman in his acting and it’s evident here.
The film is shot entirely from the hand held camera that is following Rev. Marcus. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with this. Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project both gave me headaches but I didn’t have any trouble with Cloverfield. I didn’t have an issue with this film either which I was thankful for. The shaky camera work was held to a minimum but there were a few bits that were a tad jarring. I have to give real credit here to the director Daniel Stamm. The film making was very fluid and it didn’t feel like a movie, it felt more like you were there with the crew experiencing the events as they were unfolding.
Clocking in at 87 minutes the film moves pretty quickly once the crew gets out to the Sweetzer farm. It’s not all doom and gloom as there are bits of humor thrown in through out. From the banana bread recipe sermon, to the seldom heard and never seen camera man, you will get a few chuckles. Even with those chuckles, you still get the creepy factor.
I’ve been trying to decide on if I liked this film or not. The result I’ve come to is that I’m more indifferent to it than anything else. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. But I have thought an awful lot about it and like I said, that in itself is a success. I haven’t been able to discuss it with anyone else who has seen it so if you have, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to get someone else’s take on it.