The Last Exorcism
Director: Daniel Stamm
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr
Review by Brian M. Sammons
It’s got to be really hard to do any movie with even the slightest links to demonic possession, exorcisms, the devil, or anything so related with the big, black, massive shadow of The Exorcist looming over everything. Remember back to the yesteryear of 1999 and there was a whole slew of “Satan’s waiting” films to capitalize on new millennia madness. Yeah they pretty much all sucked and that went double for the one with Arnie Schwarzenegger in it. Worst, they were just faded carbon copies of the Friedkin/ Blatty masterpiece.
So now whenever I go to see a film about Satan doing naughty things inside innocent people I’m prepared for the worst. Well color me pleasantly surprised then with The Last Exorcism. I walked into it hoping that it would be mildly entertaining at best and instead found myself really enjoying it. That so rarely happens to me that I love it to death when it does. So grab your bible, crucifix, and holy water and let’s jump into this Last Exorcism together.
This is one of those “found footage” films, or as I like to call them, “first person shaky-cam flicks.” You know, like Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and the like. It’s shot as a documentary on a sort of exorcist for hire named Cotton Marcus who has been casting the devil out of people since he was a little boy. The problem is, he doesn’t believe in any of it. He’s a charlatan, but perhaps a well-meaning one as he honestly seems to think that what he’s doing for the “possessed” helps them in some way.
Cotton shows the camera crew that follows him around some of his exorcism tricks then decides to take one Last Exorcism to show them how he works in action. This consummate entertainer (he performs card tricks at his church and actually at one point does a sermon on how to bake banana bread as a bet to show that when he gets rolling, no one’s really listening) goes down Louisiana way to help a farmer get a devil out of his teenage, homeschooled daughter. And …
Well that’s where I’m going to leave you. Yeah it’s a dirty trick, but I’m not going to ruin any of the surprises this film has to offer. I will say that naturally things don’t go by the scammer’s playbook and Cotton must come to terms with his own lack of faith.
I will say that the movie is well made and exceptionally acted. Patrick Fabian as the “reverend” Cotton is great. You know he’s a huckster, but you can tell he’s also a pretty good guy. That’s a rare trick to pull off. However, he is nearly outshined by Ashley Bell, who plays the young, possibly possessed, possibly just crazy girl in need of some serious help. To say that she gives this movie 150% would not do her credit. When the crazy stuff really starts to happen just remember she’s doing all that herself. Very little “special effects” were used to pull off her very frightening performance. But honestly everyone in this film does an amazing job and with a story, setting, and cast this intimate it will be made or broken by the people on screen. Luckily in this case the actors pull it off.
As cool as this movie is, and it is that, the Blu-ray from Lionsgate is as equally impressive. First it is a combo package offering both the BD and the DDV of the movie. Now let’s get to the extras. There are three, count ’em, three audio commentary tracks. Quite impressive when you consider that many movies still can’t be bothered to do one. There’s the usual one by the director and stars, another by the producers which include the always divisive Eli Roth (who, for the record, I always end up liking when I hear him in these things), and the third is really cool and different. It has no one in it that was involved with the movie but instead has commentary by a clinical psychologist, a minister, and a victim of hauntings. Yeah if you don’t believe in such things this track can be a bit silly, but then why are you watching this movie?
To further inform you about this movie, and arm you should you become the target of demonic possession, there’s a protection prayer you can recite, a documentary about real life exorcisms, and on the lighter side there’s the usual making of the movie featurette, a whole bunch of audition tapes from the actors, a number of trailers, footage from the Cannes Film Festival and so many more goodies that it gets hard to keep track of them all.
As I said at the start, The Last Exorcism was a very pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it throughout but especially liked the ending. I can honestly say that it is the best exorcism movie since The Exorcist (ok, maybe Exorcist 3: Legion, that one was pretty good too) so if you’re looking for your little girl possessed by the devil fix, this one will hook you up nicely. Consider it highly recommended.