Sunday, November 14, 2010

THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) Movie Review


Review by Gunter Jameson

Whatever THE LAST EXORCISM is, it is not predictable. Director Daniel Stamm and writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland came up with a great twist on a mostly dead horror sub-genre, exorcism movies, and made the tired material somewhat new again.

In THE LAST EXORCISM, which is due on DVD January 4th, a former child preacher turned agnostic, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), receives a letter requesting his help with the exorcism of a teenage girl named Nell (Ashley Bell). Since Marcus no longer believes in the reality of demonic possession, he sets out to show that exorcisms are nothing but hoaxes by performing a fake exorcism as a film crew follows him, documenting his tricks and slight of hand. However, once he’s pulled off his fake exorcism, Nell begins to act in erratic and unexplainable ways, leading Marcus and the film crew to believe that she is in fact possessed by a demon.

The film is shot in the shaky-cam, documentary style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and CLOVERFIELD, which adds to the overall sense of claustrophobia and terror. And as the Reverend and the film crew dig deeper into each unexplained event, more and more questions arise. Each time the reverend feels that his job is done and that the possession was simply some sort of mental illness, his theories are obliterated, leaving more questions than answers.

Although the exorcism genre has had doubting evangelists before, Marcus’s doubt is not melodramatic or overplayed, thanks to the superb acting by Patrick Fabian. And Ashley Bell is able to bring real creepiness to her character by deftly maneuvering between a sweet and innocent teenage girl and the demonically possessed in a way that draws the audience in and leaves them questioning, as well as Marcus, the true impetus behind her increasingly horrifying acts.

However, although both Fabian and Bell do a fine job and the initial setup is original, the balance of the film falls flat, especially the hugely disappointing ending which is par for the course for this type of fake documentary-style film. Although, at some points, the documentary style adds to the feeling of anxiety in the audience, at other times it is simply confusing, leaving the audience to sort out exactly what is happening rather than cringing in terror. The end result is a movie that is innovative in its approach to the genre and has great potential to transcend the usual teen horror fare at the box office, but ultimately doesn’t deliver on its promise due to its necessarily limited documentary-style point of view. All-in-all it’s not a horrible film, but it is disappointing, knowing that it could have been so much better.


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