The Last Exorcism (2010)

With The Last Exorcism 2 (yes, Nomenclature Bullshit - good job) I decided it might to take a quick look back at the original film. Frankly, other than being billed as "from Eli Roth" nothing about this film really set my heart aflutter. I remember thinking"Oh great, another possession film." It seems like every few months these days there's another film about a young girl being possessed by some devil or demon. Whether it's An American Haunting, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or The Haunting in Connecticut, these film usually have a lot more bark than bite. Last thing I wanted to do was subject myself to that again. So is The Last Exorcism another in a long line or disappointments or the exception to the rule? Let's take a look.

Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian - Yup, Professor Lasky from 'Saved By the Bell - The College Years') is your picture perfect fire and brimstone southern baptist preacher. The type that can get a congregation so fired up he can yell his mothers banana bread recipe during one of his sermons and no one would notice. He's also full of shit. He knows he's full of shit, and he's about to let us all in on the secret.

Followed by a documentary film crew Cotton seeks to let everyone behind the curtain by taking them on his journey to perform his last exorcism. Choosing at random he selects a letter from Louis Sweetzer from backasswards Louisiana. After a run in on the way to the farm with Louis' son Caleb, they reach the remote farm, Lois and his "possessed" daughter Nell (Ashley Bell). Louis walks Marcus through the reasons he thinks his daughter is possessed, mostly it has to do with livestock. Sweetzer isn't all that he claims to be. That could be for better or worse - depending on your point of view.

The Last Exorcism has some legitimately scary moments. Ashley Bell is tremendous as the possibly possessed Nell and Fabian as Cotton really carries the first half of the film. Unfortunately, some cool scares and good performances can't save what up until that point was a good film, from a terrible final act. I won't spoil it, but there are twists in films that make perfect sense. There are twists that are odd but can still work (think The Wickerman). Then there are twists, like in this film that just make you say, "what the fuck." The film has such momentum, has set up red herrings galore and has some great open questions that need answers, only to throw them all away in the name of being clever.

Shot in a documentary style, which certainly helps ass the gritty realness of the film, there are some odd choices made - again in the last 20 minutes or so that really distract from the feel. Technically this is supposed to be a found footage film - if you take the last few shots literally, but rather than let atmospheric creepiness enhance the horror sound effects and a score are added for some reason. It's a small gripe, but it's still annoying.

The Last Exorcism is better than some of the other cookie cutter possession films. It's a lot better for the first three quarters, but again - the last reel leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

*** stars out of *****

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