Review: “The Last Exorcism” (2010)

The devil is all the rage right now for the cool kids. The mainstream kids have their vampires, the nerds have their zombies, but we – the cool kids – have the devil himself. He and his minions have been quite prolific lately: we’ve seen them in action in Drag Me to Hell as the Lamia, we’ve seen them stalking our friends Micah and Katie in Paranormal Activity, and we’ve seen them in their 1980s glory in The House of the Devil.

The latest entry into the series is cool kid Eli Roth‘s baby, The Last Exorcism. The film is a movie that will make a lot of viewers really, really, really angry and some pretty pleased. Let’s face it: it’s a middle-of-the-road devil movie trying to capitalize on trends. Instead of bringing new life to the sub-genre, Exorcism may instead reveal that it is inherently flawed: how many new narrative twists can there really be in a movie about the devil?

Not very many.

A quaint scene of...wait: DOC MARTENS?!? EWWWW.

The story follows jaded Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), out for his “last exorcism.” He aims to prove that exorcisms are a trick in the book of Christian conversion techniques (and that most exorcisms can be blamed on livestock acting funny or slight mania). With a film crew of two, he embarks out to document the sham by proving that Louis Sweetzer’s (Louis Herthum) daughter, Nell (the adorable and talented Ashley Bell), isn’t possessed but rather likely mentally unstable (or that a Chupacabra is killing his animals). Marcus throws a phony exocism for the Sweetzer family, the family is convinced the devil done left the girl, and all is well in the world … until it isn’t.

You guessed it: his last exorcism didn’t work! Animals continue to be murdered, Nell keeps waking up covered in blood, her creepy ass brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) gets sliced in the face, and religion goes out the window, back in the window, and out again, landing us all in an unsatisfying intermix of devil, etc. genre movies, past and present. Thus, The Last Exorcism.

GET OUT OF MY DREAMSSSSS (and into my car!)

Now, this is where we can break the camps of lovers and haters down: the lovers will admire the film on a technical level; the haters will hate, hate, hate on the “COME ON: WHAT A LAME ENDING!” front.

I happen to fall in the lover (don’t hate) camp, but completely get why it is hated. The reason why one should love the film is because it is incredibly well-acted, is convincingly made, and is quite nuanced (and even gay!). The film had me and the people who I saw it with (and hated it) discussing it all weekend. “Remember when that old black woman mentioned…?,” “Was the doctor in on…?,” “Was the brother the one who, you know…?” All of these were raised from the film and kept the conversation going beyond what you would think.

To hate it, you have only to focus on a few shortcomings. Firstly, it is a poor, poor attempt at mockumentary that does not bring any newness to the concept. Aside from music being overlayed for scary ambiance and there clearly being more than one camera P.O.V., half of the movie feels like an episode of The Office. Most unfortunately, though, the sacred crux of “having the footage found” is impossible when you really think about what befalls them. (Unlike The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity, which clearly made it known how the film stock was found.)

Secondly, the ending is a bit of a cop out, in that it was just a clever way to tie up all the loose ends. It’s lazy. And, like the aforementioned mockumentary films, the film ends so fast you cannot process nor will you be satisfied by it. When shit goes down, the camera man does, too – it all happens way too fast.

Only you can prevent scoliosis...and posession!

But the biggest error in this film is that it is two different films that would stand well on their own. The film’s conceit rests on a brilliant “crisis of faith” by Rev. Marcus. It’s extremely contemporary in that it mirrors a lot happening in America right now: normally conservative establishments are shifting powers to younger, more liberal people who are willing question things and show that the way things were are not right.

Hearing Marcus fuck around with his congregation and say that, yes, a lot of exorcisms are fake is refreshing. A documentary about a reverend or priest who is willing to confront his establishment is a documentary I would watch. 100%. However, because the exorcism he chose to disprove exorcisms was real, the first plot is dropped and we’re now in the hillbilly sequel to The House of the Devil. Both of these ideas are cool and great, but would probably be stronger on their own.

The Last Exorcism is a film that I cannot entirely recommend but that I won’t entirely dissuade you from seeing. If you plan to see it, you must know that you are going to be mildly unsatisfied, somewhat delighted at points, maybe scared for a few seconds, but will know what everyone is talking about. This is a film that is like one of those young woman/old woman illusions: you can’t tell people how to see it until they see it themselves.

And, once they see it, you won’t be able to show them anything else but the woman they saw.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

The Last Exorcism is rated PG-13 for violence, mild gore, hurting a pretty cat, and Doc Marten boots (a fashion NEVER).


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About KYLERAYMOND

A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.