Date Reviewed:
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10th September 2010

Summary:

A preacher invites a film crew to document his final days as a fraudulent exorcist - but then finds himself looking into the face of evil itself.

Arriving at the isolated Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), the charismatic preacher Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is expecting to perform his usual fake exorcism on a disturbed religious fanatic. An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer is certain his teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed by a demon. Facing his conscience after years of parting desperate believers with their money, Cotton plans to have his film crew record a confessionary documentary of his last 'exorcism'. But when they see the already blood-drenched farm, it's clear that true evil is at work. With no turning back, Reverend Marcus' own beliefs are shaken to the core as he and his crew must find a way to save Nell - and themselves - before it is too late.

Review:

Ambiguity is a powerful tool for a writer, filmmaker, or any creative person. But there's a fine line between ambiguity and lazy storytelling. The Last Exorcism, unfortunately, makes use of the latter. The film poses many questions but doesn't feel the need to answer most of them, meaning at the end of the film, the audience isn't so much pondering the themes of religious doubt and the adverse effects of shame so much as wondering what the hell just happened.

The lack of clarity is only made more frustrating by the overly shaky handy-cam cinematography. I normally enjoy this mode of filmmaking, and it was proved to be effective for horror films in last year's phenomenal breakout Paranormal Activity, but Daniel (the cameraman) has a bit too shaky of a hand for the style to work well here. I actually got a headache from some of the later, jumpier scenes.

It's a shame the film meanders to such a laughable conclusion, because it starts with such promise. The first half hour or so is surprisingly funny, effectively parodying the genre (specifically exorcism-based horror films) and presenting a religious slant to the proceedings that makes things interesting initially but ultimately seems cheap and even stupid. Two fine performances from Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are wasted as the material goes from subtly self-reflexive to blatantly generic. The horror that unfolds along the way rarely generates any real scares, settling instead for bursts of weirdness, cheap jumps, and ultimately, an unattractive mixture of stupidity and discomfort.