Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Hurthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley
Director: Daniel Stamm
Writer(s): Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
Cinematography: Zoltan Honti,
Original Score: Nathan Barr
Running Time: 87 Mins.
The “mockumentary” is fast carving its way out a rather large money spinner in the horror genre, it’s not hard to see why for it is surely the one genre that lends itself so well to the form, we all need to see some kind of belief that a horror film to be true in order to derive the requisite scares from it which is why recent efforts such as The Blair Witch Project and perhaps more pertinently last years Paranormal Activity have both claimed to have scared audiences witless as well as breaking box office records in the process simply through sheer lack of cost to make to the millions they reap in at the cinema. Which is why it comes as little surprise that we now have what is effectively The Exorcist: The Handheld version.
Okay, so in all fairness that may be a little bit of a harsh summation for The Last Exorcism has some unique twists and turns which are best left to be discovered first hand, plot wise we follow a small town evangelical minister, Cotton Marcus, who has “exorcised” many people during his time as a man of the cloth, alas these exorcism’s are debunked early on, as he set’s up the various trickery we are used to seeing in other films, a tape recorder for the groaning devil, a smoke-filled cross and so on. All of which leads Marcus on a path to prove that exorcism’s are all fake due to a death of one child during an exorcism.
A path which leads Marcus to a small Louisiana town where one young girl has been displaying “signs” of possession, as with Paranormal Activity there is a slow burn and a deeply uncomfortable sense of dread brought on from the constraints of this type of film-making. Director Stamm keeps on piling on scenes of great intensity punctuated by an uneasy spike of humour every now and then, very little happens and your interest is held through sheer curiosity to find out whether Nell is actually possessed or if there is a devil at work much closer to home, it is this suggestion that marks The Last Exorcism out as different, and all the better for it.
As the story winds to its conclusion we know all will not end well, thankfully we’re saved the expected “real” exorcism in place of something much more sinister and a final 10 minutes that will likely divide audiences depending on your leaning, it is only at this stage that some of the most costly shots hinted at in the trailer and posters are revealed otherwise everything is kept rather low-key. A fact I imagine will displease those going to watch this on the basis of Eli Roth’s named plastered all over the place as Executive Producer, this isn’t Hostel rather something much more disturbing and a film full of ideas that will un-nerve and get you thinking long after the credits have rolled…providing the climatic scenes don’t lose you.
The Last Exorcism is a small scale horror film, psychological until the very end which is likely to polarize the audience, a great shame given the mounting intensity and masterful mind games the plot plays on you in the first 75 minutes.