If ROSEMARY'S BABY was updated and put in the boondocks instead of the city; if THE EXORCIST was downgraded into a considerably less scary, less influential movie and moved out of the city and into the boondocks, and if THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was made less influential, less anticipated, less original, but a little scarier, you'd have THE LAST EXORCISM. And for all I know, this may have been how it was pitched.
THE LAST EXORCISM is quite possibly the second scariest supernatural movie under $2 million dollars, but over $1 million dollars that has been released in the 2000s by a major distributor. But before you get your hopes up, you see that poster below? That scene is nowhere in the movie.
NOTHING THIS SCARY EVER HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE
THE LAST EXORCISM follows the formula of not having any "stars" in your Horror movie. This makes it more effective because people are watching a story and not Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Keanu Reeves, Julianne Moore, Adrien Brody, etc., awkwardly posture through what was supposed to be a scary scene.
But before you get your hopes up? While low budget indie movies usually mean that the film makers broke with convention and hack tropes and went all out to deliver an original and daring Horror movie? THE LAST EXORCISM didn't. It feels so very formulated-by-committee. It feels committee'd to death.
2009's PARANORMAL ACTIVITY went old school and used THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT's method of documentary style film of amateurs recording their experiences almost non-stop. It works if it's done right, as 2008's CLOVERFIELD showed (the stupid looking monster was another story) THE LAST EXORCISM apes this. Which means that in addition to this cliche, they are also going to stuff in the obligatory "Turn that camera off!" quote until you are gagging in your seat.
in this case, is of a church pastor who lost his faith a long time ago and now just preaches as a form of showboating entertainment. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian - granted, one of the most popular, high profile actors on TV, hardly a nobody) doesn't mind having lost his faith. While it was easy enough for him to comfort his congregation, through all of their troubles, with the word of the lord, he easily questioned the existence of god when his own son was born deaf. Cotton is a charmer and a showman and everyone seems to like him, yet there is a selfish, snake-oil con man air about him that makes him unlikable: Like a smiling sociopath, patiently waiting for the moment when he won't get caught. Cotton enjoys making fools of people who trust him.
Cotton's wife, Shanna (Shanna Forrestall) speaks glowingly of him as a charmer and showman. There is nothing negative about her when speaking of Cotton. But she never says she loves him or feels any affection for him. Everything focuses on what he does and who he is, not what he means to her. Their young son, John, discreetly acknowledges that his father is full of baloney, but smiles and puts a finger to his lips about it. Cotton's father appears to be a total believer.
Cotton is using this documentary as a way of coming out and announcing his retirement from preaching and to do this, he is going to perform his last exorcism. He doesn't believe in exorcism, is happy to fleece the rubes over his exorcisms, and has convinced himself that the reason he is doing this is to show people that exorcisms aren't real. He takes the money from poverty stricken people for his son's hospital bills.
His final exorcism takes him to the Sweetzer farm and the home of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum: THE GHOST, LOCKJAW: RISE OF THE KULEV SERPENT, MUTANTS) deep in the Louisiana back country. Louis' son, Caleb takes an immediate dislike to Cotton and his documentary crew of producer, Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr), and cameraman Daniel (Adam Grimes: THE BIG BAD WOLF). But the person with the problem, his sister Nell, is sweet, shy, and welcoming.
As soon as Cotton enters the house, he starts his sweet talking con game. And its all con. He knowingly lies to Louis, who fears for his daughter's soul; Caleb, who fears for his sister's life, and Nell, who is afraid of everything. The documentary often catches Cotton laughing at people behind their back: the people who trust him to save them.
Holy crap but you just want to see this filthy bible pitching huckster get his!
BEFORE WE START OUR EXORCISM, WE'LL FIRST NEED TO WORK ON YOUR POOR POSTURE.
Director Daniel Stamm, working off a script by the newbie writing team of Huck Botcko and Andrew Gurland, delivers solid direction in his first feature film Horror Thriller outing. His cast of character actors all came together and delivered and his timing is nearly pitch perfect. Although I don't know how much timing is actually to his credit and how much belongs to editor Shilpa Khanna.
Good scares all the same and a middling start for Stamm, Botcko, and Gurland's career.
I also want to say a word about the modern model of cinema, the ShakyCam. Or as Roger Ebert calls it, QueasyCam. When we saw movies like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, we accepted the camera shaking and swinging all over the place because these were supposed to be inexperienced camera operators doing a junior college project. When we saw it in CLOVERFIELD, again: these were supposed to be inexperienced camera operators.
So when we see what is supposed to be an experienced documentary camera operator swinging his lens all over the place like a greasy fingered crackhead, I can't help but think, What the Hell? Have you EVER seen a documentary where the camera wasn't steady? Also, this is supposed to be some sort of "found" footage that has been edited. So why wasn't all of the blurring shaky cam edited out as well? Besides the fact that it would have made a far shorter, possibly less than feature film length, movie? I pity Cinematographer Zoltan Honti and camera operators Marcus Kellum, Myron Parran, and Trevor Tufano who were told to do this. How are you supposed to find work with this on your resume?
If you are a Horror fan and enjoyed THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, you may like THE LAST EXORCISM. If you are a fan of neither of those two movies, you likely won't like THE LAST EXORCISM.
When it comes to low budget indie features, taking risks with trying something new is part of the appeal. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD took risks. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE took chances and risks. PHANTASM, and THE EVIL DEAD took chances and risks. Once in a very great while, even a studio films like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or John Carpenter's THE THING take risks.
THE LAST EXORCISM takes no chances or risks, though at its budget it could afford to. Instead, it brings warmed leftovers to the table. I imagine the business model for this was, "Screw what the audience does or doesn't like, so long as we nail that first weekend receipts!"
In regards to Horror Thriller movies, this inept business model actually exists in Hollywood. Three to four months later it is followed by this perplexing question, "Why are our home video sales so low? It must be those awful online pirates! What other explanation could there possibly beeee?"
Though I don't believe in supernatural entities, a good supernatural story like THE HOWLING, THE LOST BOYS, THE SIXTH SENSE, THE RING, KAIRO, etc. can still grab me.
THE LAST EXORCISM was okay, but it didn't grab me.
Two Shriek Girls
This review copyright 2010 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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