The Last Exorcism

Posted by sean On April - 27 - 2011

Few have a reaction like this anymore when they’re told the devil is after them.

Another crazy possessed girl is back with The Last Exorcism, an amateur mess that severely fails at trying to create anything truly scary or original.  It’s the latest pseudo-documentary with hopes of riding off the success of films like Paranormal Activity or at least make a profit with its low-budget fiasco.  Instead of using what made those films good or improving their mistakes, director Daniel Stamm loses track and ends up producing just a poorly done horror feature.

 

Taking place somewhere in the South, The Last Exorcism is about Cotton Marcus, a minister who decides to hire a camera crew to expose the Church’s fraud by performing a staged exorcism with a devout family.  What he and the crew don’t realize is that they may actually be dealing with a real possession.  It starts off like a Dateline special on minister Cotton Marcus, who sells himself more as a comedian than a minister as he slips a recipe for banana bread into his sermon without the parish realizing it, showing the church’s blinding hold over its people and validating his own hucksterism about religion.  The set up makes an interesting news special, but the film wants a “found footage” sense to it, and yet after the introduction on Marcus, there’s rarely a shot that actually feels like someone just filmed it.

 

These kinds of movies are meant to feel authentic, natural, and real in a supernatural setting.  It’s what intensified the fear in films like The Blair Witch Project.  You should be able to buy into in what’s going on even if there are demons or monsters, but the film barely gives you the chance to accept this reality, especially during the two exorcism scenes.  The first one alternates between the bedroom where the ritual is being performed and the van where Cotton shows the nifty gadgets he uses for the hoax.  The second one, the big confrontation, cuts from person to person with multiple camera positions despite the fact that there is only one cameraman, hindering the natural realism this movie is intended to mimic.

 

The plot is just as problematic as Stamm tries to blindside the issues with a few curve balls and succeeds only in losing the focus of the narrative, but audience’s patience as well .  He keeps you guessing a little bit as he plays with the idea of whether or not the situation is actually real, but in the last act, he crashes the two possibilities together into a train-wreck of an ending.  Not two minutes after the film decides to go one way, it completely flips around and finishes with a reveal that only shocks by how absurd it is.

 

The Last Exorcism is marketed as another horror documentary, but the sloppy camera work, uninspired cutting, and ridiculously plotted storyline shows that Stamm was unable to make any sense out of this  mess.  In the hands of somebody who comprehends the appeal of the genre, this could’ve been the Cloverfield of exorcism movies, submerging you into an unreal situation and being terrified by whatever happens next.  Instead, the Last Exorcism is a piss-warm beer that leaves you desperately trying to wash the taste out of your mouth when it’s over.

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