Film Review: The Last Exorcism

Just when you think you’ve seen enough exorcism films to last you a lifetime, along comes another. The Last Exorcism, however, is a commendable film and one of the better ones in this horror sub-genre.

Reverend Cotton Marcus is the subject of a documentary on exorcisms. He allows a camera crew to film his final exorcism, with the intention of debunking some myths…

Filmed as a mockumentary, the film will immediately draw parallels with The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project. Daniel Stamm’s film differentiates itself from these predecessors by injecting a healthy dose of cynicism. Rather than a neutral documentary hoping to discover some truths, The Last Exorcism is set-up as a film intending to reveal the fabricated nature of exorcisms. This is cynicism is aided by bouts of humour, which add to the sense of verisimilitude.

The story works well; the various twists leave the viewer unsure of exactly where the film is heading. The film works well to maintain audience interest; it is only the last quarter of the film which lets it down. Otherwise, the film does well to build tension, and the scares are infrequent but efficient when they come.

The Reverend Cotton (played by Patrick Fabian) is an interesting protagonist. A religious man who has lost his faith, it is clear Marcus has been affected by having a family and the stories of exorcisms ending negatively. The overriding theme of The Last Exorcism is that of belief. The film parlays the line between the natural and the supernatural; it is unclear whether Nell’s predicament is psychological or paranormal. The overall message of the film appears to promote personal faith over organised doctrine.

Patrick Fabian gives a good performance as Marcus. He appears genuine when expressing both humour and fear. Ashley Bell brings an ambiguous quality to her portrayal of Nell, seeming innocent yet tortured. Effects are used sparingly, adding to the realist feel of the picture. When employed, the sound works to great effect in enhancing the atmosphere.

Not a masterpiece, but The Last Exorcism is definitely worth a watch. Although the thrills are on the limited side, the film engages the audience’s interest throughout.

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