The Empire Big Screen Diaries – Day 3

Like the protagonist on an epic quest in a sword and sorcery film, I embarked on the final day of Empire Big Screen. First order of business was the Paramount Showcase. After a brief video animating the company’s biggest films, a series of trailers were shown. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was followed by Paranormal Activity 3 and Like Crazy. After this, a featurette on Cowboys and Aliens was screened, introduced by Jon Favreau (on video). We also got to see a short clip of the Footloose remake, and the trailer for The Devil Inside (which was highly reminiscent of last year’s The Last Exorcism). Two clips of the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots were then screened. Te footage was great; the film looks as if it will be very funny. To round things off, footage of The Adventures of Tin Tin was screened with a message from producer Peter Jackson and director Steven Spielberg. The clips looked good, but I always think humans in CG-animation look weird.

After a brief interlude, the Lionsgate Showcase began. After the trailer for A Dangerous Method was shown, we got to see footage from Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. Set in the modern day but with the original Shakespearean dialogue, the film looks interesting if a little unusual. The showcase was rounded up by four trailers – 50/50, Abduction, Warrior and Conan the Barbarian.

Seizing the opportunity for a proper lunch break, we headed to Armadillo (again). My fish burger was nice, but I felt bad that we didn’t leave a proper tip. In fairness, it was all the change we had, but apologies to Armadillo staff.

The Disney Showcase was the final one of the weekend. Real Steel was first up, with director Shawn Levy on stage to talk about the film. He also gave away tickets to the premiere, but asked the most difficult question ever. Needless to say, I did not know the answer. Two clips were then screened; the film looks like fairly standard family fare. Andrew Stanton then introduced John Carter and footage from the film was screened. Finally, Steven Spielberg (by video) introduced some footage of his upcoming film War Horse. What struck me more than anything was that Spielberg seems to have some hand in directing or producing many of the films discussed this weekend. He may have even a hand producing this post. Human star of the film Jeremy Irvine then came on stage to discuss making War Horse.

After hanging out in the press room for a bit (Jeremy Irvine was being interviewed there, talent-spotters!), it was time for The Muppets! Director of The Muppets James Bobin and star Kermit the Frog were interviewed live via satelite. I was told that the Muppets were originally meant to appear in person. Maybe it is just as well this did not happen, as I may have got kicked out for running up on stage and hugging Kermit. The interview was a lot of fun, and the clip screened involved Kermit singing a song. It almost brought a tear to the eye…

After all that excitement, it was time for the Conan the Barbarian premiere. Jason Momoa was present to introduce the film, shown at the biggest screen at the O2 Cineworld. The film was pretty disappointing itself (review to follow).

After the very last visit to the press room, I went to the secret screening. Cineworld tried to rob me blind with their popcorn prices, after which I settled down to watch the film. Before it started, I asked the gentleman next to me if he knew what the film was (I did by this point). When he answered “Cowboys and Aliens” I was perplexed, and thought he was joking until he showed me his ticket. I was in the wrong screen. After cursing my stupidity, I ran next door and luckily the trailers were still on. I then settled down to watch The Debt, a very good thriller (review to follow). And that concluded Empire Big Screen; the film was good way to end a busy but exciting weekend.

Many thanks to Empire and Romley Davies for having me, plus all the lovely people who made the weekend so much fun (you know who you are!).

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.