“The Last Exorcism” follows in the faux documentary footsteps of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” and takes the demon out of the screen and into the theater.
“The Last Exorcism” stars Patrick Fabian as Rev. Cotton Marcus, a man whose family have traditionally been preachers with a knack for exorcisms. Marcus has performed exorcisms but does not believe in their power or in demons. He does them as a placebo treatment to help families heal, a way for them to move on because they think the hand of God has flushed the demon out. Marcus becomes disturbed after reading that a young boy was suffocated and killed during an exorcism. Marcus hires two documentary filmmakers to film an exorcism to show the world that it is not real in an effort to save lives.
Marcus receives a letter from Louis Herthum about his daughter Nell who is possessed by a demon. While looking for the farm, Marcus stops and asks a boy for directions, the boy says, “Take a u-turn and go back from where you came.” Marcus and the filmmakers proceed to find Herthum’s house. Marcus meets the family and shows the filmmakers all the tricks to put on the show for the exorcism. He performs an exorcism on Nell and is paid for his services. Marcus and the film crew drive off and get a motel for the night. Later that night Nell shows up in Marcus’s motel room in some sort of sleepwalking episode. This pulls Marcus back in to find out what is really going on.
Producer Eli Roth has developed a genuinely terrifying film. The first thirty minutes to an hour is character development. This time gives you a reason to care for all of these characters. Most of the film is nuance and imprints of the terror that is happening at the farm. It is a slow burn that gives you goose bumps. This kind of tension keeps you scared as opposed to a million jump scares that horror movies have resorted to in the last decade.
The faux documentary horror film is booming right now because it isn’t overused and we know how to decipher it. “Paranormal Activity” was a very good scare and audiences loved it. “The Blair Witch Project”, the first film of its kind back in 1999 suffered because no one knew what to make of it. The hype could never be matched. There were stories of people vomiting in the theater it was so scary. Then there were rumors that all of this was real, that some people just happened to find these tapes of a documentary crew. No movie could match that kind of anticipation.
“The Last Exorcism” proves that you can make a scary movie with the notion that less is more. Some viewers may want to know more about Marcus or more details about Nell or other characters. If it weren’t for the documentary style, you would get that. Even in the documentary style you could get that, but then it becomes forced. “The Last Exorcism” works because it works on shoestring exposition. The mystery of the film is what makes it haunting.
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