Monday, January 10, 2011

The Last Exorcism (2010) review


Patrick Fabian (Reverend Cotton Marcus), Ashley Bell (Nell Sweetzer), Iris Bahr (Iris Reisen), Louis Herthum (Louis Sweetzer)

Directed by Daniel Stamm

The Short Version: Enjoyably grim and tension fueled devil movie models itself on the BLAIR WITCH swapping out a foul mouthed film crew for a priest who's lost his faith in god and two equally religion free partners. Dreams as revelatory occurrences is a minor plot point that adds a layer or two to the foreboding sense of evil the closer Marcus and his disbelieving cohorts get to the truth. An unholy marriage of both ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) and THE EXORCIST (1973). A nice surprise among a lot of theatrical and DTV dreck.

A doubting priest uses his lack of faith to make money off other peoples fears by disproving cases of possession by evil forces. For his last mock exorcism, he decides to take an apparently dubious case of demonic possession in New Orleans, Louisiana and make a documentary out of his findings. But for the Reverend and his crew of two, the horror becomes all too real and they must make a choice to believe, or make the ultimate sacrifice.

In the tradition of the blockbuster sensations THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (2000) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) comes this notably similar styled production that closely follows the template laid down by the former. Almost plagiaristic at times, this 'PG-13' horror (BLAIR WITCH and ACTIVITY were 'R' rated) drums up a sufficient amount of eerie goosebumpery leading up to its fiery climax that further reinforces its BLAIR WITCH borrowing. THE LAST EXORCISM wasn't nearly as successful as those other two 'Found Footage' films, but it made a nice bundle considering its 2 million budget.

I had little faith that this movie would be worth watching, but I was pleasantly surprised at the overall unpleasantness of the whole exercise during the risibly fear filled 82 minutes (minus end credits). Speaking of faith, one could say that, at least as far as this movie is concerned, the lack of faith in those that at one time believed in a higher power is the very reason evil is perceived (and shown) to be far stronger. Had the reverend not treated his last years as an exorcising priest as a farce, things may have turned out differently. The group repeatedly treat their subject with an insulting level of derision that, when the time comes to pay the piper, they've nothing but empty pockets. The location for this picture, like BLAIR WITCH, is an out of the way farmhouse in deepest, darkest Louisiana and that sense of isolation married to a heightened sense of the unknown helps a great deal.

The nerve jangling score by the talented Nathan Barr is guaranteed to give you the creeps. It uses similar motifs heard in devil movies past, but his score possesses cues that hit chords that match what is transpiring onscreen. Barr has been involved in producer, Eli Roth's other productions and delivered satisfying orchestrations in those films as well as the down home hillbilly horror of 2001 MANIACS (2005) and the recent slasher thriller OPEN HOUSE (2010). He definitely has an ear for horror.

The ending is kind of telegraphed early on, but it doesn't deter the increasing level of spookiness. Still, the ending does hold a shock surprise, but horror fans that disliked BLAIR WITCH will probably dislike this movie for much the same reasons. As mentioned above, the movie follows that films pattern pretty closely. In addition to similarities with the ending, the Reverend and his two man crew talk with a few people about a possible devil cult in the area and ignore several warnings to turn back when it's made blatantly clear they're not wanted.

Marcus even brushes aside a couple of disturbing and life threatening signs that leaving the Sweetzer farm was the best option. Why? It becomes apparent that Marcus disbelieves Nell is actually possessed and that her mania is psychotic and not related to any sort of hellfire and brimstone. Even when they are assured that Nell's problem is in her mind, the trio decide to hang around for more clues even after they've nearly gotten out of the town. Having thrown away their sole opportunity to get away with their lives, the Reverend and his creeped out pair of documentarians foolishly head back to the farmhouse for more answers to new questions that prove hazardous to their health.

The movie literally goes to hell at the conclusion that further solidifies the BLAIR WITCH connection although at least one digital shot of something in the background is present and not counting quick cuts in the camera lens that show what appears to be supernatural frequencies interfering with what's being shot. As for the bloodletting, little is shown, but there is a modicum of the red stuff at times and several minor elements add a lot of tension at just the right moments. It's never really outright scary, but fear is irrefutably derived from the script carefully building to a scene payoff that results in making your skin crawl on more than one occasion.

Shot for under 2 million over the course of a few years, Stamm's demonic effort is a slickly mounted movie and was much better than anticipated. Fans of the 'Found Footage' style of Hollywood horror will find much to cover their eyes over here in this surprising spook-fest. Aside from belonging to the shaky cam brand of moviemaking, if you enjoyed such recent fare as HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), you will likely enjoy this as well. Don't forsake a chance at seeing THE LAST EXORCISM.

This review is representative of the Lionsgate DVD

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Slasher edition!


By Peter M. Bracke

Hardcover; 321 pages; color & B/W

After posting my own personal 'Best Of' slasher films, I thought I'd take this hefty tome off the shelf and post my thoughts on it considering it correlates to that list in a huge way. There's really not a lot that needs to be said here, but it's a no brainer that if you're a fan of this series, or a fan of horror and enjoy reference books on horror then there's no question this book NEEDS to be in your collection. Bracke has amassed a stunning amount of information and interviewed just about everyone with any connection to the films and included it in this lavishly illustrated compendium covering every film in the controversial and blood soaked series. The book is actually a little bit bigger than the pics show, only my scanner wasn't big enough to fit the whole thing.


The first edition was released in 2005 (a second publishing in '06) so it covers everything up to FREDDY VS. JASON. If you are fascinated by background stories and behind the scenes information, then, again, this book is an amazing piece of work. It's a veritable arterial spray of anecdotal reminisces from those who starred, directed, or performed various behind the scenes duties on these productions. There's a Foreword by Sean S. Cunningham and even box office stats and how this long running series stacks up with other horror franchises in terms of theatrical receipts. I've never gotten around to reading every single page of this loving tribute, but one need only read a chapter or two to realize this was compiled with a great deal of respect and devotion for the material. Author, Peter Bracke has done an awe inspiring job here. Most definitely one for the shelves.


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