Caleb Landry Jones
John Wright Jr.
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
At some point, The Last Exorcism was going to be called Cotton after the faith-questing preacher upon whom the films moral dilemmas are focused. In the sense that the best parts of the film revolve around Patrick Fabians odd anti-hero charlatan preacher, the simple title would have workedbut it wouldve confused the audiences that the studios covet into thinking this was more drama, less scary. It also would have been a better representation of 95% of the film than those commercials that show you all the scary parts and make you think this is an Exorcist reduxsure, there are possession-flick staples all over this one, but what makes it worth seeing is Fabians conflicted evangelist.
See, this whole mess started because Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), one in a family line of preachers, has grown weary of his craft, and has decided to film a documentary meant to expose the trickery behind the showmanship of exorcism, which he has long faked by exploiting the fragile psyches of the so-called possessed. Arriving on the Sweetzer farm with a firmly held disbelief, he has a change of heart upon meeting young Nell (Ashley Bell) and her deeply religious father, and after a lifetime of tricking believers into buying in to the idea of demonic possession, Cotton is forced to face the very foundation of everything he has ever done in the name of God.
First off, forget the trailerswhile its true that there are some genuinely disturbing aspects and images throughout, The Last Exorcism can almost be deemed a drama with some scary bits as opposed to the shock-a-minute horrorfest its ads herald it as. Plus, tacking Eli Roth onto anything guarantees were going to go in expecting gore and splatter. What we get is not so much of that but more of a look at the struggle of a man disillusioned with the life of a faux man of God who has to grapple with hishere it comesinner demons. Performances are all spot on, and aided by the near-unknown status of most of the cast, everything feels just a bit more authentic. What drags it all down is that its disjointed, inconsistent, and though it has some suspenseful and grabby scenes, they deflate with no follow-through. Granted were doing the mock-doc thing, but there are shots that are just pointlessly bad.
Then theres the ending. All over the blogs and boards, debates rage about how this story ends and Im not going to provide any spoilers. For me, though, it isnt bad in regards to content; it just feels rushed and off kilter with the rest of the film. What I will say is that the last fifteen or so minutes change the whole game, and youll either love it or hate iteither way, though, at least its got people talking. The ending isnt the problemthe issue is that the whole film never quite figures out what it wants to be or how to get there, so it vacillates between thought-provoking, boring, and messy.
It's Got: Strong performances, An ending to talk about, Freaky images
It Needs: Different marketing, More original possession moments, Better editing
Alternatives:[REC], The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Not necessarily SCARY horror, The Last Exorcism is more subtle and character-driven than you might think, which is a good thing, but it loses its way and squanders its potential.