The Last Exorcism


The Last Exorcism

This isn't Kansas anymo...oh yeah it just might be.

(2010) Supernatural Horror (Lionsgate) Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley, John Wright Jr., Shanna Forrestall, Justin Shafer, Carol Sutton, Victoria Patenaude, John Wilmot, Becky Fly, Denise Lee, Logan Craig Lee. Directed by Daniel Stamm

Belief is a powerful thing. Once we lock something in our mind that we believe is so, we make it so consciously or unconsciously. The mind can make us sick – and be a powerful healer.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Fabian) has been a Southern hellfire and brimstone preacher since he was a child. Like many preachers, he also performs exorcisms. He doesn’t actually out demons; he uses parlor tricks and special effects to suggest to his “patients” that the demon has left them. Most of the time, they feel much better.

But Cotton’s own son was born with serious medical issues and the death of someone during an exorcism (not one Cotton was involved with) have opened his eyes to the harm he could well be doing. He decides to perform one last exorcism and chooses a subject at random; the Sweetzers.

He enlists a documentary crew to capture his last exorcism on film and show the practitioners to be the charlatans they are. The “victim” is Nell (Bell), a bright and cheerful teen whose father Louis (Herthum) is a fundamentalist who makes Pat Robertson look like Bill Maher. Nell’s brother Caleb (Jones) is suspicious of the whole thing and with good reason.

Nonetheless, Cotton convinces Louis to let them perform the exorcism and with the usual smoke and mirrors, Cotton is successful. He leaves the farm, thinking that he is done with exorcisms and finished with the Sweetzer family. He has no idea how wrong he is.

The conceit of the movie is that you’re seeing the “documentary” footage shot by the crew; as the movie wears on and things get more and more strange, the unexplainable tends to feel more realistic and believable than it might on a Hollywood sound stage. That works to the movie’s favor.

Also to the good is Fabian as Cotton Marcus. Cotton is a bit of a scalawag, a born salesman for God who can earnestly sell his flock on the power of Jesus as easily as he does in the deliciousness of his grandma’s banana bread recipe. He is also suffering a bit of a crisis of faith; he is tired of the games and the tricks and yearns to set things right. His family isn’t so sure about his change of heart but his wife Shanna (Forrestall) supports him.

Of the film crew, we mostly see Iris (Bahr), the producer and sound engineer (hey, it’s a low budget shoot) and she delivers the requisite amount of fear and panic. Herthum is also steadfast as the farmer whose belief and faith never waver, to the point that he’s willing to kill someone to prove it.

Despite its flaws (and indeed, occasionally because of them) this is as effective horror film as I’ve seen recently, a pleasant surprise that came from producer Eli Roth, who helmed such films as Cabin Fever and Hostel. There are some real scares here on a real low budget, mostly revolving around Nell who gets tossed about like a rag doll in some scenes. There is some subtle commentary on faith, religion and the gullibility of man. There are some solid performances. Basically, this is just a well-written movie that has an ending that is unfortunate, but that doesn’t negate the hour plus of film that preceded it. If not for that ending, this would have a perfect rating and that doesn’t happen for horror films often, but this one very nearly deserved it.

WHY RENT THIS: One of the scariest horror movies of the last few years. Really makes good use of the whole found footage genre. Surprisingly well-acted.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The ending was really disappointing.

FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of bad language and a few somewhat disturbing crime scene images.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie spent ten years in development following a “60 Minutes” story on the subject which led to a bidding frenzy.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The Real Stories of Exorcism featurette looks at actual exorcism and interviews people who have been exorcised. There is also footage of the actor’s auditions on the Blu-Ray edition.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $67.7M on a $1.8M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster in every sense of the word.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: Six Days of Darkness continues!

New Releases for the Week of August 27, 2010


Previews for the Week of August 27, 2010

Cotton Marcus informs the young lady she doesn't need an exorcist, she needs a fashion consultant. Tim Gunn, to the rescue!

THE LAST EXORCISM

(Lionsgate) Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Iris Bahr, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley, John Wright Jr., Shanna Forrestall, Justin Shafer. Directed by Daniel Stamm

The Reverend Cotton Marcus, a charlatan who performs fake exorcisms, has grown weary of separating the faithful from their wallets, so he intends his last exorcism to be a confessional video. What he doesn’t bargain for is that the young girl who will be his final subject is genuinely possessed of an evil beyond anything he has ever imagined or prepared for, and it will be up to him and his crew to somehow rid this young girl of the vengeful demon possessing her before unimaginable tragedy results.

See the trailer, clips and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material)

Mao’s Last Dancer

(Goldwyn) Wen Bin Huang, Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlen, Joan Chen. This is the true story of Chinese ballet master Li Cunxin and his rise to fame despite obstacles from his totalitarian Maoist government. Directed by Oscar-winning director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies), the film covers the triumphs of a supremely talented dancer, as well as the loneliness and despair of an exile.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for a brief violent image, some sensuality, language and incidental smoking)

The Secret of Kells

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally. A beautifully animated (it was also an Oscar Nominee for Best Animated Feature) movie about a young boy at an Irish abbey who comes face to face with Celtic mysticism, Viking invaders and the beauty of a well-illuminated volume. Previously reviewed during the Florida Film Festival, you can read my full review here.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: NR (but would probably get a PG rating for some scenes with disturbing images and violence)

Takers

(Screen Gems) Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez. A group of notorious criminals are getting ready to pull off their last heist, their most daring, complex and high-risk job yet – and also their most lucrative. They are used to pulling off meticulously planned jobs executed like clockwork, but this one might be beyond the capabilities of anybody – and to top it all off, a case-hardened detective is right on their tails, nipping at their heels. One false move and the whole gang might wind up caught, a fate worse than death for a taker.

See the trailer, clips, promos, interviews and a music video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, a sexual situation/partial nudity and some language)