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Title: The Last Exorcism
Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum and Caleb Landry Jones
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
Written by: Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Release Date: January 4, 2011

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:
Overall: :4stars:

You may find it difficult to even think about any exorcism movie without subconsciously comparing it to the 1973 classic The Exorcist. It is groundbreaking and will forever be considered the godfather of all exorcism movies, so a premature comparison would be understandable. However, I urge you to keep an open mind as The Last Exorcism seems to almost forge in the opposite direction creating an apples to oranges comparison that ultimately seems a little unfair. What The Last Exorcism does well is it steals some of the better attributes from mock docs, The Blair Witch Project, throws in a little bit of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, maybe a dash of Rosemary's Baby and is combined with stellar, breakout acting performances to create an interesting story that can truly hold its own in the religious horror sub-genre.

The story begins in the Baton Rouge, LA home of Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian). Through a documentary style of filming, we meet Cotton, his wife, his son and his father, Reverend John Marcus (John Wright Jr.). Cotton was born to be a preacher. At a very young age, his father brought him up to the pulpit one Sunday to preach to an unsuspecting congregation, saying the young boy had found the Lord. What the congregation didn't know was both Cotton and his father had been practicing for this surprise sermon for quite some time. You see, Cotton is a showman; a televangelistic-style preacher with a knack for winning over his audience with appealing and convincing doctrine. For years his talents have been filling the collection plates, so naturally, Cotton would successfully continue the family business of exorcism. According to his father, the Marcus family have been performing exorcisms for generations. The problem is Cotton has lost his faith. The premature birth of his son resulted in major health complications. When his son eventually pulled through, Cotton found himself thanking doctors instead of God, shaking his faith to the core. Finally, after reading a story about an innocent boy dying during a failed exorcism, Cotton decided he was through. He then details his reasoning behind having the film crew document a small part of his life and what will be his last exorcism. Cotton pulls a letter off a giant stack and decides he and his film crew are off to Ivanwood, LA to perform an exorcism, but more importantly, to film the exorcism in a way that exposes the craft for the hoax that it really is.

After a scary run-in with Caleb Sweetzer (Caleb Landry Jones), Cotton and his film crew arrive at the secluded Sweetzer farm. Cotton interviews Louis (Louis Herthum), a single father whose wife died recently from cancer. Cotton is presented with evidence that Louis's livestock has been slaughtered and the possibility that Nell (Ashley Bell), his daughter, is behind the killings. Still unconvinced, Cotton interviews Nell and discovers she's deeply traumatized by the death of her mother and best friend. Cotton decides to perform a test on Nell to determine if she is in fact possessed. He asks everyone in the room to close their eyes and pray. Caught on camera, he performs a magic trick of sorts to convince the family of Nell's possession. Nell and Louis are fooled by the trick, so Cotton determines that Nell is possessed by a demon and agrees to perform the exorcism. Cotton asks the family to wait outside Nell's bedroom while he prepares. When the family enters the room for the exorcism, all they notice is Cotton has placed some lit candles around the room. Behind the closed door, however, the camera crew documents Cotton constructing a finely crafted, magician-like stage for the exorcism to take place. You see him rig fishing line around the room to create the deception of things moving, a small speaker system to produce demonic sounds and many other tricks of the trade used to create an illusion of a normal person being possessed by a demon. A wild exorcism scene ensues where the camera appears poised to catch every fraud while in the background you see Louis and Nell frighteningly convinced of everything going on. Moments later, the production is over and Cotton is seen counting the hundreds of dollars he's been paid while being showered with appreciation from Louis and Nell for the "service" he's provided. Cotton and his film crew turn down Louis's hospitality and decide to spend the night in a hotel five miles up the road. As they prepare for bed, Cotton and the crew discuss the success of the filming. Everyone's happy, story's over. Right?

Wrong. Cotton soon realizes he may have gotten himself in too deep when he awakens in his hotel room to find an unresponsive Nell standing over him. Shocked and confused by how Nell was able to find him, Cotton decides they should take her to the hospital. Cotton outlays his belief that Nell isn't possessed but is a very traumatized young girl that needs psychological evaluation. However, when Louis arrives at the hospital, he's very angry and drags Nell back home. He's convinced that since doctors couldn't help his wife, they also wouldn't be able to help Nell, stating psychiatry is not of the Bible. Tortured by the story of the innocent boy dying due to an exorcism, and terrified of making the same mistake, Cotton fears for Nell's safety and therefore follows the Sweetzer's back to their farm. Nell's behavior becomes very erratic to say the least, and due to Cotton's earlier explanation that exorcism or death are the only salvations, Louis threatens to kill Nell if Cotton refuses to perform another exorcism. Conflicted at every angle, Cotton must then decide to do what's best for Nell while trying to get himself and his film crew out of the deep swamplands of Louisiana alive.

The ending of this movie will probably be the element that'll divide most people as a shirt or skin. Personally, I liked the ending, but I found myself staring at the screen during the closing credits trying to DECIDE if I liked the ending. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Not nearly as complicated an ending to grasp as say Inception, it's still hard to argue that the denouement of The Last Exorcism is not thought provoking, and it's these types of movies that tend to resonate with me most. This combined with terrifyingly, creepy scenes and phenomenal acting performances by literally all the main characters, this may be the first shaky-cam, mocumentary style horror film to "get it right."

Patrick Fabian earned a “Best Actor” in both the Toronto After Dark and Sitges 43rd International Film Festivals for his role in The Last Exorcism. Mr. Fabian was gracious enough to take some time to talk to me about the film, his role and a little about his life in general. Click here to read the interview.

Rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material. This one may require some additional parental guidance due to possible conflicting religious beliefs.

Video: :3.5stars:
Glass half empty or glass half full? Something this good probably shouldn't look this bad, so undoubtedly, the video presentation of The Last Exorcism may be off-putting for some. The film sports an AVC encoded 1080p transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The good news is the movie from start to finish looks far better than one would expect from a shaky-cam shot film. The early scenes in church and at the Marcus family home look sharp and well-lit with bright colors, accurate skin tones and good contrast typical of a quality HD transfer. It's scenes like these that prove the transfer's potential. That said, the intention of the majority of the movie seems to draw from a dark, gritty and more artistic feel. Night time scenes are overly grainy and suffer from significant crushing at times and some slight posterization. There's also some noticeable oversaturation and overblown contrast during some darker scenes. For example, the entire night time barn scene appears this way. None the less, almost all these negatives seem to add to the intentionally gritty appearance and somehow enhance the frightening and spooky artistic motivation. So maybe something this bad actually shouldn't look this good, but it would be irresponsible to rank this transfer among the top high-def presentations, regardless of how successful the intention was.

(I didn't even want to mention this, but I didn't want to ignore it either. There's some chatter about how multiple cameras were used during some of the dialogue scenes and how it may ruin the single camera documentary effect. Don't even sweat it. It's incorporated so subtly that you may not even notice, and I can't help but think how annoying and distracting the alternative could have been.)

Audio: :4.5stars:
Dialogue heavy, for the most part, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track almost seemed wasted for the first half of the film. But as they say, it's when the darkness comes that things go bump in the night. The Last Exorcism provides a sometimes subtle, but truly immersive sound field to add to the crystal-clear dialogue. For example, you can hear handwriting and other details off camera, bumps and crashes from other areas of the house, and the sounds of frogs, crickets and other swampland creatures do an excellent job of making you feel completely secluded. The LFE is used selectively, but very effectively as deep effects will have you jumping out of your seat. Much unlike Paranormal Activity for example, where an often distracting bass rumble was added almost to cue a frightening occurrence, the LFE is used subtly and adds to the feel of frightening scenes as opposed to detracting from them. My only complaint is the use of some slightly distracting musical elements that feel unnecessary or out of place at times. There's a lot of subtle detail incorporated in this track and although it may not quite be demo worthy, it's very enjoyable and successfully supports the terrifying experience.

Extras: :3stars:
  • Audio Commentary With Eli Roth, Eric Newman, and Tom Bliss
  • Audio Commentary With Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian, and Louis Herthum
  • Audio Commentary: A Witness to an Exorcism
  • A Protection Prayer
  • Real Stories of Exorcism
  • The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism
  • Audition Footage of Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Caleb Landry Jones and Louis Herthum
  • Trailers
  • BD Touch and LG Live enabled
  • DVD and iTunes Digital Copy of the movie
Patrick Fabian's character is so dynamic .Try to understand that he's not just playing your typical reverend who's lost his faith. He's playing a reverend who's lost his faith, and is also trying to convince Louis that what he's doing is real while simultaneously showing a documentary camera that he's a fraud. Truly remarkable. If for some reason, you find Cotton to be unrealistic, watch Fabian's Audition Footage in the special features and see if his performance doesn't help convince you.

Overall: :4stars:
To purchase or not? To view or not? Well, the second question is much easier to answer. The Last Exorcism is chock-full of fantastic and groundbreaking acting performances (Fabian and Bell in particular) as well as plenty of scream-out-loud horror scenes. The film seems to blindside the exorcism movie stereotype with a very unique concept that very convincingly tries portray exorcism as a fraud. Obviously influenced by maybe more than a half dozen other movies, The Last Exorcism seems to take all those pieces and use them successfully without sacrificing the integrity of the unique story. So, without question, and definitely if you're a fan of the horror genre and religious horror sub-genre, I'd highly recommend you watch this movie. But, since movie endings can sometimes totally ruin a movie experience for some people, I can completely understand why some may not agree with my assessment based solely on their interpretation of the ending. So, for that reason, I also highly recommend you watch before you buy. That said, since horror movies tend to have high replay value, if you enjoyed the movie you should find it's a must-own.

Your AV bookmarks include:
Exorcism- 29:10
Sounds like two voices- 57:30
The Barn- 1:04:54


259 Posts
This movie from the trailer looked scary as hell, no pun intended. That stuff gives me the creeps. I mean who says it can't be real? Any how a great review - as usual. I liked how you "described" the ending too.
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