Film Reviews


By • Aug 21st, 2010 •

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Clever and makes you believe.

I just returned from my yearly ayahuasca retreat, this time at Tierra Vida Healing in Pucallpa, Peru. Among the books I brought along was Interview with an Exorcist: An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance by Fr. José Antonio Fortea.

I have a complete library on exorcism and THE LAST EXORCISM is not about the Catholic Church’s highly regulated rite. It is set in the American Bible Belt.

As Michael W. Cuneo writes in American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty, the cultural phenomenon that is an essential part of neo-Pentecostal communities in the U.S., is “generally referred to as a “deliverance ministry.” In the process, exorcism was converted from a rare and forbidding procedure into a kind of suburban home remedy.”

“Suburban home remedy” is the premise of THE LAST EXORCISM. God-fearing hillbillies are scared of demons and need carnival ministers to pluck those devils from their swollen bellies.

At the beginning of the free promotional screening, producer Eli Roth asked us to work for him promoting the movie through Twitter, promising some of us would have our quotes in ads for the movie. If we make the movie a huge success, will Roth send us all a free pass to his next movie?

It is okay if Roth does not want to spend triple the movie’s budget on publicity, but I say, “Eli, give back to your fans.” Being rich isn’t enough, now Eli wants an army to call on to do his bidding. I love Roth’s movies, but I resent being asked to be a foot soldier on a forced march.

THE LAST EXORCISM doesn’t need any viral campaign. It’s a good movie.

Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been a fire and brimstone preacher since he was ten-years-old. He knows all the tricks of the trade. When a child dies in a botched exorcism, Marcus decides to have a documentary crew film him doing a real exorcism. It will show all the stage magic hokum that allows folks to believe a demon is being released from their bodies.

Marcus belittles the God-fearing nincompoops who believe they are possessed but, as he says, he’s got bills to pay. He is a jaded fraud. He picks a letter at random and off they go. Marcus’s film crew consists of Iris (Iris Bahr) and an unseen cameraman.

Farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) believes his daughter is possessed by the Devil. His livestock is being killed nightly. Sweetzer is certain his home-schooled daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed. He’s still grieving over the death of his wife and, Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones), his son, is aggressively against the preacher’s intrusion into their lives. It is a deeply troubled family.

Marcus does his song-and-dance, takes his money, and leaves. Later that night, Nell comes to his motel room, and back they go. Now Nell starts exhibiting real demonic possession but Marcus still thinks a shrink should be called. The girl needs to be medicated.

The screenwriters, Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, certainly did their homework and it is an intelligent screenplay. I know a very experienced “depossession” minister working in Arkansas. There are rarely “frauds” working in this field. Most ministers believe in demons – whether they have seen one or not.

Credit needs to be given to the casting of Fabian. He’s perfect in an authoritarian, charming way. He is clearly at the center of THE LAST EXORCISM and easily makes several emotional transitions. I, on the other hand, sided with the hidden cameraman – as soon as things started getting hairy, I would have given the camera to Iris, jumped in the van, and headed down the road.

Director Daniel Stamm did a terrific job on the slim budget and sets the right pace. He also handles the cast of unknowns with a strong, confident hand.

The movie, all POV, is a challenge and Stamm and the writers handle it in a clever, interesting way. The audience is watching and if there is any cheating, we see it. Luckily, the filmmakers easily establish their skill and deliver a smart horror movie.

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One Response »

  1. Congratulations on over 500 reviews.
    Is there an award for such an achievement?
    (Hey Roy, Monetary Awards are most appreciated.)

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