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  Last Exorcism, The Dis-Possessed
Year: 2010
Director: Daniel Stamm
Stars: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley, John Wright Jr, Shanna Forrestal, Justin Shafer, Carol Sutton, Victoria Patenaude, John Wilmot, Becky Fly, Denise Lee, Logan Craig Reid
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is an evangelical preacher in Louisiana who performs exorcisms as part of his duties, but now a documentary is being made about his life he feels he has to come clean and admit that all of what he does is for show. Ever since his son went through medical difficulties and pulled through, his faith evaporated and he continued being a minister for the money, and for the fact that he was not skilled in anything else, having been taught to preach by his father ever since he was a chlld. So for this final exorcism he is to conduct, he invites the camera crew along...

The Last Exorcism was commonly regarded as a cross between the grandaddy of all exorcism movies, 1973's The Exorcist, and a more recent, but no less influential horror, The Blair Witch Project, from which this took its faux documentary style. Those were valid comparisons, especially as the presence of supernatural forces was something both of those films took for granted, and this initially more cynical tone here was shown to be in the wrong when Cotton gets in over his head with a case that may actually be the genuine article. Not that this was a film which was going to reveal that their sceptic was right all along.

But what this appeared to have been inspired by more than those two was the seventies documentary Marjoe, where the charismatic young evangelist Marjoe Gortner allowed a crew to follow him as he went about his apparently devout histrionics in the church, then in private moments admitted he thought the whole thing was just bullshit designed to fleece the gullible, and that he was getting out of the sermonising business. It was perhaps no coincidence that Gortner began his acting career in movies and television soon after, and writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland seemed to have reacted badly to what they saw as less honest, and more duplicitous.

Hence the plotline here, which took a very Marjoe-like personailty - he even boasts he can get an amen and hallelujah from his mother's banana bread recipe, which he proceeds to do - and put him through the wringer as if to punish him for his hubris. Well played by Fabian, we can see the appeal of this man, but how you react to him depended very much on what side of the religious fence you sat on, and whether you thought he was getting his just desserts or whether you viewed this as another silly horror flick that would do anything for those crucial fright scenes. To the filmmakers' credit, they did work up a neat atmosphere by utilising whatever they had to hand, from the flexibility of the lead actress Ashley Bell to as many loud noises as they could muster.

Bell played Nell Sweetzer, an innocent sixteen-year-old whose father's letter Cotton picks out at random and settles on her case for his final exorcism. Naturally his idea of such a ceremony is one of simple magic tricks and liberal readings from the relevant scripture passages, not any actual calling on the Heavenly Father to cast out any demons, yet after he goes through with it, well, what do you know? Seems it didn't actually work and Nell is as bad as she ever was. Cotton and the two-person crew worry that she is the subject of abuse from either her father or her brother and that is why she is acting so strangely, but what if, we are asked to consider, there really is something devilish going on? As if there was any doubt, yet even as the ending confirms our worst fears, it didn't half seem daft, no matter that it had been fairly well telegraphed. The inclusion of spooky music and sound effects betrayed director Daniel Stamm's intentions: little thought provoking at all, just make 'em jump. Music by Nathan Barr.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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