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Awesome: 17.95%
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Average: 25.64%
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Total Crap: 5.13%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Last Exorcism, The
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by Erik Childress

"But Hopefully The First Of Many Films For Stamm & Fabian"
4 stars

Once the subgenre of demonic possession in horror films was delivered The Exorcist by William Friedkin, there were very few places for it to go. Direct sequels (and prequels) have been derided over the years and even the most successful attempt (dollar-wise) to recreate that brand of horror, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, devolved into an insulting courtroom debate. Possessed characters will always find their way as obstacles of terror, but the prospect of saving these people were often lost under the assumption that evil had already won and their vessel must be destroyed. Daniel Stamm, who made an impressive debut with the faux documentary, A Necessary Death, about a film crew chronicling a man's willing suicide, now blends that subgenre with horror's toughest nut to crack over the last 25-plus years and when its all over you can't imagine it being done any other way.

Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) was practically born to be a preacher. Taken under the wing of a local minister, he was learning the Bible and giving speeches at the age of eleven. He continues that practice today to an adoring parrish, but is not blind to the more questionable practices of the Church. With a family of his own that includes a handicapped son, he is upset to learn of a recent exorcism that led to the death of a child; a ritual he is aware is pure smoke and mirrors. In hopes of providing a bit of clarity to religious followers everywhere, Cotton has enlisted a documentary crew including producer Iris (Iris Bahr) and a single cameraman to follow him on a random plea to perform an exorcism and expose it as a fraud for good.

The first letter he opens belongs to Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), a widowed farmhand who believes his slaughtered livestock can be attributed to something evil that has taken over his teenage daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell). Her brother, Caleb (Caleb Jones), advises Cotton to turn around and never come back, but he presses on to determine she is a candidate for an exorcism. An amateur magician in his spare time, Cotton brings out all the tricks to convince even Nell, who reportedly has no memory of her nocturnal activities, that a demon is in the room. With the entity apparently vanquished and Cotton paid for his services, the crew return to their hotel in town only that night to find Nell waiting for them.

Part of the structure of stories like this is to turn the non-believer into a believer and that includes the audience. It is also typically where it is easy to lose people with specific faiths. First acts so intent on playing off the impossible as laugh-worthy are just setting us up to allow room for the possibility no matter how far-fetched or bombastic in its approach. Stamm and screenwriters Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland have crafted us a tale and a vessel in Cotton that allows room for both sets of beliefs without cheating the audience by giving us definitive answers. The Last Exorcism is as much a mystery about our faith in religion (and movies) as it is trying to make us squirm in our seats. And the manner in which revelations are introduced do not jerk us into discounting everything but open ourselves up to the real possibility that the con man is the one being conned.

Labeling Cotton as such is unfair to both the character and the manner in which Patrick Fabian portrays. The actor who should be familiar as a guest star on several TV shows (notable to me from Veronica Mars as a corrupt teacher and on Big Love as Bill Paxton’s contentious brother-in-law) plays the role just perfectly with the kind of unforced charm that seduces the average parishioner but a noted wink-wink to the camera that he is aware of his own design. That is not to say that he is out to hurt anyone. Cotton is not out milking dollars for God (despite the generous payout provided by the Sweetzers) nor forcing a hypocritical morality in the face of those who do not ask for his point of view. He understands what people need to hear sometimes even if they are not actually listening and even if it’s all bull there is always good intentions behind it, as when he tries to use a direct line to God to solve a drinking problem and clear even a temporary path for a family.

The Last Exorcism is not without its share of the creeps either and Daniel Stamm knows when to unleash them and how far to take them. Its scenes of terror linger and always provide a reason for Cotton to stick around longer than most ever would. He’s a man that truly does care what happens to Nell and it gives us a stake in his success, whether it be against a demon or everyday, ordinary evils. The final few minutes of the film will be unavoidably a little too Blair Witchy for people and even though the final shot may cause more unanswered groans than that of Inception, it opens up some provocative reflections after you’re done playing devil’s advocate with your head over who ultimately edited the footage. Stamm’s A Necessary Death, which never went much further than the festival circuit, is up there with Cloverfield and George Romero’s Diary of the Dead in the “found footage” genre, but actually captured the aesthetic of an actual documetary better than most that play around with the format. The Last Exorcism preaches Cotton's views of telling his listeners precisely what they need to hear in order to make their days a little better, but leaves us with the very mysteries we have to confront in order to accept the positives we yearn for.

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originally posted: 08/27/10 14:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/12/14 To Rob Gonsalves Demons may avoid foul language because of their excessive pride and need to feel high class 4 stars
9/06/12 Albert Not "The Exorcist" and you get the feeling that they were trying to remake it. Pass. 1 stars
6/11/11 j0n Mediocre but entertaining til the ending, which dropped to a new low in horror-twist idiocy 2 stars
3/27/11 art shades of the Blair witch project,but regardless it was a JEWEL! 4 stars
1/30/11 Charles Tatum Merely good, the docu approach hampers the scares 4 stars
1/06/11 othree Blair Witchy, weak acting, 1970s' ending was a let down, hyped commercials for it. 3 stars
11/18/10 joey johnson Scary as heck, suprise ending. 5 stars
10/01/10 Neil Fletcher Toss on toast. Made 'What lies beneath' look like a good film. One of the worst films I'v 1 stars
9/13/10 David A. Stay with it--it starts slow but builds to an exciting conclusion 4 stars
9/08/10 SteveO Good flick until 2 things ruined - the rip-off ending and the noisy CUNTS in the theater 3 stars
9/02/10 L. Slusarczyk While not as good as the origianl Exorsist it was still rather good. 3 stars
8/30/10 Ronald Holst The original Exeorsist meets with film Blair Witch 2 stars
8/29/10 irbear Quite good 4 stars
8/29/10 Kermit Crissey I thought the acting was weak 2 stars
8/28/10 paul carter Blair witch was better. 3 stars
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  27-Aug-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Jan-2011


  DVD: 04-Jan-2011

Directed by
  Daniel Stamm

Written by
  Andrew Gurland
  Huck Botko

  Patrick Fabian
  Ashley Bell
  Iris Bahr
  Louis Herthum
  Caleb Landry Jones

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