An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

>The Last Exorcism

>

I love horror movies. So much so that I think I’ve seen too many. I’m hard to impress anymore, there’s no doubting that. I can see a scare coming a mile away and find it hard to get involved in the film because I’m listening for the tell-tale music crescendo or waiting for the obligatory “first scare is always a cat in the cupboard” moment. But now and again, a movie comes along that’s pretty well made, with decent characters and I’m impressed again. The Last Exorcism is almost one of those films.

    Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a preacher and exorcist of impeccable ability but has lost his faith (like in the Exorcist). He now reverts to showmanship and tricks to ‘heal’ people of psychological problems that manifest as demonic possession. He agrees to let a film crew follow him on his final assignment before he retires to help them prove that possession is as phoney as he is.

All together now: “The power of Christ compels you!”
    Fabian plays a brilliant character, totally likeable and funny so that you actually feel for the poor guy when the poop hits the windmill. In a horror movie culture that’s come to regard character development as a waste of time, this movie is a welcome return to the old days of character first and scares later. The same goes for the ‘possessed’ girl, Nell (Ashley Bell) and her father, Louis (Louis Herthum); both are acted exceptionally.
    Cotton maintains for the entirety of the film that Nell is in dire need of psychological support and his attempts to get her real medical assistance is the most believable and heroic part of the movie. Of course, Nell starts to manifest some strange symptoms such as literally bending over backwards to please her demonic hi-jacker. Daniel Stamm, a director with few credits to his name thus far, does a brilliant job of using the POV style without making it jarring. If you were expecting another Paranormal Activity, this isn’t it. Wait for the sequel instead. The documentary style is executed so well you’ll barely notice it’s happening. And the Exorcist pastiche is done brilliantly, throwing you into that final scene early in this movie so you don’t know where it could go next.


Nell practices for the Hardcore Twister Championship 2010

    Now, the downside? There has to be something, and there is. The end sucks harder than my granny with a Worther’s Original. You won’t hear me say this often, but this film needs an extra fifteen minutes. It’s rushed to the point that it jars, and not in a good way. It leaves you wondering what just happened, but not like Inception. The fact that the story ends up resembling Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that Cotton walks into the fire to battle the demon, and the cameraman runs away before you see anything actually happen. Nell is left tied to a table, her father is blindfolded and strung to a post, Cotton is walking into the fire with faith reaffirmed and his crucifix held high, and the other two just die. Really quickly. Instantly, in fact. It sucks. If you’re going to as far as have a proper demon-battling ending, at least let us see Cotton die. At least let Nell find the camera and escape. How does the tape ever reach civilisation so we can all see it? We have no idea because the last thing we see, it’s in the hand of a Satanist. The believability runs through excellently until the last minute of film where everything happens and nothing at all.
    Oh, and the scariest bits of the movie are in the trailer. Shame that.
    But that’s it. The only downsides. If this turns out to have alternate endings like Paranormal Activity did, we could be on to a winner.
    I’d still suggest watching it for the performances and well executed possession acrobatics. Just wait until the Cotton-in-the-fire scene and then close your eyes until the credits.

6/10
“Damn Hollywood’s inability to end a film!”

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