The Last Exorcism brings audiences as close to a real exorcism as they would ever want to get. When he arrives on the rural Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer, the Reverend Cotton Marcus expects to perform just another routine “exorcism” on a disturbed religious fanatic. An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer has contacted the charismatic preacher as a last resort, certain his teenage daughter Nell is possessed by a demon who must be exorcised before their terrifying ordeal ends in tragedy. Buckling under the weight of his conscience after years of parting desperate believers with their money, Cotton and his crew plan to film a confessionary documentary of this, his last exorcism. Upon arriving at the already blood drenched family farm, it is soon clear that nothing could have prepared him for the true evil he encounters there.
Director Daniel Stamm follows up his 2008 film ‘A Necessary Death’ with this year’s ‘The Last Exorcism’, a documentary type film that follows Reverend Cotton Marcus on his journey to deliver what he considers will be his final exorcism, conducted for a desperate father.
The style of the film sees it fitting alongside previous releases including ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Cloverfield’, and of course ‘Paranormal Activity’. In that context this is a strong entry into the genre, the documentary filmmaking style is well done but doesn’t manage to do anything new, it achieves a nice balance between some shaky handheld filming, yet allowing the audience to have a good understanding of what’s occurring on screen.
The cast all deliver sound performances, particularly Patrick Fabian who really delivers a charismatic reverend in a believable way, it’s easy to understand how a man such as this could build a loyal group of followers. Overall the cast support the documentary feel of the film, giving an unscripted sense around their performances.
The pacing of the film allows for a slow build up of events, with a nice twist of humour early on to bring the audience in and encourage them to relax as they take in the film, after which the events take a dark turn as the suspense builds and makes way for some disturbing reveals. The for the most part the demonic possession and horror aspects are timed well and executed with a build up from the subtle to the not so subtle, delivering some disturbing but what felt to be quite real events.
Unfortunately as the film progresses it started to show more and more signs of a film production and less of a documentary, it felt like a loss of some authenticity as the reliance of music and editing began to dominate more later in the film than it did early on. Moving through the final act similar to the production techniques, the events themselves begin to outgrow their humble beginnings as things become more out of control and the scope of the story grows somewhat exponentially.
There are some good scares and frights delivered throughout, but they aren’t crammed in there, so audiences looking for an unrelenting series of frights may actually find this a little lighter than they would prefer.
Overall however ‘The Last Exorcism’ is a sound entry into the genre, it’s worth a watch for audiences interested in the documentary ‘found footage’ style of film making, or for those interested in the concept of demonic possession, by the end though I felt the film peaked too early and left me feeling a little disappointed with the final act.
I’m giving ‘The Last Exorcism’ 2.5 out of 5 stars, it’s available to see in Australian cinemas from Thursday 25th November, in a limited release so for those interested you may have to seek it out.