The media machine has been churning full blast now for The Last Exorcism for over a month. The television commercials have probably caused small children in your household to have night terrors and the more timid adults out there to cover their eyes or have trouble sleeping. The image of Ashley Bell, who plays Nell Sweetzer in the film, bent over backwards the wrong way is probably forever burned into your memory. I’m imagining that the question you’re asking yourself now is “Does the movie really stand up to all the hype?” My answer to you is yes.
First, let’s just get the obvious doubts about this film being an Exorcist rip-off or wannabe out of the way. There’s no head spinning. There’s no crazy-looking fogged-over eyes. There’s no levitation. There’s not 50 different voices bellowing and burping out of the “possessed” at the same time. Everything that you see in the film that Nell, the possibly possessed girl, does could have a believable explanation if you dig deep enough. The whole movie is set up to keep you guessing through it if she really is possessed or just deeply (VERY deeply) disturbed.
The film does a great job of keeping you guessing and wondering what is really going on down at the Sweetzer farm. Screenwriters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland have crafted together a story that leads you in one direction believing that an outcome is on the horizon and then surprising you by taking you down a completely different path in the maze that makes up the journey of the film. You really are left three-quarters of the way through the film still wondering how they’re going to end this thing.
The cinematography in the movie is the shaky-cam documentary style that has been used so often recently with Paranormal Activity, District 9, and other films. Surprisingly, it didn’t push me over the edge into vomit-inducing until the last 10 or 15 minutes of the film. This type of camerawork really added to the atmosphere of the movie. It was especially handy when a character would yell something like “Look over there!” or the equivalent and then the camera would whip quickly to where that person was pointing or looking.
Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marcus couldn’t have played the role of the charlatan preacher better. His preaching and whipping the church congregation into a frenzy at the beginning of the film was equal parts humorous, disturbing, and sad. It showed how letting your emotions lead you really is a dangerous and not always Godly thing. Let me make sure that I let you know that the movie doesn’t try to make Christianity in and of itself look like a sham. It just shows you how money and a person’s need for success can distort their original motivations.
Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer comes across as very sweet and innocent one moment and crazy and rabid the very next. If I didn’t know better, I would think they got an actress with a split personality to play the role. Her actions and body contortions weren’t enhanced with CGI. Everything you see her do was really done, including the contorted backwards body bending that occurs. Apparently, the actress is double-jointed.
Earlier I said that the story leaves you wondering how they’re going to end this film. I wish I could tell you that I was happy with the ending. I don’t really know what I was expecting them to do, but what they did was not what I wanted. The last 10 to 15 minutes of the movie is when the thing in my opinion falls apart. The shaky cam is way out of control and almost caused me to blow chunks. It was just a weird conglomeration of The Blair Witch Project and another movie from the late 60’s that I don’t want to name here because it will ultimately spoil the end for you. Let’s just say that even though there’s only one or two ways that you could end this movie, I was still disappointed in the route they decided to take.
In closing, what you get from The Last Exorcism is a great horror film with a lot of atmosphere instead of the typical gory bloodbath you’ve come to expect from modern movies like this. It’s also the tale of one man’s journey from borderline disbelief to having his faith restored through incredible circumstances. Unfortunately, it also carries a lesson we all end up learning the hard way – you have to be careful who you put your trust in. I know what you’re thinking – “That’s pretty deep stuff for a horror movie.” Yeah, it is. If you’re going to watch the film, though, you should at least think of something positive to take away from it.
Source – Blastr