The Last Exorcism
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Last Exorcism can be found here.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), an evangelistic preacher with a history of faking exorcisms, has come to realize that many people, including children, are killed during exorcisms performed to drive the devil from their bodies. He decides to perform one more random exorcism on 16-year-old Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) and invites a filming crew along in order to make a documentary of how he is able to trick people into believing his staged exorcisms are real, so that they thereby cure themselves. However, this last exorcism takes a nasty turn.

The Last Exorcism was filmed from a script co-written by screenwriter/film-makers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland. The movie was shot as a mockumentary (mock documentary) with a handheld camera and presented as found footage. It was followed by a sequel, The Last Exorcism Part II (2013).

Earlier in the film, when Cotton talked about the demon Abalam to Nell's father Louis (Louis Herthum), he says that the only way out of possession is death. Consequently, Nell's brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) fears that Louis intends to kill her if the demon cannot be exorcised.

After the first exorcism fails, Cotton also realizes that Louis means to kill Nell in order to save her soul, so Cotton agrees to another exorcism. This time he does it without his stage props.

How Nell found their motel is not explained in the movie, but viewers point out that it wouldn't be difficult. Cotton did tell Louis that they were going to find a motel "up the road", so it is possible that someone like Caleb followed them or that he drove up the road until he found the motel with the crews' blue van in the parking lot. A bigger question is how Nell traversed the five miles to the motel. Was it by supernatural means, did she walk, or did someone like Caleb drop her off? The movie does not provide the answer.

Cotton notices drawings hanging on Nell's bedroom wall. In one of them, Cotton is seen holding up his crucifix and walking toward fire, his producer/director Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr) is chopped to pieces, and cameraman Daniel Moskowitz (Adam Grimes) is beheaded. Nell denies drawing the pictures. However, most viewers believe that she did the drawings but may not remember doing them, suggesting that she had some sort of ESP when in her trance state. Some suggest that the drawings were actually made by Abalam, while others think they may have been drawn by Caleb or by persons already knowing that the filming crew were going to be killed. Another possibility is that they became a self-fulfilling prophecy, such that the drawings directly or indirectly caused things to happen that way.

Abalam (aka Abalim) is a recognized demon in the pantheon of Hell. He is an assistant to Paimon, King of Hell.

Bell actually did the contortions herself, thanks to her years of ballet and natural double-joints.

Several possibilities are mentioned, either in the movie or by viewers. At first, Cotton suspects that Nell may be a victim of incest, probably by her father or brother. Nell says that she had sex with a boy named Logan Winters (Logan Craig Reid), who works in a local coffee shop and turns out to be gay, but Logan denies ever having sex with Nell and admits that he only talked with her for a minute when they were attending a party thrown last summer by Pastor Manley (Tony Bentley). Since Manley told Cotton that the last time he saw Nell was some three years ago, Cotton concludes that Manley was lying, making Manley also suspect. Viewers who accept the fact that Nell was truly possessed by Abalam conclude that Abalam impregnated her, either through rape or possession, or that the baby is Abalam himself. This idea is supported by Cotton's book of demons, which defines Abalam as a "defiler" of young women.

Nell relates the story of how she came to have sex with Logan, but she tells it in the third person, as though someone (i.e., Abalam) is telling the story through her. Either Nell was pretending or it really was Abalam talking, depending upon how you view the movie. In either case, it was necessary to get Cotton and the filming crew out of the house so that the birthing ritual could commence. Consequently, Cotton, Iris, and Daniel, convinced that Nell got pregnant after sex with Logan, start heading for home. Only on a whim do they stop at the coffee shop to speak with Logan and, based on what he tells them, decide to return to the house.

After speaking with Logan and realizing that Pastor Manley was lying about the last time he saw Nell, Cotton and his crew return to the Sweetzer house. No one is there, the phones have been ripped out, and satanic symbols have been painted all over the walls. Hearing some screaming out back, they go looking for Nell. They come upon a large bonfire near which Nell is screaming and writhing on an altar. Louis has been blindfolded and tied to a pole, and a number of people, led by Pastor Manley dressed in a red robe and a hood, are chanting. As Cotton, Iris, and Daniel watch from the trees, Manley's secretary, Becky Davis (Becky Fly), delivers Nell's baby. "That isn't human," Cotton whispers. Manley carries the baby to the bonfire and tosses it in. "Hail Abalam," he says loudly. Instantly, the fire begins to roar and billow upwards. While Iris and Daniel turn tail and run, Cotton grabs his crucifix and races toward the fire, holding it up just as in Nell's picture, and shouting, "Demon, you cannot have this girl!" The Satanists run after Iris and Daniel, one of them hacking at Iris with an axe. Daniel continues to run. In the final scene, Caleb appears, his face bandaged from the knifing. He swings a sickle at Daniel, beheading him. The camera goes dead.

Although Iris and Daniel are killed exactly as predicted in Nell's drawings, the last view of Cotton shows him rushing toward the demon fire holding up his crucifix. Many viewers believe that he died in the fire because one of Nell's drawings shows him with Xs over his eyes, indicating that he is dead. Other viewers point out the possibility that he regained his faith and God successfully helped him to kill the demon. The film's sequel does not adequately explore his ultimate fate, though it does make repeated mention that Nell is the only person to survive the events of the previous film.

Those who view the events in the movie as supernatural in nature believe that the demon baby was tossed into the fire in order to complete its transformation to full size.

The answer to this is up to each viewer's interpretation. Some viewers say that she was indeed possessed and cite as proof things like Nell's contortions, breaking of fingers, speaking Latin, and prescience (ability to foresee the filming crews' deaths) along with the sounds of the crying baby and a man in her room, the comment that the baby "isn't human," and the flareup of the fire among other things. Other viewers feel that there was nothing supernatural about it and that all those things can be explained rationally by pointing to a young girl who has been traumatized by her mother's death and by being raped as well as pointing out the tricks used by Cotton to stage his exorcisms, tricks that could also be employed by the satanists to make everyone believe there really was a demon. For an interesting take on how the cast and crew, including the producers, director, and actors, view the question of Nell's possession, see here.

Yes. Although Victor Turoy, the autistic boy mentioned as being suffocated during an exorcism, was fabricated for the movie, at least 1,000 people from around the world have been killed during exorcisms. In some cases, "exorcism" has been offered as a defense to individuals charged with murder. Learn more about some of these cases here.

Movies that have been recommended by viewers of The Last Exorcism generally fall into three categories: (1) movies about exorcism, (2) movies about demon babies, and (3) movies shot through handheld cameras. When it comes to movies about exorcisms, you can't beat the one that started it all: The Exorcist (1973). The four Exorcist sequels—Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Exorcist III (1990), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005)—vary in intensity but all deal with exorcism in some form. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), An American Haunting (2005), The Unborn (2009), Il medaglione insanguinato (Perche?!) (1975), and The Rite (2011) are also recommended. When it comes to demon babies, most strongly recommended are Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Omen (1976) or its remake The Omen (2006), and The Dunwich Horror (1970). Other movies featuring demon babies include The House of the Devil (2009), End of Days (1999, Blessed (2004), Holocaust 2000 (1977), and Chi sei? (1974). If it's handheld camera movies you're after, try Cloverfield (2008), [Rec] (2007), Quarantine (2008), L'anticristo (1974). Cannibal Holocaust (1980), The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Big Finish (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007), The Last Broadcast (1998), and Grave Encounters (2011).

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