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I've been reading the reviews and felt the need to clarify a few things
in case you're reading these reviews, debating whether or not to see
1. It is not the worst horror film ever. People who say something like that obviously have not seen enough horror films to know the worst ones. By no means is this movie a revolutionary breakthrough that will reinvigorate the horror genre, but the film does a good job at making a decent exorcism movie documentary-style.
2. The video camera shaking is not that bad. Yes, it shakes, but that's the style of the movie. Get over it. If you don't like that style at all and are always made sick by it, don't see it.
3. To say the ending was ambiguous and left people missing the themes of the movie and therefore a bad choice is also a bit ridiculous. If you saw the movie Inception and still loved it despite the "ambiguous" feeling the film left you with and the obsessive pondering over what actually happened in the last dreams sequence then you can't complain at this ending which was NO WHERE near as complex. If you take a few minutes to work it out (talk amongst your friends if need be), the ending is not ambiguous at all.
4. The filmmakers themselves never claim that this is actual footage. So stop worrying about "how they found the camera footage" in the first place. The filmmakers made a work of fiction, and I'm sure they hope their audience understands this.
I can't deal with all the critiques, but to comment on the films good qualities:
It does add a few different takes on the "classic" form of an exorcism film such as the documentary-style, the characters, and particularly the ending.
As far as scariness, you have to understand the nature of what makes a good exorcism horror and good documentary horror: the "sluggish build up" (as many juvenile critics have termed it) is everything. What makes these movies great is that you, for a while, forget you're in a horror movie and start to believe you're watching real events unfold. You can split hairs over how long the film needs to convince you that these people and situations are real but without it you have no movie, or no good exorcism/documentary horror film. With it's slower (I wouldn't use sluggish) beginning the film hopes to sincerely connect you with the characters and believable setups so that when bizarre events do occur you are more likely to (sincerely) accept them and be frightened by them. No, the movie was not overwhelming scary. It doesn't go for cheap jump out moments (maybe once or twice) or CGI animations of demons popping out everywhere. But it does deliver a more realistic approach to child possession than most of its predecessors, which is pretty scary.
The ending is definitely a big moment for people's final judgment of the film, because it goes in such a different direction from what the rest of the film points too. But as stated before it is not ambiguous. All I will say is keep an open mind, and realize that this film though documentary-styled is still a work of fiction (again, as stated before). It took me a few moments to adjust once the ending was over, but after some thought I didn't mind the twist. Could it have been better? Definitely. Am I outraged? No. The film makers just wanted to produce something a little different than the expected exorcism ending. Perhaps the biggest upset of the ending is that it detracts from majority of the film's atmosphere of realism.
If you ARE a fan of exorcism movies and movies like the Blair Witch Project or even horror movies in general, The Last Exorcism is a good watch to satisfy your boredom and keep you entertained for an hour and a half, especially if you understand and like the construct of "sluggish build up" and if you have a few extra bucks that you're looking to spend.If your looking for a horror movie that will revive the horror genre for our time, this isn't it. But the film isn't trying to be the next big name in horror, so my rating is based off of the intentions of the film itself. Overall, the movie did it's job in being mildly original, having great acting (considering that this is in fact a lower-budget horror movie), in staying true to the genre, and in delivering an engaging story.
Saw this as a preview in London.
I do not blame any of my fellow reviewers here for slamming this down as the worst horror film. Indeed it is, if you watch this expecting to be scared out of your wits.
But this is not that film. The marketing for this movie, though brilliant, is criminally misleading.
This is a movie with a very clever spin on the normal exorcist fare. What this turns out be is a fascinating suspense drama using exorcism as a narrative tool.
I found the script to be very clever and entertaining. The main lead actor who plays the reverend is very charismatic and carries the whole movie. Admittedly, the movie would be half of what it is without his performance. The other actors, particularly the teenage victim who maybe possessed by a demon, are very good too.
What I didn't like most is the very end. It felt tacked on for the sake of living up to its misleading marketing. I can honestly say that if the film ended 10 minutes earlier, I would have been totally satisfied with a complete film and was ready for the credits.
However, there are attempts to make you jump out of your seat but unfortunately, these moments are too copy cat of the techniques used in Sixth Sense and similar. It may be effective to some but I feel it could have been done better and hence live up to the marketing hype after all! But those are small negatives. This is a movie very much worth watching, if you don't hate mockumentary style films. Lower your expectations, ignore the marketing and just enjoy a clever suspense drama. If you jump a few times, then think of it as a bonus.
Ambiguity is a powerful tool for a writer, filmmaker, or any creative
person. But there's a fine line between ambiguity and lazy
storytelling. The Last Exorcism, unfortunately, makes use of the
latter. The film poses many questions but doesn't feel the need to
answer most of them, meaning at the end of the film, the audience isn't
so much pondering the themes of religious doubt and the adverse effects
of shame so much as wondering what the hell just happened.
The lack of clarity is only made more frustrating by the overly shaky handy-cam cinematography. I normally enjoy this mode of filmmaking, and it was proved to be effective for horror films in last year's phenomenal breakout Paranormal Activity, but Daniel (the cameraman) has a bit too shaky of a hand for the style to work well here. I actually got a headache from some of the later, jumpier scenes.
It's a shame the film meanders to such a laughable conclusion, because it starts with such promise. The first half hour or so is surprisingly funny, effectively parodying the genre (specifically exorcism-based horror films) and presenting a religious slant to the proceedings that makes things interesting initially but ultimately seems cheap and even stupid. Two fine performances from Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell are wasted as the material goes from subtly self-reflexive to blatantly generic. The horror that unfolds along the way rarely generates any real scares, settling instead for bursts of weirdness, cheap jumps, and ultimately, an unattractive mixture of stupidity and discomfort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cotton Marcus is a minister who performs fake exorcisms for money.
Raised by his reverend father, he has been doing this since he was a
child, but he has come to question his faith or whether he ever even
truly had any at all. After reading about a kid who died during a
botched exorcism, Cotton decides to have a film crew document his final
fake exorcism in an attempt to prove what a farce the whole thing is
and prevent others from dying. The subject of the exorcism is Nell
Sweetzer, a teenage girl who lives with her father and brother in rural
Louisiana. Things don't go as planned.
I am incredibly fond of the hand-held sub-genre of horror that has become increasingly popular over the last decade. With the exception of "The St. Francisville Experiment", I have yet to see one that I've outright hated. Even George Romero's heavily maligned "Diary of the Dead" wasn't horrible, though I did find it a disappointing effort overall. For me, the first person point of view works like a charm in creating a more intimately frightening atmosphere. "The Last Exorcism" proves to be yet another example of this. The backwoods Louisiana locations are eerie enough to begin with, but they're further magnified by the first person style. What we see is never said to be found footage either, so the presence of a music score and the varying camera angles didn't bother me. I just see it as a film seen from the viewpoint of a documentary crew's camera, not as if it were someone's found footage being shown to me.
"The Last Exorcism" doesn't jump right into it's horror, as it spends a fair amount of time on character development. That's always refreshing, especially since the horror genre is so often devoid of it. It's also of particular importance here, as Cotton's character arc really pays off in the end. The image of him walking towards the flames, cross raised, has been burned into my mind since watching this film. It's a potent moment, all the more so due to the story's focus on character building. The acting is also most impressive, and there isn't a bad performance in the bunch. Patrick Fabian truly reminded me of an actual preacher in spite of his character's stance for most of the picture. Ashley Bell was also fantastic as the girl possessed, while Iris Bahr gives the film's most underrated performance as one of the documentarians. Louis Herthum does well as Nell's father, but the fluctuations in his character bothered me. He seemed to jump from one conclusion to another too quickly, and the scene of him chasing the crew around the house with his shotgun felt awkward. The writing for his character was my main issue with the film.
When the horror does show up, it's of the more subdued variety. Daniel Stamm focuses his film's scares more on the unnerving mood of the wooded area and the religious themes. Like the characters, the mood is allowed to build. The exorcism scene in the barn isn't as over-the-top as one might expect, which is frankly something that I appreciated. The lack of outlandish effects and ridiculous hysterics was a plus rather than a minus. The quiet, understated form of horror is almost always more effective than an in your face approach. As for the ending, I'm firmly in the camp of being all for it. It was a wonderful little throwback to all the devil cult pictures of the 70's, and it's clearly hinted at throughout the film. As mentioned earlier, it also brings Cotton's character arc to it's pinnacle, leading to that haunting shot foretold by Nell's drawing. Aside from the 70's cult influence, you can also see shades of both "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cannibal Holocaust" in the ending.
I must admit that I didn't expect much out of this one. It flew under my radar for a good while, but I'm pleased to say that it wound up being a welcome highlight in a year that has been quite weak for the horror genre.
Taking the pulse of a horror-loving film community in 2010, "The Last
Exorcism" is like a document of pop culture history in its mix of
marketing and aesthetics. Trying to out-Paranormal-Activity "Paranormal
Activity 2" this Halloween will be a genuine challenge for the Eli Roth
produced film, but the fauxumentary's premise does have a few genuine
thrills and chills going for it, making it a decent double-bill
screening for game fans of the genre. Appropriating the best narrative
and visual tropes from its direct influences, namely "Marjoe", "The
Exorcist" and even the recent "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" in how it
wrenches out a mystery element, director Daniel Stamm uses the newly
fresh-again format of documented horror to elevate the drama inherent
in an exorcism's taut chamber piece setting. There is a good chance
here of being firmly disturbed, if you let the film take you where it
wants to take you.
Armed with a genial personality and powerful charisma, Louisiana's Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) goes around the country performing fake exorcisms on the believing. Tired of his lifestyle, he enlists a filmmaker, Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr) and her unseen cameraman (Adam Grimes) to document his final foray into the fraud as he prepares a venture into real estate after a personal tragedy. Following the reverend's exposé on the sham rituals of exorcisms, the film crew finds the beginnings of a real case of demonic possession in Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), a shy and gentle girl with a shotgun-toting, fundamentalist father (Louis Herthum) worried about the dark and heinous things occurring on the farmhouse.
Fabian's depiction of the Reverend is terrific fun. He brings out so much of the character that it only enlivens the film and makes it feel all too real while newcomer Bell also shows some strong chops (and flexible limps) for this genre. The film takes its settings seriously and Stamm builds the foundation cleverly and patiently for powerfully unsettling moments. There's a good sense about the screenplay -- not exceedingly smart for its good but not too detached from its conceit that the illusion is never broken. The single perspective thorough the documentarian's lenses helps focus the story into the visceral and direct scenes of terror, almost taking on a life of its own. While the story does tend to falter till the end, the strength of its conviction to juggle the various layers apparent makes its intrigue palpable.
While never being a thrill-a-minute fright-fest on the level of "Rec 2", "The Last Exorcism" is a sophisticated and confident manipulation of the format is a treat. Its mockumentary aesthetics are refined and brought into fruition well enough to tell a tale of faith and disbelief, the unknown and unknowable darkness that exists beyond our rationalities.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the evangelical Reverend Cotton Marcus
(Patrick Fabian) was raised by his father to be a preacher. He agrees
that the filmmaker Iris Reisen (Iris Bahr) and the cameraman Daniel
Moskowitz (Adam Grimes) make a documentary about his life. Cotton tells
that when her wife Shanna Marcus (Shanna Forrestall) had troubles in
the delivery of their son Justin (Justin Shafer), he prioritized the
doctor help to God and since then he questions his faith. Further, he
tells that exorcisms are frauds but the results are good for the
believers because they believe it is true. When Cotton is summoned by
the farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) to perform an exorcism in his
daughter Nell (Ashley Bell), Cotton sees the chance to prove to the
documentary crew what he has just told. They head to Ivanwood and they
have a hostile reception from Louis's son Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones).
Cotton performs the exorcism in Nell, exposing his tricks to the
camera, but sooner they learn that the dysfunctional Sweetzer family
has serious problems.
"The Last Exorcism" is a good movie that follows the same style of "The Blair Witch Project", "Cloverfield", "(Rec)", "(Rec2)" and "Paranormal Activity"), with a hand-held camera simulating a documentary. The acting is very realistic but unfortunately the poor conclusion ruins the ambiguity of the good story. Anyway I liked this film, specially the great performances of Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Último Exorcismo" ("The Last Exorcism")
It's not a remake, thank god, it surprises me why this movie as a score
of 5.9 ! This is one of the best movies of 2010 and one of the best
mockumentaries ever made.
The concept is well executed and the story is interesting, there are plot twist, that i am not going to spoil it.
Is this better than "The Exorcist" ? don't know what to answer. Is this better than "Paranormal Activity" ? INDEED !!!!!. Is this boring like most of the PG-13 "Horror movies" ? No wait.....how the hell this movie was PG-13 ?!?!?!? the atmosphere is too "scary" and there are a few "shock" moments, even some thematic elements in the plot are too inappropriate for a "PG-13",
Ignore the all the negative comments here, watch it and be surprised ! Good work Daniel Stamm, 2 thumbs up on your work and thank you Eli Roth, for having supported a original horror movie !
The whole setup here is that we have a professional actor - paid to put
on shows about fire and brimstone - who will need to discern over the
course of the film who is putting on the show he finds himself in. A
film crew is turning this into a movie, presumed to reveal hidden
mechanisms that move spectators. Turns out something else is
controlling the thing and moving parts we thought we knew all about and
possibly us. This will test his mettle as a showman himself, let's say
his faith in the healing power of his act (art?). Is the girl acting
out some repressed sexual trauma? Is the father, at the same time
covering his tracks with Jesus babble? Or is the demon, the great
trickster? (a mild problem here is that, the film being what it is, we
never really wonder, do we?)
This is excellent stuff and could have worked as more than horror. Indeed, until the last part horror is intermittent here. Our focus is on juggling one show as part of another while getting to decide which one horrifies more. The choice for 'found footage' is one of the better applications I've seen in terms of structure; it means we have one more show running behind the other two, and one that we use to look for the real root of horror. There are many dramatic shots in the flow, but we can chalk these to the presence of a professional cameraman.
The ending has been reported as problematic. Oh, it is graphic but in ways that have become a staple in films dealing with some extraordinary demonic darkness; Polanski, Rosemary as well as Ninth Gate, the Hammer shocker The Devil Rides Out, Night of the Demon, recently Drag me to Hell. Many viewers bemoan the revelation and tend to prefer the whole thing coated in whispers and rumors. Fair point.
It works for me because it allows us to recast evil as another staged trick. Another group of people are brought in at the last moment to enact a show, the real deal this time. Real fire and brimstone. Death comes as storyboarded earlier.
If you're interested in the scam priest angle, it's only a light-hearted jab at faith here. Watch Marjoe for a more chilling portrait, the '72 documentary on the "World's Youngest Ordained Minister".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Last Exorcism" amounts to something more than the abysmal "Blair
Witch Project." This above-average, 87-minute, Lionsgate release
doesn't rely entirely on wobbly camera movements for its impact. Indie
Teutonic director Daniel Stamm lenses the action as if it were a
straight-forward documentary. Meantime, a sense of irony permeates this
unobtrusive epic that isn't entirely apparent on initial viewings. The
chief difference between "The Last Exorcism" and "The Blair Witch
Project" is its sophistication that I missed when I saw it the first
two times. Stamm employs the cinema vérité camera style when he wants
you on the edge of your seat. Mind you, nothing scary happens up front.
Audiences who crave blood and gore may feel cheated. Just when you
think you might see something bloodcurdling, Stamm cuts away to a
reaction shot of people looking at what you want to see. Any shots in
"The Last Exorcism" that would have required blood and gore as well as
slashed up body parts were omitted. In one scene, the demon-possessed
girl kills an angry white cat, and its remains look like a heap of
bloody rags. Rated PG-13, "The Last Exorcism" uses the single-camera
approach to accentuate its suspense and the tension. Nevertheless,
Stamm spawns a surfeit of suspense and tension by playing it cool. "The
Last Exorcism" does pale by comparison with the mother of all exorcism
movies "The Exorcist" and lacks a tenth of "The Exorcist's" impact.
Meantime, Stamm and his scribes create some genuinely creepy atmosphere
in the remote backwoods settings where "The Last Exorcism" occurs and
many of the home-grown performers are convincing, especially Patrick
Fabian as a minister who is having a crisis of faith. This one point
eight million dollar film was a success, earning over $40 million
Indeed, "Broken Condom" scenarists Huck Botka and Andrew Gurland establish the character of the protagonist, Reverend Cotton Marcus of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a sympathetic fellow who wants to expose exorcism as a scam. In Cotton's own words, he doesn't want to read about another unfortunate adolescent dying because an exorcist wrapped a bag around the child's head in his zeal to oust a demon. Cotton (Patrick Fabian of "Must Love Dogs"), has been preaching since he was knee high to a pulpit. He comes from a long family line of preachers who also served as exorcists. His father, Reverend John Marcus (John Wright, Jr. of "Waiting Room"), has performed 150 exorcisms, and Cotton carried out his first exorcism when he was age ten. Cotton's father owns a 'who's who' of all the demons. He keeps this vintage leather-bound volume written in Latin locked up in an office safe. Nevertheless, Cotton isn't entirely happy with his career as an exorcist and he wants to atone. Like the religious figures in all exorcist movies, Cotton is wrestling with his conscience about what he has done in the name of God. Cotton confides in us that exorcisms are more popular now than ever. He brandishes a newspaper article about an exorcist academy that the Vatican has instituted to help combat the scarcity of exorcists. Cotton has a pile of exorcism requests stacked up on his desk. He selects an 'urgent' letter at random. A single-parent, Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum of "In the Electric Mist") of Ivanwood, Louisiana, who believes his 16-year-old daughter, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell of "The Truth about Angels"), is afflicted with demonic possession. Of course, Cotton thinks all the poor girl is suffering from is schizophrenia. Louis shows Cotton a disemboweled cow in his barn. When Cotton talks to Nell, he finds some disturbing artwork, but he believes he can handle this case with relative ease.
Unfortunately, Reverend Marcus finds himself in a bigger predicament. Initially, he conducted an exorcismthat he faked with a magician's finesseand everything went off without a hitch. Nell recovered. Cotton counted Lewis' money. Cotton and his camera crew left the premises to spend the time in a motel. Cotton didn't tell the Sweetzers where they were checking in for the night. Imagine Cotton's surprise when Nell shows up at their motel. He carries Nell to the local hospital, and they discover Nell is pregnant. When Louis learns the truth, he swears that a demon has raped his virgin daughter. Earlier, Louis' oddball son, Caleb Sweetzer (Caleb Landry Jones of "No Country for Old Men"), had told Cotton that his father was a drunkard. Predictably, Cotton suspects Louis may have raped his daughter. Meantime, Louis demands that Cotton perform another exorcism. Louis is fully prepared to kill his own daughter with a shotgun to save her immortal soul if Cotton refuses. Cotton and his camera crew find Nell's latest art work, and the unseen photographer doesn't like the idea that he is depicted in the picture as a man without a head. At this point, things really begin to twist and turn.
The genius of "The Last Exorcism" lays in its superb sense of irony. The first-act is flawless as we watch Cotton prepare his charade. By the second and third acts, you realize this is more than just another found footage flick and that Cotton is battling more than simple superstition. This movie wallows in its own sense of irony because Cotton refuses to believe in demons. Since he rejects demons, Cotton has lost his faith. Indeed, he presents an expose of his own exorcism and demonstrates how he uses a sound system to frighten his clients. A local minister and his obese wife serve as comic relief, but "The Last Exorcism" doesn't conjure up many laughs because it is so powerful. Stamm knows how to generate suspense, without calling attention to his real agenda. This chiller boils down to a compelling an expose about a non-believer who confronts the reality of a world he abhors. "The Last Exorcism" succeeds as a memorable exercise of terror because the filmmakers shun blood and gore so we cannot take our eyes off the exorcism.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The only saving grace of this movie is that the majority of the actors
gave it their all and pulled off great individual performances
considering what they were given to work with. Don't get me wrong, the
ensemble did not work cohesively in the film at all.
Like many of you have already seen, the previews to this movie are misleading, making this look like an attempt at an old school horror flick. The story is original, in that Pastor Marcus is "filming this documentary in an attempt to expose exorcism for the scam that it is", but finds a genuine demonic possession. There was no need to 'trick' film-goers by making the previews this way; it just sets them up for disappointment.
Personally, I was completely surprised at the beginning of the film, in a good way; it seemed that I was going to get an original story line! But alas, I was setting my hopes too high. Predictable "twists" came one after another, and 30 minutes into the film, I had it figured out.
The film never developed an even pace, and certain elements became increasingly frustrating by the end of the movie, for instance, the "cameraman" only using the camera's light a third of the time it would have been appropriate for him to do so; the shaky-cam "found footage" technique executed without any originality; and the fact that this film had a musical score all killed the escapism, keeping me from believing a minute of the story.
I'm not even going to bring up the details of the ridiculous excuse of an ending. I had hoped Eli Roth would have tried something other than the "doesn't make any sense and takes everything away from the film" ending that effects every movie he's attached to, but even as a producer, the ending has his fingerprints all over it.
Mr. Roth, you owe us all more. Get back to Cabin Fever - you showed so much potential, and yet your skills have yet to mature.
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