[Movie Review] The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism is a 2010 found footage movie starring Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell.

As far as found footage excuses go, The Last Exorcism has a fairly solid one: the main character, Cotton Marcus, is a disenchanted Reverend who has been faking exorcisms his entire life. After a crisis of faith when his newborn son is narrowly saved from death, followed several years later by the neglectful homicide of a young boy during another preacher's exorcism, he decides to make a biography about the reality of exorcism. So at least when he records the local yokels of Ivanwood, Louisiana, it's not just because of an inexplicable fetish for recording his entire life.

And there are some colorful characters in Ivanwood. It's one of those backwoods towns where there's religion, superstition, and urban legend as far as the eye can see; when interviewed, the citizens are eager to explain the town's local "gates to Hell", the Satanic cult operating in secret nearby, and even the alien crash site that Marcus was just joking about when he posed the question.

But at its core, The Last Exorcism is a "Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane" horror story, and as the plot progresses, it's clear that the story--and its main character--favors the mundane explanation. According to Marcus, Nell Sweetzer, whose father thinks she is possessed by the devil himself, is merely a mentally ill young woman, suffering a psychotic break after two years of almost complete isolation and strict religion following her mother's death from cancer.

I won't spoil the ultimate conclusion for you--whether it all turns out to be Nell's psychosis or an actual supernatural entity--at least not in this review. In my review of the sequel, you will be resoundingly spoiled for this movie. So if you don't want to know how this one ends, you'll want to avoid that review... and the trailer.

However, if you are going to watch this movie, there's something you need to know: The movie contains a scene in which a cat is bludgeoned to death with the camera. I cannot tell you how graphic this scene is or isn't, as I skipped past it when I watched the movie. I have zero interest in seeing that shit, and I am downright sickened at and baffled by its inclusion. It had no bearing on the plot whatsoever and was never mentioned again after it occurred. It is very obvious that the only reason the scene was included was to offend and upset people. I am not amused.

If you cut that scene from the movie, however, whether by actually splicing it from your digital copy or simply fast-forwarding/skipping over it, it's not a bad paranormal horror movie. Perhaps it's just me being weird, but I thought there were a lot of interesting nuances to the plot that give one room to reflect on the nature of Nell's experience, her motives and/or the demon's motives, and what exactly went on when the camera wasn't there to record. The very last few seconds of the movie in particular throw a lot of the plot into a whole different light compared to my original impression of what happened, and I really love that. I was genuinely surprised by that final reveal, and I found quite a bit of entertainment in batting about theories of my own. (Did I mention I'm weird?)

So while I do want everyone to please heed that warning up there, The Last Exorcism is a fairly interesting movie to check out.

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