The Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has made a modest living, and a name for himself, performing placebo exorcisms on religious fanatics who believe they have been possessed by demons. Hoping to clear his conscience, Cotton agrees to perform one last holy grift, to be filmed by a documentary crew, in Louisiana, where Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), wants to rid his sweet, innocent daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), of the evil inhabiting her.
Some clever satire during the first act of The Last Exorcism amuses, especially as we know what the arrogant Cotton will soon be facing, and the spooky Louisiana locales assist in setting an uneasy tone. There are some genuine scares amongst the suspense, but the plot suffers from too many competing ideas, none of which we haven’t seen before. And the less said about the climax, the better.
Sometimes it’s best not to know anything about a film before you see it. In this case, I avoided everything but the trailer, which would have one believe that it adds something new to the ‘found footage’ horror movie genre. (It also contains a seemingly important scene that has been exorcised from the final cut; what's up with that?)
But this type of storytelling is starting to grow thin (it's been 11 years since The Blair Witch Project), so it’s necessary each new foray will need some novel idea or satisfying pay-off to keep audiences interested. Unfortunately, obvious intentional shaky camera work, and a jolting, intrusive score detract from the 'reality' the filmmakers were aiming for.
But to the credit of all the actors involved, performances rise above the material, in particular Caleb Landry Jones as Nell’s fiery brother. Ashley Bell, though fine, would have impressed more had Jennifer Carpenter not outdone her (or more accurately, out-screamed and out-flexed her) in The Exorcism Of Emily Rose a few years earlier.
Daniel Hamm, directing on a US$1.8 million budget, has recently scored the job of remaking Martyrs, one of my favourite recent French horror/shockers. I'm assuming he impressed the suits with the strong opening The Last Exorcism received at the US box office and not for the content.
I'd recommend The Last Exorcism for the less demanding horror movie buff and not those for whom the devil is in the detail.