THE LAST EXORCISM By Gary Murray Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum and Iris Bahr Directed by Daniel Stamm Written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland Running time 87 min MPAA Rating PG-13 Selig Film Rating Cable There is this new style of film making that was made popular by The Blair Witch Project. The style consists of making a film feel like a documentary, with bouncing camera work and no tripod to keep the acting fixed. It has been used in Clover field, Paranormal Activity and to a lesser degree The Green Zone. I guess that the moving camera is to give the film an 'in the moment' beat. The latest to use the technique is the horror flick The Last Exorcism. The film is of the Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian). He is a former kid preacher from Southern Louisiana who has been passing down the world of God to congregations for a number of years. As he explains what he does, one gets the feeling that he is a man who has lost the faith, spewing words that he himself does not believe, more an entertainer than a man of God. His father is also a pastor and the elder man has focused his work with exorcism, removing demons from the bodies of victims. Dad has a very old tome that tells the identity all the cast out demons and how to defeat them. Cotton believes that there are no demons and that the entire exercise known as the rite of exorcism is much more curing a mental disorder than casting out demons from the unwilling. Cotton has decided to hang up the racket of exorcism but wants the film crew to document the last one, just to show how it is done. Cotton decides to answer the letter of Lewis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) a widowed father who suspects his youngest child Nell (Ashley Bell) has been taken over by an evil spirit. As Cotton and the crew make their way to the farm, they come across Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) a kid with a chip on his shoulder who warns the Reverend to stay away. We soon discover that Caleb is Nell's brother. Cotton meets with the family and senses that something is amiss with the young girl. He performs the exorcism, using a prop cross and various little stage tricks. Caleb, in an aside, busts Cotton letting the Reverend know what a fraud the man is. That night, Nell shows up at Cotton's hotel room, wild and screaming. Cotton has no idea how she knew where he was staying. This little discrepancy leads Cotton and the crew back to the Sweetzer farm and to a conclusion that Cotton doesn't expect. I hate this style of film-making because it makes me nauseous. I've watched documentaries for years and they never have this style of amateurism. The bouncing camera doesn't make the film feel frightening, just irritating. Maybe I'm getting to old to enjoy this style but all I get is motion sickness from a film like The Last Exorcism never actual frights. Director Daniel Stamm would have made a more effective film if he just would have let the camera sit still on a solid surface. As much as I hated the production of the film, I loved some of the performances. Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer is a perfect mix of innocence and ostracism needed for the role. She changes every aspect of her physicality on a dime, giving a performance that is both chilling and honest. Patrick Fabian does a fine job as Cotton Marcus, the lost soul who never realizes that he is lost until it is too late. He gives a realistic reading to his minister, a logical person thrown into an illogical situation. The rest of the Sweetzer clan comes from central casting Hell. We've seen these characters in about a billion movies. They bring nothing new to the show, no break-through characterization. Iris Reisen has a very underwritten role as our film-maker. She just reacts to each scene, never giving a solid acting job with the material. If you have seen Rosemary's Baby, you've seen The Last Exorcism, following the latter almost beat for beat. Blend that little 1970's gem with the other 1970's scare fest The Exorcist and you have this film. I would say to wait and see the film on television rather than at a theater, the smaller screen and the ability to pause can save more than a few lunches that The Last Exorcism will bring-up. If you go to the theater to see this just don't forget the Dramamine.
Written ByGary Murray
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