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The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE Exorcist meets Blair Witch in this intriguing and occasionally terrifying horror collaboration between emerging director Daniel Stamm and producer Eli Roth.

In its favour, The Last Exorcism largely eschews the type of gore more synonymous with an Eli Roth production in favour of a slow-burning, more psychological approach that works to its advantage.

The result is as much a character-driven slice of supernatural terror than some people may have been expecting, but one that makes you think and could well stay with you afterwards.

The story follows disillusioned evangelist preacher and ‘exorcist’ Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he decides to participate in a fly-on-the-wall documentary aimed at exposing the con tricks of his demon-busting trade.

Picking out a letter from a poor southern farmer, begging for help in driving evil off his land, Cotton is subsequently confronted by the farmer’s disturbed young daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), and suddenly finds himself facing a race against time to save the girl and conquer his own demons. But is Nell all she seems, or are the forces driving her supernatural or self-imposed?

Stamm, as director, throws in a wonderful ambiguity to proceedings during the middle section of the film that raises serious questions on a human as well as supernatural level. And, in doing so, he draws terrific performances from both the conflicted Fabian and the terrified Bell.

The documentary approach, while hardly original, also works well in creating a suitably authentic ‘this could be real’ feeling, making good use of the Deep South locations and superstitions.

The scenes between Fabian and Bell also work well, especially during the film’s two key exorcisms… providing a sense of unease and uncertainty that also gives rise to one or two ‘jump out of your seat’ scares.

Sadly, the film can’t quite sustain the really high quality of its first two thirds over the entire story, tossing in an ending that’s somewhat nonsensical, definitely disappointing and which renders the ‘documentary device’ as extremely flawed.

It’s then that the film starts to feel more like a film, complete with soundtrack and multi-shot sequences that couldn’t possibly be captured by one single crew. The tension so far created quickly dissipates, depriving Stamm and his audience of a really mesmerising finish.

With this in mind, however, The Last Exorcism still comes recommended. Stamm is clearly a name to watch, Fabian and Bell excel in their respective roles and are worth taking the journey with and the scares required from this type of experience are certainly still present in abundance.

Sleep might not necessarily come that easy on the night you’ve seen it!

Certificate: 15
Running time: 85mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 27, 2010