LAST EXORCISM, THE
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is following in his father's footsteps as a preacher in Baton Rouge, sometimes performing exorcisms, using the same ancient book as his dad. He is just going through the motions these days to feed his young family. As a parting gesture he has a documentary filmmaking crew follow him on what he plans to be his last exorcism, responding to a randomly chosen letter from the many he receives. This one is from Lou Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), a widowed Louisianna farmer desperate to help his 16 year old daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell). Could she be the one responsible for the animals being slaughtered in the night - without knowing it, somehow possessed by evil? Cotton and his tiny crew expect the usual ... but this isn't at all routine.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Seven years ago Eli Roth was in Sydney promoting his horror film, Cabin Fever, and during our interview he explained how he'd been a horror fan since age 6, when his dad (a psychoanalyst who reassured his mum that it would be alright) responded to his son's interest and slipped The Exorcist (1973) into the tape deck. Eli was traumatized - and hooked for life. He kept vomiting every time he saw a horror movie, but he wasn't deterred. That was just nerves ....
He directed Cabin Fever as a rebellion against the studios who were nervous at the time about the genre, calling horror films thrillers. He's still mad about horror (and directed both Hostel and Hostel Part II) and while his production of The Last Exorcist (directed by Daniel Stamm) is no Exorcist, it's better than Cabin Fever, in the sense that it has broader appeal, is inventive and unpredictable - and not a little scary. It also shows an evolution of that sub genre whose foetus was The Blair Witch Project.
This is the horror sub genre where what we see is what the camera operator in the story is filming. More recently, this sub genre gave us the Spanish language [REC] (and remade in English as Quarantine) and Paranormal Activity I & II. The Last Exorcist is another, evolved example, highly accomplished and intelligently delivered. The conceit of the premise is entirely plausible and there is enough character establishment in the preparatory scenes to build engagement on a deeper level.
What's more, it has something of a twist at the end, which provides the consuming moral message. The screenplay is a step up from average horror fare, and the casting is spot on for a film that is directed as a drama until the very last. Especially notable are the performances of the younger cast, Ashley Bell as Nell (rhymes with hell, no?) and Caleb Landry Jones as Caleb, Nell's scary brother. His first scene is as scary as anything else in the film, yet it looks nothing on paper. This scene in fact shows how well director Stamm (rhymes with damn, as in damnation, no?). Iris Bahr plays Iris the boom operator (not the cameraman, as an ironic joke, perhaps, so she doesn't get to use the 'iris') and her presence is always felt, even though she doesn't get much screentime.
But Patrick Fabian as Cotton and Louis Herthum as farmer Sweetzer are also exemplary, both with everyman faces, adding to the sense of veracity.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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LAST EXORCISM, THE (MA)
CAST: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahar, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tom Bentley, John Wright Jr, Shanna Forrestall
PRODUCER: Eli Roth, Marc Abraham, Thomas A. Bliss, Eric Newman
DIRECTOR: Daniel Stamm
SCRIPT: Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Zoltán Honti
MUSIC: Nathan Barr
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew W. Bofinger
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 4, 2010