The Last Exorcism
After years of performing exorcisms, a disillusioned evangelical minister decides to participate in a documentary chronicling his last exorcism while exposing the fraud of his ministry. After receiving a letter from a farmer asking for help in driving out the devil, he meets the farmer's afflicted daughter.The film received positive reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing more than $67 million against a $1.8 million budget.
The Last Exorcism
Filmmakers Iris and Daniel document Cotton Marcus, a reverend living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who seeks to delegitimize exorcisms. Marcus, who lost his faith after the birth of his disabled son, is accustomed to performing fake exorcisms on individuals who believe they are possessed. He accepts an exorcism request sent by Louis Sweetzer, a farmer who claims his livestock are being slaughtered by his daughter Nell; Louis suspects that Nell is possessed by Satan.
Marcus arrives and claims Nell is possessed by Abalam, a powerful demon who defiles the innocent. Using a variety of sound equipment to conduct the phony exorcism, he convinces Nell and her family that he has driven out the demon and leaves, believing he and his crew have cured her of a mental state that was misdiagnosed as possession. Later that night, Nell inexplicably appears in Marcus's motel room, visibly unwell. Marcus takes Nell to the hospital for tests, which conclude that she is in perfect physical condition. He tries to convince Louis to allow Nell to undergo psychiatric testing, but he refuses. Marcus goes to see Louis's former pastor, Joseph Manley, who informs him that he has not seen Nell for three years. In the morning, Louis takes Nell home but chains her to the bed after she cuts her brother Caleb's face with a knife.
Marcus frees Nell from her restraints and later finds her trying to drown a doll while seemingly sleepwalking. When the hospital calls back to inform that Nell is pregnant, Iris accuses Louis of incest, which Marcus rejects. That night, Nell steals their camera and goes into her father's barn, where she brutally smashes a cat to death. Iris and Daniel discover her morbid paintings; in addition to the death of the cat, they depict Marcus standing before a large flame with a crucifix, Iris dismembered, and Daniel decapitated. Marcus confronts Louis about Nell's pregnancy; Louis insists that Nell is a virgin and has been impregnated by the demon. Offended at Marcus's insistence that a demon is not involved, Louis demands that the crew leave and alludes to intending to kill Nell. The crew tries to escape with Nell, who attacks Marcus before Louis threatens to shoot her. Marcus offers to attempt a second exorcism to dissuade him as Nell begs Louis to kill her.
The film had its world premiere at the LA Film Festival on June 24, 2010 and was here introduced by Eli Roth and Daniel Stamm. Members of the cast were also introduced on stage, Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Iris Bahr, and Tony Bentley. The Last Exorcism was the last screened film on August 30, 2010, on the Film4 FrightFest 2010.
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been preaching since he was a child and now no longer believes in what he's saying. As part of his job, he performs "exorcisms," which are fake and designed to bring nothing more than peace of mind. Fed up with the lies, he invites a documentary crew to film his latest performance on a "possessed" teen, Nell (Ashley Bell). Unfortunately, his ceremony doesn't work, and trouble continues, with scary threats and violent attacks. Cotton believes that the haunting is man-made, but eventually things get a little too weird to entirely discount a supernatural influence.
Credit young director Daniel Stamm, who comes from out of nowhere to join Christopher Guest and the "Parks and Recreation" people among the most entertaining fake documentarians on the planet. What looks like a late-summer throwaway is a nice surprise - only a complete meltdown by the writers in the last 10 minutes keeps this film from uninterrupted excellence.
"The Last Exorcism" goes in a different direction, starting with skeptic priest Cotton (played with likable overconfidence by Patrick Fabian), who brings a camera crew to an exorcism to debunk the tradition. After discovering the sweet Nell, who turns into a sociopath when she sleeps, Cotton determines that she needs psychiatric help. But that goes against the fundamentalist principles of her widowed, drunken, shotgun-toting father, whose opinions about how to deal with his possibly demon-possessed daughter are considerably less modern.
And then, with the finish line in sight, the filmmakers botch the ending so badly you'll swear M. Night Shyamalan was flown in to direct the last few scenes. The catalyst for the dramatic final events - which can't be revealed without giving away major plot turns - is one of those idiotic horror-victim decisions that plague much lesser films. The result is an air of ridiculousness wafting over the fast-paced over-the-top finale.
Looking at box office numbers, a person might believe there is astronomical money to be made in cinema. Last year was the third in a row in which a film made over $400 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide (two did the latter). And yet, the movies making that kind of money always cost more than your average film. 2010's three highest-grossing films in the US -- Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland, and Iron Man 2 -- each carried a production budget of $200 million. That is only the beginning of their costs and considerations, as marketing budgets keep escalating, ticket profits are shared with theaters, and the once lucrative destination of home video continues to see decline.A better indication of where money is being made may be to look at movies in terms of return on investment. On that basis, even a record-shattering giant like Avatar greatly pales next to little movies that made it really big. Movies like The Blair Witch Project, which grossed $140 M domestically and $248 M worldwide on a budget of $60,000. Or its recent descendant, Paranormal Activity, whose $108 M domestic and $193 M worldwide earnings followed just $15,000 of production costs. While not quite as formidable as those two case studies, The Last Exorcism is another film that earned back its small budget ($1.8 M) several times over ($41 M domestically, $65 M worldwide). Also like Blair Witch and Paranormal, Last Exorcism is a horror film posing as a documentary. The film centers on Baton Rouge's Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a showy, respected preacher who, like his minister father, has performed many exorcisms over the years. Admitting he doesn't believe in demons and even has doubts over the existence of God, Cotton has taken a break from exorcisms. But wanting to expose the game for the dangerous, fraudulent thing it is, he agrees to field one final request. A two-person film crew tags along with the pastor to document the process and reveal its deceptions.The chosen request brings Cotton and the crew to Louisiana's farm country, where widowed father Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) is convinced his home-schooled 16-year-old daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed by the Devil. Believing there are more logical reasons for the family's livestock being slaughtered at night, Nell's brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) stands opposed to an exorcism and to the Sweetzers being filmed. Nevertheless, with the devout patriarch's concern trumping everything else, things proceed exactly as Cotton would like, with a variety of props (smoking cross) and illusions (shaking bed, bubbling water, demon sound effects) selling both Nell's potent possession and the Reverend's expulsion of her tormentor, Abalam.Just when it seems as though everything has gone exactly as planned, Cotton and his crew become eyewitness to Nell's erratic behavior. As they look for corporal and medical explanations for her outbursts, they are disturbed by the seemingly real horror they discover. I'm surprised that the faux documentary format hasn't been exploited to death yet. Its usage has been surprisingly sparse considering how it has heightened every horror movie I've seen it applied to, including Cloverfield, Quarantine, and the two aforementioned breakout word-of-mouth hits. The design significantly enhances The Last Exorcism, generating suspense and atmosphere while developing characters and story all in ways more tasteful and smoothly than a standard narrative film would allow. As is sometimes the case on these films, some logistical questions can arise due to visible editing and the occasional bit of score, but you are likely to be too engaged to notice or care.The title and premise are enough to make somewhat clear how things will play out here. And the film does flirt with gimmickry, with the rare, off-putting jump-in-your-seat moment. But it never loses its accessible outsider's point-of-view, the viewer very much feeling a part of the charming Cotton's confessional con. It's not tremendously scary and the PG-13 rating ensures gore fans will not be satisfied (even though this could have earned a thematic "R" or required an appeal a few years back). Still, The Last Exorcism remains distinctive and involving throughout, most stumbling at its end when its abrupt, revelatory conclusion feels tacked on and from a different, dumber movie altogether.Rather than competing with the holiday season blitz, Lionsgate makes The Last Exorcism one of 2011's first big titles, releasing it this week on DVD and in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. We look at the former here.
The Last Exorcism told the story of a priest (Patrick Fabian) experiencing a crisis of faith. In that film, he agrees to make a documentary about his final exorcism, inviting a documentarian to tail him as he solves one last possession in order to prove that the whole endeavor is a fraud. He and his camera crew visit the farmhouse home of the Sweetzer family, hoping to help a sweet girl named Nell (Ashley Bell) who has the ability to contort her body in painful ways. Over the course of the film, the priest and his crew discover that Nell is pregnant. 041b061a72