My wife and I had the opportunity to see The Last Exorcism in theaters when it came out. We have always been into scary movies but found good fun and real terror in PG-13 scary movies. PG-13 rating gives the movie a boundary to work within, they have to find a way to grip the audience with terror themes without the blood and gore. Anything above a PG-13 rating relies too much on the slasher element; it aims to gross out the audience and not give them a real story to enfold them in. Keep that in mind when you think a Rated R horror flick is really scary. Why was it scary? Because you cringe at the sight of blood or were the characters in great danger of unworldly threats?
Now let’s dive in to The Last Exorcism. There are so many elements of this movie that can hold your attention. Yes, it is a faux documentary; or a “found footage” film as they’re being called. Other examples would include Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. The wonderful thing about these is that they are strictly plot focused, they aren’t any minor characters or subplots that distract from the action. Every one of the characters is involved in what is happening in some way or the other.
The movie starts out with some set-up of a charismatic southern reverend in Louisiana, Cotton Marcus. He has been preaching ever since he was able to and can inspire any congregation. He even goes on to bet the interviewer that he can put his mother’s banana bread pudding and still get an uprising out of them. His rational is that you have to believe in the devil to believe in God. Cotton has performed “exorcisms” in the past but note the quotation marks. He sets up fake exorcisms for those that think that they are possessed by demons. He does this because he doesn’t believe in demons or the devil. After reading a newspaper article about another preacher killing someone he was exorcising Cotton decides not to take part of it anymore. We find out that he requested a documentary crew to follow him show how it’s all a hoax. And he’s setting himself up for a wild awakening.
The element that keeps this movie grounded has to be the acting. I find the minorist of characters have the best organic acting, like those they interview on the side of the road. The documentary crew and Cotton follow a fate-filled letter to the backwoods of Louisiana to find a family whose mother died 2 years prior, a son, a father and the demon ridden daughter, Nell. Nell, played by unknown Ashley Bell, is a sweet girl, shy, pretty and sweet. When Cotton’s fake exorcism goes without a hitch their crew packs up and heads to a motel with a good load of earned cash on hand. Only when later that night Nell shows up in Cotton’s room the craziness hits the fan.
I’m not here to give you all the details, you can do that yourself. I just set up the movie so you know what to expect when you first sit down to watch. Being an engaging horror movie it’s your job to stay with the characters, be fooled by the unexpected and draw your own conclusions at the end. That’s another thing, you’ll know a good movie by if you have questions at the end or not. If you have to talk to someone about it. Make sure you have someone to hold onto when the fright gets to terrible to handle.
Get it on Netflix stream now and tell me what you think!