The Last Excorcism

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Strike Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG 13

Director: Daniel Stamm

Review Rating: 5 Pentagrams

A difficult Evangelical minister travels to Louisiana to perform his last excorcism, and agrees to have it taped.

It’s not a horror flick, not in any manner that I can see. Sure, there are scenes where the supposedly possessed girl bends backwards and cracks her neck, mystic symbols on the wall, and all the growling and cursing you can stomach. It’s an excorcism, right? But…the ceremony is being performed by a minister who’s, on his own admission, lacking in his faith and belief in excorcisms in the first place. This is the same man who gives sermons with card tricks. (Long long ago, cards themselves were denounced by the Church, but I digress.) It kind of reminds me of Stigmata, where we have a priest who actually gets sent out by the Vatican to debunk fake stigmata sufferers and the like. The minister here, Cotton Marcus, speaks of people suffering in their own minds and his desire to help them, and well maybe performing an excorcism will bring them some peace of mind, and after that we strongly recommend mental therapy for a long time. Not real scary yet.

So, apparently at random, Cotton selects a house in Louisiana that wrote him asking for an excorcism performance for the daughter, Nell. And he takes a camera crew with him. Again, seems rather unfaithful to me, but whatever, we go on. Sure enough, Nell is suffering, but well, she’s your fairly typical backwoods uneducated hick type, and her father won’t hear of there actually being something wrong with her head. He swears up and down it’s the Devil got his daughter, while he stands there holding his shotgun. It comes to light that Nell may or may not have been pregnant at some point, there’s debate over who the father could have been, and even a little investigation that doesn’t really turn up diddly. Cotton performs one excorcism that doesn’t satisfy anyone, least of all the audience. Things continue on their merry way, Nell gets worse, people are attacked and bleeding, and Cotton swears he’ll perform a second excorcism, as he believes it now. Local clergy are brought in for help, and it all seems to be more or less taken care of. The only meat in this entire story is in the last five minutes of the movie, where a total spoiler alert is lurking. The movie ends on an uncomfortably unfinished note, we don’t get to find out what happens to Cotton or Nell, and we don’t get movie-God confirmation that Nell was indeed possessed by, well, anything. Everything is left open to interpretation and assumption, and the movie itself doesn’t have a strong enough story for that. A great deal of the camera work is done in a Blair Witch style, all shadows and jerky running angles and close-ups and gritty supposed realism.

Patrick Fabian stars as minister Cotton Marcus, and he does well at the Vegas magician-style entertainment while giving his sermons, but that’s a sad character to have him playing. Ashley Bell twitches a lot as Nell, the performance is good, but they had her trying very hard for an Excorcist Reagan type and it doesn’t fit. Louis Herthum stars as Nell’s gun-toting father Louis, he did a fair job bringing across passion and fear for his daughter at least.

The Last Excorcism actually only gets 5 pentagrams, because I really really expected more from this movie. It doesn’t even have an R rating!


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