The Last Exorcism

Since Linda Blair’s head spinning antics in 1973’s ‘The Exorcist’ there have been countless devil possession films.  Some have been ok while others have been truly appalling.  A problem has usually been there isn’t much ground to cover – person is possessed, priest arrives, dispels demon, the end.  The Last Exorcism adds a new wrinkle by utilising the recent horror trend of making a faux documentary out of its terror.  Working admirably it seemingly manages to finally banish Lucifer’s spell over clunky exorcism movies.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a preacher losing his faith.  Spending years dispelling demons from troubled souls, it has all but deserted him.  When a Southern farmer tells him he thinks his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed, Cotton sees this as his last chance for religious salvation.  Inviting a documentary crew to film what he hopes is his last exorcism, little does he know of the horror he will endure as he goes one on one with Satan’s latest unwilling disciple.

Who would have thought in this age of zero scares and surprises in horror films that one would have both?  That The Last Exorcism works is due to the very device it copies from recent movies.  Taking its riff from the Paranormal Activity/Blair Witch Project video-filmed shockers it conjures its own genuinely creepy atmosphere those efforts sorely lacked.  From the first shot there’s a sense of foreboding doom as the Reverend’s shattered belief system is tested by the deceptive conduct of those around him.

The nature of evil is intriguingly played out as the origin of Nell’s dark decent is disturbingly revealed.  These elements are superbly conveyed by a great cast bringing authenticity to their actions.  Director Daniel Stamm certainly knows how to tease out the dramatic dread with skill with his refusal to descend proceedings into a lazy gore-fest most welcome.  His nod to other hits such as Halloween and The Omen are a nice touch for fans who’ve endured many woeful similar efforts to reach this far.

The Last Exorcism is a rare superior effort in a market clotted with insipid horror films.  Effective until its shocking final reel, its creative twist on the exorcism mythology shows its film-makers may finally found a genre cure against their own cinematic Princes of Darkness.

Rating out of 10:  7

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