Monday, August 30, 2010

The Last Exorcism after many

The poster for The Last Exorcism immediately conjures up the iconic images of Linda Blair as the possessed young girl in the classic The Exorcist, but it doesn't promise anything new beyond reminding you of the iconic. This film, "presented" by horror director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) has all the obligatory elements you'd expect in a sweet young girl in pajamas possessed by a demon film: The growling, the moving furniture, the vomit, the cursing, and the impressive aerobic flexibility that girls possessed by demons can display.

The film is also another one of those faux documentaries, shot in Panavision doubling as a handy video camera, which begins by introducing us to Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) an opportunistic Marjoe Gortner type who supports his loving wife and son by pretending to be a believer and exploiting fearful fundamentalists by performing fake exorcisms for families who believe their loved ones are possessed. Cotton is perfectly happy making easy cash as a fraud but his structure of non-belief is challenged when he is called upon by a frightened God fearing Louisiana father (Louis Herthum) whose 16 year old daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is showing signs of possession.

Cotton, along with his two person documentary crew, travel to the man's eerie farmhouse where they meet the father's volatile and creepy son (Caleb Landry Jones) who believes the real danger isn't a demon but their strict extremist father. Is this girl really under siege by Satan or has she been driven insane by her dad?

The chaos that ensues is handled in the style of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity with it's overuse of shaky handheld camera work and endless shots of lens focusing. And of course constant demands from characters to "Shut the camera off!"

To it's credit, certain moments of terror are effectively handled and the film
is very well acted, especially by young Ms. Bell who convincingly conveys physical and emotional anguish by the supernatural. But overall it's amidst a thoroughly derivative and uninspired story that recycles the best from not only The Exorcist but also Rosemary's Baby and Race With The Devil for good measure. Roger Ebert often says it's not what a movie is about but how it's about, but in this case, and after many years of Exorcist ripoffs, it's not really a matter of how but why.

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