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January 4, 2011

DVD of the Week – Review of The Last Exorcism (2010)

by NIR SHALEV

The “found footage” fad is growing strong. Movies in that genre are sprouting left, right, and center and The Last Exorcism is a terrific example of how to properly make a good one.

The Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is slightly skeptical when it comes to demonic possessions and knows for a fact that exorcisms are a hoax because he’d performed many of them and had fabricated all of them. He doesn’t see himself as a thief or a fraud, but rather a man who delivers what people are looking for. If one believes that salvation lies through a proper exorcism then he will deliver the best exorcism that he could deliver.

A documentary crew is chronicling Reverend Cotton’s exploits as a man of God and exorcist extraordinaire and as an exorcism retirement gift for himself he decides to take the crew with him and to show them his last exorcism performance. They drive to Louisiana and arrive at the house where a teenage girl, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is possessed. After Reverend Cotton performs some “tests” on her he begins his exorcism on her. Because this film is shot in a documentary style, it intertwines Reverend Cotton’s performance and the way that he’d rigged Nell’s room beforehand, for sound and cheap tricks that her father and brother don’t know are fake. But when he and the crew leave that night for their motel, Nell is found standing in his room that night. How did she travel on foot so many miles and how did she know where the reverend and the film crew were staying? Thus, the mystery begins.

As they return Nell to her family, the reverend and the film crew notice that Nell has conversations with herself, personifying two different voices, she runs amuck around the house, and even severely cuts her brother’s face. She may in fact be possessed and if so, Reverend Cotton truly isn’t prepared for that.

This is a low budget film that uses only practical special effects throughout, but the real horror comes from Ashley Bell’s ferocious performance and the use of darkness throughout the second half of the film. The critical consensus is that the last five minutes of it are terrible, but I’d actually really enjoyed its crazy ending. It does actually make sense and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This is the creepiest film that I’d seen in years. It’s very well acted and competently shot. This is a high recommendation if one likes a good, creepy time.

The DVD comes with an audio commentary by Producers Eli Roth, Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss; another audio commentary by Director Daniel Stamm and Actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum; “The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism” Featurette; “Real Stories of Exorcism” Featurette; and the 2009 Cannes Film Festival Teaser Trailer. The Blu-ray has the same features but adds the Ashley Bell audition footage and Patrick Fabian audition footage.

Other new releases this week: Catfish, Dinner for Schmucks, Machete


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