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Movie Review: The Last Exorcism

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With a title like The Last Exorcism, the plot and premise of the movie seems pretty straightforward. Guess again.

The general story line follows the pursuit of a supposedly demon-possessed young girl (not unlike the plot of the demon-ridden 2005 horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose). Coupled with the shaky, single camera view similar to thrillers such as the recent Paranormal Activity (2009), this movie seems at first to be another low budget, predictable, demon-slasher mess.

However, the twists, turns, ups and downs that the movie takes could be just enough to drag you down into the pits of Hell, where the inspiration for this two hours of terror came from.

The Last Exorcism is directed by German-born Daniel Stamm, and the cast includes actor Patrick Fabian as Rev. Cotton Marcus and Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer. The storyline follows the aptly named Reverend Cotton Marcus, the so-called “anointed” preacher’s son from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who began preaching and exorcising demons at a very young age. Growing weary of the talk of demons and possessions, however, Marcus decides to silence the talk of true exorcisms once and for all by taking a small documentary film crew with him to one final meeting with the Sweetzer family in small-town Louisiana, who claim their daughter Nell is under siege by “the Devil himself.”

What awaits the unsuspecting and slightly arrogant Marcus is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Naturally, the movie made me jump — several times for that matter. Shocking scenes, surprises, and screams around every corner kept my breath short and my attention locked throughout most of the flick. The documentary approach to the film adds an extra touch of realism. But what I found most remarkable about the plot goes beyond the fear factor.

The development and growth of each of the characters, in particular the Rev. Marcus, is deep, relatable, and evident, which is greatly appreciated, especially in a thriller of this nature. Finally, a little lighthearted comedic pause now and then makes for a reason to smile in the midst of silent screams.

Where this movie succeeds, it soars, but where it fails, it tanks. I’m speaking mostly about the ending. There were so many directions in which the last 15 minutes of the movie could have gone, yet unfortunately it lost its way somehow. The last big plot twist comes so far out of left field that the entire audience left the theater scratching and even shaking their heads. With the ending, the storyline unravels, characters flop, and the enthralling suspense turns into laughable fiction.

Perhaps the mantra “less is more” could have been of great use to those filmmakers.

If you are looking for a movie that gives you the jumps and thrills without a lot of gore or language, definitely check out The Last Exorcism. If you are looking for a cardio workout, this is the film for you, because your heart will pound. Over all, it’s a great one to stir up thought about who or what is around you.

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About Frances Mooney