Authentic, creative and packed with cross-clenching tension, Daniel Stamm’s “The Last Exorcism” almost had it all, but instead suffers from a dreadful storyline. However, authentic performances, creepy settings and shaky camera angles keep Stamm’s film from completely drowning.
Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) believes his 16-year-old daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed by demons. Agnostic “Reverend” Cotton Markus (Patrick Fabien), who performs fake exorcisms in order to expose the local church for the scam it is, is called to help the family. But when his last fake exorcism goes horribly wrong, the faithless preacher comes face to face with pure evil.
Stamm films the movie as if it is “found footage” and a faux documentary — a technique he used in his first feature, “A Necessary Death.” Writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland incorporated the same method in films such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield,” with shaky, handheld cinematography that pulls in and out of focus to achieve an amateur look. The writers weaved the home movie effect cleverly into the script, driving the story forward and adding a deeper level to it
instead of distracting audiences.
Stamm would often turn on the camera in the middle of disturbing scenes, forcing the audience to participate in the horror instead of simply watching the footage. In the middle of the night, possessed, sleepwalking Nell kills the family cat with the video camera while it’s set on record, forcing viewers to actually feel like they’re killing the animal themselves. The effects are simple, and the suspense is exceptionally well crafted.
Fabien exceeds the expectations of low budget horror movie acting. Ashley is especially creepy and wicked as she contorts her body to bring her demon child to the screen. Jumping back and forth between an innocent Christian teenager to the lust-for-blood, knife-wielding demon from hell, Bell’s performance is incredibly realistic.
“The Last Exorcism” walks the line between
brilliant and not worth the price of a movie ticket. It replaces unrealistic special effects with a lifelike blend of Satan and innocence. With low levels of gore, high levels of tension and a poorly written script, “The Last Exorcism” is delightfully mediocre.
“The Last Exorcism” was written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland and directed by Daniel Stamm.