‘The Last Exorcism’ No. 1 at Box office
“Exorcism is alive and well,” Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) says in Daniel Stamm’s end-of-summer horror fest “The Last Exorcism.” The same can be said for horror films of the same genre, with movies such as “Exorcist: The Beginning”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “An American Haunting” being released in the last five to six years. “The Last Exorcism” shows far more substantial quality with its realistic documentary-style presentation and a series of great performances by its actors.
Produced by Eli Roth (director of “Cabin Fever”, “Hostel” and “Hostel: Part II”) as well as “Dawn of the Dead” (2004) co-producers Marc Abraham, Thomas A. Bliss, and Eric Newman, the flick creates a healthy balance of comedic relief and scares that keeps the viewer engaged throughout the film.
The movie follows Reverend Cotton Marcus, cleverly played by Patrick Fabian, from his home in Baton Rouge to the Sweetzer Farm in Ivanwood, Louisiana where the presumed demon possession is waiting. The film takes place in 2009, and Reverend Marcus, with over 47 exorcisms under his belt, is traveling to his last patient. Extremely skeptical about the legitimacy of demon possession, Reverend Marcus convincingly stages fake exorcisms to psychologically comfort victims that believe they are possessed. With the dramatics of demonic noises, boiling water, bed shaking and even taking the “demon” into himself, Reverend Marcus successfully cons religious fanatics into believing their demons are gone and cast out.
But this case is different. The possession of young Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is real. The demon controlling Nell is Abalam, a powerful demon that preys on the flesh of the innocent and compels Nell to slaughter the farm’s livestock. The film turns in a different direction and ultimately shows Reverend Marcus trying to save the Sweetzer family, the documentary crew and himself, all on empty faith.
The documentary style of fictional horror films has been popular recently with films such as “Cloverfield”, “Paranormal Activity” and “Quarantine”. The overly emphasized “shaking” of the camera that was predominantly displayed in “Cloverfield” is practically unseen in this film, resulting in minimum dizziness and discomfort. Overall, the film is in the same vein as “The Blair Witch Project”, but has an original and unexpected twist before a more usual and predictable type of ending. The film does have its flaws, but it keeps viewers thinking and re-assessing what actually happens in its deranged conclusion; that’s all a good movie should do anyway.
“The Last Exorcism” is an enjoyable film that scares and enlightens evenly throughout the entire one hour and twenty-seven minute duration; it will also make horror fans proud. Plus, it shows that an all-star cast is not needed for a film to really stand out and be extremely enjoyable.
It was released last Friday, Aug. 27 on an estimated 3,500 screens at 2,874 locations and made $21.3 million this weekend, overcoming “Takers”, “The Expendables” and the release of “Avatar: Special Edition.”
And here’s a note for those viewers who don’t believe in demon possession: Reverend Marcus cryptically tells us “if you believe in God, you have to believe in the Devil.”