Demon or Deception?
Hand-held camera work usually gives me a headache, but I decided to see The Last Exorcism anyway. Try to see it, that is. I fully expected to listen to my husband’s whispers about what was happening while keeping my eyes closed most of the time, hoping to avoid the jerkiness on screen. That’s the way we got through Cloverfield and District 9. But I became so involved with the main character here plus his “exorcism debunking” plan that I wanted to watch him every minute.
Much of the credit goes to Patrick Fabian (from TV’s Big Love) for drawing me in with his splendid portrayal of Cotton Marcus, an evangelical minister dedicated to showing the trickery that can be used in exorcism rituals – even to the point of inviting a camera crew along to film one of these events. Fabian’s “Cotton” comes across as a spellbinding combination of con man and do-gooder. Recognizing how much manipulation he has used for many years in his religious sermons and services, Cotton is ashamed of it now and wants to prevent any children from being harmed while undergoing an exorcism. Fabian is totally believable -- and sometimes quite amusing -- in this key role.
The “documentary” gets underway, and Cotton chooses vulnerable Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell, a revelation in this difficult role) as the youngster he will “exorcize” while the camera rolls. He’s received a letter from Nell’s father (Louis Herthum) who begs Cotton to help his teenage daughter, for he believes something evil possesses Nell and is causing her to kill their farm animals. But Nell’s angry brother (Caleb Landrey Jones) wants Cotton to leave the family alone. However, the troubled Nell -- who doesn’t remember those bloody animal episodes -- agrees to take part in the exorcism.
It’s absolutely fascinating to see Cotton setting up his props for the exorcism. And they seem to work, but shortly after the fake ritual……. well, if I tell you, a demon might get us, so you’ll just have to see this clever horror flick to find out what happens next.
Seriously, folks, you’re in for a number of surprises as The Last Exorcism becomes scarier and scarier from this point on. Unfortunately, the ending left me scratching my head and agreeing with one viewer who shouted “What happened?” when the credits started to roll. And yet, I don’t regret seeing The Last Exorcism at all. It’s quite refreshing to see a horror movie with high-quality performances like Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell deliver here.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated “PG-13” for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.
Listen to Ashley Bell talk about The Last Exorcism by clicking here.