by A.D. Vick
The Last Exorcism Is unlike most other horror films that I have ever watched. As I viewed the film’s opening scenes, I contemplated the possibility that I’d been mistakenly sent a documentary about a young minister’s evangelical work. My fear was dispelled however, as the plot began to unfold.
The Last Exorcism, which was released in 2010 and produced by Eric Newman, Eli Roth, Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss, utilizes the found footage style of film creation. This means that the movie is presented in such a way as to lead the viewer into believing that its footage is discovered. The events taking place on the screen appear as if they are being recorded by the actual characters in the film. This impression is further promoted through the featuring of comments by the film crew themselves as well as by incorporating shaky cameras and other similar methods. Found footage productions offer the illusion that the film’s contents had been found raw and were later edited into documentary form; hence, this reviewer’s initial confusion.
The Reverend Cotton Marcus, played by Patrick Fabian, lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The plot opens with Marcus’ appearance for a guest sermon at his father’s church. The younger minister’s slight of hand with a deck of cards both drives his points home effectively and impresses the congregation.
What the congregation doesn’t realize is that the Reverend Marcus is disillusioned with the church and has lost his faith. He later explains to the camera that as an exorcist, he is a charlatan. Any seemingly miraculous recoveries from demon possession that he may have overseen, he adds, were strictly psychological in nature. Further, he had tricked people into believing in his abilities through the use of various props and tricks. Cotton Marcus no longer believes that demon possession is real and he plans to take a camera crew on one final exorcism to show how he tricks and seemingly helps those seeking his assistance.
Marcus’ opportunity arises when he receives a letter from a farmer named Louis Sweetzer, portrayed by Louis Herthum, who claims that his demon-possessed daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell) is brutally slaughtering his livestock. The minister assembles his film crew and heads down to the Sweetzer farm, which lies outside New Orleans. Upon his arrival, the reverend finds Sweetzer to be a very devout widower with a rather difficult son named Caleb, played by Landry Jones, and a sweet but naive daughter.
Marcus listens to Mr. Sweetzer’s story and then falsely discloses to him that he believes Nell to be possessed by a very powerful demon named Abalam. He then goes on to perform his ritual, which at first convinces the family that the demon has been expelled and Nell cured.
As the plot continues to unfold in this Southern Gothic tale, the pacing picks up and events become increasingly bizarre and even ghastly as Markus refuses to believe that occurrences are the result of anything but a psychologically disturbed young lady. By the time the viewer arrives at the film’s finale however, the Reverend Cotton Markus has been convinced otherwise. With his faith renewed, he is convinced that he must confront a very real Abalam one last time.
One more point I’d like to make about The Last Exorcism is this: get ready for a surprise ending. You’ll likely find it as startling as I did.
A.D. Vick is short story writer living in Northwest Arkansas and is the author of a blog entitled The Gothic Embrace, which features a variety of topics of interest to the Goth subculture. He is also involved with the maintenance and preservation of some historic cemeteries and spends his quiet time with one rather large cat named Mr. Gray. He enjoys listening to a variety of music, which ranges from heavy metal and dark wave to classical, and takes great pleasure walking through the woods and burial grounds that surround his home