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The Last Exorcism(2010)
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the evangelical Reverend Cotton Marcus was raised by his father to be a preacher. He agrees that the filmmaker Iris Reisen and the cameraman Daniel Moskowitz make a documentary about his life. Cotton tells that when his wife Shanna Marcus had troubles in the delivery of their son Justin, he prioritized the doctor help to God and since then he questions his faith. . When Cotton is summoned by the farmer Louis Sweetzer to perform an exorcism in his daughter Nell, Cotton sees the chance to prove to the documentary crew what he has just told. They head to Ivanwood and they have a hostile reception from Louis's son Caleb. Cotton performs the exorcism in Nell, exposing his tricks to the camera, but sooner they learn that the dysfunctional Sweetzer family has serious problems.
For more about The Last Exorcism and the The Last Exorcism Blu-ray release, see the The Last Exorcism Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley
Director: Daniel Stamm
» See full cast & crew
The Last Exorcism Blu-ray Review
Damn you, Hollywood Reporter.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 16, 2010
One from Column A, two from Column B. Too often films are cobbled together from a menu of previously released blockbusters, and the results are often akin to that less than appetizing casserole your Mom used to make from leftovers every few weeks. The dearth of new ideas in filmdom is so prevalent that it really isn't hard to imagine pitch meetings consisting of shorthand summaries made up entirely of movie titles. "It's going to be Legally Blonde meets Night of the Living Dead." Sold!. There's little doubt that The Last Exorcism is a mélange of several other films and/or literary properties, but the wonder is how brilliantly the film manages to reinvent the horror genre even as it mines a lot of well worn clichés. Take a smattering of The Blair Witch Project, mix liberally with large doses of The Exorcist, season with hints of Rosemary's Baby and Thomas Tryon's brilliant novel (pretty much ruined in its telefilm adaptation) Harvest Home, and you have some idea of what's in store for you in The Last Exorcism.
I hate it when my comedic thunder is stolen, but The Hollywood Reporter evidently got to "my" dazzling punchline first, with which I was going to subtitle this review, calling The Last Exorcism "The Linda Blair Witch Project", something that danced into my head with alluringly devilish humor as I watched this film which blends Blair Witch's faux documentary style with a storyline built around demonic possession of a young girl, a la The Exorcist. What adds a significant degree of interest to the film is that its purported hero (actually a rather charming huckster in the best televangelist mode), Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), is a self-admitted fraud, a man who performs fake exorcisms for the moolah they bring in, while rationalizing his mendacity by stating—perhaps truthfully—that since the "afflicted" people he's "helping" only think they're possessed (since Marcus doesn't believe in possession), he's really performing a mental health service of sorts by letting these souls feel like they've been cleansed of the devils inside them.
What helps The Last Exorcism work, despite its clichés, is how it both plays upon and defies expectations. Shaky hand held camera work has become such a staple of films, both big budget purported blockbusters and smaller indie fare like Blair Witch, that it's frankly passé by this point. But The Last Exorcism actually brings the holders of those shaky minicams into the film from literally the first frame. By the time the film rushes breathlessly to its climax, the audience is concerned as much for the supposed filmmakers as for Cotton or the young girl who may or may not be possessed, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell). Horror films often work best when there's a surrogate for the audience. Typically that's a helpless female who wanders out into the woods as the camera follows behind her. Here that surrogate manages to be the actual film crew taking in a rapidly developing story, where Marcus' supposed "goodbye" to fake exorcisms (after a "come to Jesus moment" involving his own son) quickly turns into something more sinister and complex.
I made no bones about the fact I was generally nonplussed by The Blair Witch Project. I know a lot of people (including my own wife) who found that film a terrifying experience, but the mere threat of bad things happening (despite the few seconds at the end) simply wasn't enough to totally involve me in Blair Witch, and I found the bulk of the film boring, frankly. The Last Exorcism works better for me for at least two reasons. First of all, it's not as self-conciously arch as Blair Witch was, and in fact due to Marcus' duplicitous nature starts out as an exposé of the subject it later gets sucked into. But more importantly there are several viscerally frightening scenes in The Last Exorcism that will certainly send tingles of shock up all but the most jaded spines. Yes, long stretches of the film go by with not much else but talk about demons and exorcisms (and the fake exorcists who supposedly do the dirty work), but that simply makes the shocking interludes all the more shocking. It's akin to taking a beautiful walk through the woods and then stumbling on the corpse of a horribly mangled animal, and that may or may not be a spoiler.
Director Daniel Stamm, himself a relative newcomer to feature films, handles both the mockumentary aspect of the project as well as the acting side of things with a cast that includes relative newcomers themselves (Ashley Bell) as well as a slew of excellent character actors who have built their resumes out of episodic television and smaller character roles in feature films. The leading trio of Fabian, Bell and Louis Herthum as Nell's distraught father, are well balanced and modulated. Bell does some really marvelous work here, creepy even in the supposedly "unpossessed" moments, as she depicts an isolated and perhaps abused young girl caught in the throes of an extreme disturbance, whether that be a "self-inflicted" emotional one or something attacking her from realms unknown.
The Last Exorcism has a nice little twist at the end which those who have read Harvest Home (or seen the lamentable tv movie version) may see coming before the denouement, especially when some rather heavy handed foreshadowing passes by. And while the film really makes no bones about its cinematic forebears, The Last Exorcism manages to work around the clichés to deliver a taut and tingle-worthy experience that is both disturbing and even occasionally thought provoking.
The Last Exorcism Blu-ray, Video Quality
Like The Blair Witch Project before it, The Last Exorcism virtually exudes a lo-fi ambience that is at odds with a hi-def presentation. While the video quality of The Last Exorcism's AVC encoded 1080p 1.78:1 image is heads and shoulders above that of Blair Witch, anyone thinking they're in for a sparklingly sharp and clear picture with this film is sure to be disappointed. Contrast is often low to negligible, night scenes are overrun with grain and fuzziness, and even daytime scenes don't completely bristle with fine detail. And yet, through it all, The Last Exorcism manages to look pretty darn good. It certainly is an apt representation of what director Stamm and DP Zoltan Honti were going for. (And may I just say that Zoltan Honti would make a great name for a horror film character). The sharpest segments of this film, at least in terms of a "traditional" hi-def presentation, are undoubtedly the prelminary scenes set in the Marcus home and church, where things are well lit and colors, contrast and fine detail all pop accordingly. Once we get into the dark and dank world of the Sweetzer Farm, things become murkier, no doubt intentionally so. If you go with this film's obviously purposeful lo-fi ethos, there's a lot to enjoy in this video presentation.
The Last Exorcism Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There should be no complaints of any kind about The Last Exorcism's astoundingly effective DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. You might think that this film would opt for a similarly lo-fi sonic approach, but instead we're privy to an increasingly immersive experience that surrounds the listener with a variety of startling effects, everything from rapid breathing to sudden smashes and crashes which will get the adrenaline of most people pumping. The best thing about this film's sound design, and the Blu-ray's lossless track, is the excellent decision not to slather the film in underscore cues. In fact, Nathan Barr's very effective score sometimes consists of just a second or two of creepy low end accompaniment to some of the more disturbing sequences, and it ups the sonic ante considerably. Dialogue throughout the film is clear and precise, though several times voices are intentionally muted and muffled. There's also clear attention paid not only to placement within the sound field but also more subtle effects like the echo-laden confines of the Sweetzer farmhouse versus the dissipating effects of screams heard outdoors.
The Last Exorcism Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Several good to excellent supplements are included on the BD disc:
The Last Exorcism Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
After posting my review of it here on Blu-ray.com, I found out I wasn't alone in thinking The Blair Witch Project was a decidedly less than gripping film, at least for some of us. The Last Exorcism revisits Blair's faux documentary setup, but this film actually delivers some palpable thrills and chills along the way, instead of just hinting at them. Yes, you've seen large swaths of this film before in various other progenitors, but writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland deserve kudos for playing against expectations rather smartly a lot of the time. Fabian and Bell are excellent in the leads, and the entire film bristles with the best kind of lo-fi indie horror energy. Highly recommended.
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• The Last Exorcism Blu-ray Announced - October 29, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced The Last Exorcism for Blu-ray release on January 4, 2011, on a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This mockumentary centers around a charismatic preacher who expects to perform a routine "exorcism" on a disturbed religious ...
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