The story appears on

Page P5

September 5, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Events and TV

Truly scary "Last Exorcism"

"THE Last Exorcism" is one of the scariest movies to come along in a long time, until the last five minutes or so, when it completely falls apart.

Really, that is about how quickly it all collapses. Director Daniel Stamm's faux documentary starts out with deadpan delivery and a dry sense of humor, then it turns riveting, then truly frightening, then just plain silly. It is as if it morphs from being a Christopher Guest movie to "The Blair Witch Project," as if writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland did not know where to go, so they went over the top.

Until then, the film makers keep you guessing what is real and what is imagined; what is a disturbing mental disorder, and what is demonic possession. And the fact that this Eli Roth production uses all unknown actors helps suck us into this eerie world.

Evangelical Louisiana preacher Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been performing exorcisms for 25 years but he knows they are all a sham. He long ago lost his faith, if he had ever had any, and has had no qualms about taking money from true believers to support his own family. But now, with his conscience weighing on him, he decides to let a camera crew come behind the scenes to expose his tricks as he "performs" one last exorcism.

And it truly is a performance. Cotton is hugely charismatic, a natural showman, and he happily to divulges how he uses his iPod to make evil groaning sounds, or how he gets a puff of smoke to come out of his crucifix at a climactic moment. But he is not arrogant about it, which is key: He is engaging and confident but never off-putting. Fabian finds the balance in his character's conflicting motivations, which allows us to go along with him on this tried-and-true one last job.

Randomly, he selects a letter from the Sweetzer family living in fictional, rural Ivanwood. There, teenage daughter Nell (the extraordinary Ashley Bell) has been acting strangely and the livestock are being slaughtered. Her father, Louis (Louis Hertham), a serious fundamentalist, begs Cotton to purge the demon that he thinks has possessed his innocent little girl. Her younger brother, Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones, creepy in his stillness) is not shy about telling the reverend and his camera crew to leave.

Cotton breezes in, works his magic and breezes out. Or so he thinks. In that classically frustrating horror-film fashion, he finds he cannot leave. And as he gets dragged deeper into this family's troubles, he finds himself in deeper trouble than he ever could have imagined.

Even before things turn violent, Stamm capably creates suspense through the naturalism of the film's look, the expert use of silence and pacing. It is rated PG-13, but don't let that fool you into thinking it is soft. It is the vagueness, the unknown, that make "The Last Exorcism" so powerful, at least for a while.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend