Produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm, here comes another mockumentary horror movie. With the success of Paranormal Activity, it’s hardly surprising that there’s another one. What is surprising, however, is the form that The Last Exorcism takes.
Father Cotton Marcus is an exorcist. Sort of. Of late, he has been having trouble with his faith and he performs his exorcisms more as a psychological cure than a theological one. His fake exorcisms carry more of a placebo effect Disillusioned by the news that an exorcism lead to a death by suffocation, he goes to a Louisiana farm with a documentary crew to expose exorcisms for the scams that they are. However, what he sees there will increasingly defy a rational explanation, until Father Marcus comes to believe that he is facing the Devil himself.
Admittedly, none of this is new. Patrick Fabian is great as the trickster preacher you don’t trust but can’t help but like. He makes his story interesting, despite the fact that he’s clearly just a more fun Father Karras from the seminal The Exorcist. The first exorcism scene is intercut with Father Marcus dryly displaying his gadgets (a smoke-emitting crucifix among other things). This scene marks the tone of the film and for anyone who has seen the trailer, it’s a bit of a shock. The film isn’t scary. For a horror film, that is something of a failing. However, The Last Exorcism isn’t really trying to scare. It’s certainly trying to entertain, and it does, but, oddly, it seems to be trying to be funny. During the screening, the audience were laughing the whole way through. But I don’t think the audience were laughing at it so much as laughing with it.
The Last Exorcism is one of those odd films that aims to be so-bad-its-good and hits the target so well that you think it might just be genuinely bad. The mockumentary opening is good character shorthand, but the director soon drops it, employing score, reaction shots and, even, point-of-view shots. The film would have worked much better as a straight horror film, particularly during the hilariously goofy ending. Many people have complained that the final 15 minutes of The Last Exorcism are the worst final 15 minutes of a film this year. To me, it was merely the logical progression of this refreshingly silly 87-minute horror film. You may not be scared, but you will most certainly leave the film entertained. As the final images played out (an admittedly annoying cameraman-running-away scene with shaky camera and heavy breathing) and the first end credit appeared with a thud, there was a large amount of laughter and everyone filed out with big smiles on their faces. A “funniest film ever” was heard, surely an exaggeration but a fair comment none the less.
The Last Exorcism is not a great film. It’s either a misjudged horror or a badly marketed comedy, but it’s certainly fun. And I’m still smiling.