“The Last Exorcism” starts off strong with new take, but falters at the end

Christina Toroyan

4 stars out of 5

When someone hears the title, “The Last Exorcism,” comedy is not the first thing that comes to mind. However,  the entire first half of “The Last Exorcism” is filled with sarcasm, wit and comedy to put the audience at ease in the beginning, just to shock and frighten them later. Let’s get to the point: this is not a movie you would take someone to on a first date.

The film is shot as a faux documentary about how exorcisms are performed. It follows Reverend Cotton Marcus to a rural Louisiana farm to perform what he thinks will be another typical exorcism on the farm owner’s daughter, Nell Sweetzer, who is brilliantly acted by Ashley Bell. Reverend Marcus’ perspective on exorcisms relies on a psychological perspective. Although his profession has been to preach about the difference between God and the devil, he believes people who think they are possessed by the devil is just that – a thought that haunts them, not a physical “devil” that captivates their body. His process of ridding the devil of one’s body is an award-winning performance and is in itself worth a trip to the theater.

“The Last Exorcism” attempts to frighten the audience by creating a story that is equally compelling and dramatic with the use of the faux documentary style. “Truth is stranger than fiction,” said writer Huck Botko. The style of the film makes the viewer believe it is a true story. “In a documentary you can do stuff that in a regular movie people would say was too weird or too strange,” Botko said.

“It (faux documentary style) forces the audience into an intimacy with what’s going on that sometimes may be uncomfortable,” said Daniel Stamm, director. The audience has a forced closeness, unlike any other exorcism film of its kind, which they may not really be eager to partake in and cannot seem to escape from. “So we’re in people’s faces much more than they’re used to, which I think really helps with the intensity,” Stamm said.

The movie starts off strong with its extraordinary use of camera angle close-ups, narrative style and faux documentary shooting. The writers, directors, film crew and actors did an amazing job in keeping you tuned in to what is going on within the film. You’re happy because the end is almost near, the mystery is about to be solved and the answer of the devil  residing in Nell’s body is about to be answered, but the ending is just confusing and disappointing.

“The Last Exorcism” opens in theaters Friday, Aug. 27.