The Last Exorcism (2010) - You have to like an exorcism film where the people going to deal with the possession are sure that it is a hoax. In this film we have sort of the anti exorcism film. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a born and bred preacher, his father was a preacher and he became one as a child. In the years that have past since childhood though he has lost his faith. An illness to his wife challenged him and he decided medicine and not prayer was the answer to her problem. I guess both was not an option in his mind and he chose to follow the doctor. This crisis of faith though was not the end of his career though. He recognized that a good show can do more to help people than all the answered prayers in heaven. So Cotton still traveled out into the would performing rituals to heal the true believers. He sees it as bring comfort to them, sure he might be faking when the spirit enters him, sure his sleight of hand tricks might be dishonest but he does not question the results. The people he does this for are comforted and isn't that doing good works? No more he wants the film crew to expose exorcism for what it is, a scam. Sure it appears that the writhing target of the ritual is possessed but Cotton does not see it as a demon. He does not believe in demons, instead it is a disturbed person going through the motions of possession instead of facing the truth of their life.
So when a film maker Iris (Iris Bahr) and cameraman want to follow Cotton around and film him doing an exorcism he is all for it. He shares his attitudes about it and randomly picks one of the many letters from his batch mail to visit. Off they drive to some foreign country where Gods drive in the passenger seat and the church is the focal point of community life. Where whenever anything goes wrong it is the devil's doing and when things go well you are blessed by God; Rural America as it is also known. On the way to the exorcism they stop and talk to some of the fine folks in the area and hear stories of belief in demons and cults in the hills. Cotton is somewhat mocking of those they encounter.
They arrive at the farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) and his family, son Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) and daughter Nell (Ashley Bell), they are a sad family who have been living in isolation since the death of Louis's wife. He has really withdrawn seeing the world as too dangerous a place. He is so afraid of losing his children like he did his wife that they never go anywhere and he feels abandoned by God. His son is angry and shows that anger right away when he runs into the arriving camera crew. Nell is disturbed and Louis thinks she is possessed by a demon. As proof he says that the cross burns her on touch and Cotton points out to us that a nickle allergy could have that effect. Cotton will test the girl and does so with a trick that makes it appear that when he puts her feet in water and prays over her that the water boils. It is just a reaction to something he slipped into the water.
Expectations for this film is that at this point he will start an exorcism and as he goes through the motions his non-faith will be tested as Cotton sees and hears things that he can not explain away. It will be time to make the nonbeliever a believer and in so doing he will find his lost faith and save the day. Well this movie is not trying to meet our expectations so that is not where it goes. Instead he does his fake exorcism with smoke and mirrors and tells the family to get out more the demon is gone and the crew heads back to their hotel for the night.
This of course can't be the end of it and they are drawn back into the family when Nell arrives in the hotel room. How did she even know where they were staying? It's four miles from the farm, How did she even get there? Her behavior leads them to take her to the hospital and get her some psychiatric help. Since the father thinks this is a demon and the exorcism did not work he will get her none of that kind of help. Enlisting the help of the local preacher seems to be a dead end when Cotton tries it.
Since the only way to follow this story is to follow the ever recording camera crew and Cotton they have to make it back to the farm and Nell. Again you think that everything will lead the now reinforced notion of non-demonic problems back to the Supernatural but again the movie goes the other way. It shows things that could be construed as supernatural but every time you get close to thinking it is the script calls for something to pull you back. It is saying don't believe, hey look at this weird thing, don't believe so that when they get to the twist ending you are like, but "You said don't believe, WTF!" Unfortunately it falls a bit flat at this point and the entire belief in the ending hinges on one little line in an interview earlier in the movie. On top of it we get the somewhat Blair Witch Project ending and the movie feels a bit disappointing.
Overall though I think this movie is a recommend, the acting is good and the physical acting by Ashley Bell is exceptional, even though the 25 year old actress does not really look a passable 16 year old. Although the ending throws a wrench in it the story is reasonable and interesting.
Rating (5.5) 5.0 and up are recommended in the Zombiegrrlz system I would say RENT IT!