A while back I was watching some crappy music video channel with a friend, and we came to the conclusion that as you get older (more jaded?) it’s harder to get excited about new bands because you can’t help comparing them to all the previous bands they remind you of. I’m not sure if this is generally true of films as well, but it’s certainly true of The Last Exorcism (2010)!
For those who don’t know, this “found footage” horror flick stars Patrick Fabian as ‘Reverend Cotton Marcus’, a disillusioned minister who has invited a two-person documentary crew to film him as he performs his final professional exorcism, in order to reveal the con-tricks he uses to calm the fears of superstitious folk. Plucking a random begging letter from the pile on his desk, Marcus sets off to the eerie backwater of Ivanwood, Louisiana, to investigate an isolated farmer’s claim that his daughter is possessed by a demon… little suspecting that what began as a winking caper, will soon become a bloody battle with true, indisputable evil!
Which is a pretty awesome set-up for a movie, whichever way you slice it… but, as the saying goes, “It ain’t how you start, it’s how you finish” that counts, and the film-makers really drop the ball in the final act, when what could have been a genius twist on The Exorcist, devolves into a poor man’s To the Devil a Daughter/Rosemary’s Baby/The Reaping rip-off. I mean, there’s a reason why The Blair Witch Project didn’t end with the film crew stumbling across a hook-nosed witch stood beside a bubbling cauldron, cackling about how she was going to eat them… the reason being that it would have undermined all the effort that had gone into establishing the creepy, “Could this really happen?” tone of the earlier scenes, just as the Devil Baby BBQ scene does here. Meh. It also totally compromises the whole “found footage” conceit… unless we’re supposed to believe that someone in the cult took the camera and edited all the footage together themselves? Seems a bit unlikely considering how incriminating that would be, but I suppose it was a pretty important night for them, and they might want to keep a record of the occasion? Hmmm…
Kvetching aside, you have to admire the commitment of Ashley Bell, the double-jointed actress who plays the movie’s doomed heroine, ‘Nell Sweetzer’. She really gave her all for this role… in fact you might even say she bent over backwards! Ho ho. According to the commentary, the director often demanded twenty or thirty takes of certain scenes, to cover all the angles and ensure maximum verisimilitude… which would be pretty gruelling under the best of circumstances, but even worse when you’re filming physically and emotionally draining exchanges in sweltering heat! Bell rather sweetly insists that the resulting discomfort and fatigue actually helped her performance… and she happily raves about how much fun she was having on-set, and how delighted she is with the end result. Bless her. That gal’s a real trouper!