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The Independent Critic

Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian
Daniel Stamm
Andrew Gurland, Huck Botko
Rated PG-13
87 Mins.
Audio Commentary by Producers Eli Roth, Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss
Audio Commentary by Director Daniel Stamm and Actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian and Louis Herthum
“The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism” Featurette (approx 20:04)
“Real Stories of Exorcism” Featurette (approx 14:30)
2009 Cannes Film Festival Teaser Trailer

 "The Last Exorcism" Review 
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A rather unexpectedly pleasant surprise, The Last Exorcism may very well be late summer, early fall's "little movie" that could. Presented by horror dude extraordinaire Eli Roth along with the trio of producers that brought to the screen Children of Men, The Last Exorcism is the latest in a long line of mock-docs, films that purport to be based upon true stories and "found" footage.

Filmed on the Hollywood paltry amount of $1.8 million, The Last Exorcism is the story of Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a formerly crooked preacher who decides to turn his personal and theological life around following a crisis involving his young son. Rev. Marcus decides to begin turning the tables on the fraudulent nature of his trade and, camera crew in tow, sets out for the eerily appropriate Louisiana and the farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) and his home-schooled daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), whom Sweetzer believes to be possessed and of needing exorcism.

It would be a shame, and remarkably inappropriate, to reveal how The Last Exorcism unfolds. Suffice it to say that director Daniel Stamm has built one of the better faux docs since the success of Blair Witch Project and, despite an ending that's unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with this genre of film, The Last Exorcism is filled with enough anticipation, dread and chills to satisfy fans of horror-lite, thrillers, psych horror and similar such films.

It's easy to understand why Eli Roth was drawn to The Last Exorcism, a remarkably timely film likely to please anyone who watches recent newscasts of Bible-thumping religious fanatics whipping themselves into a fervor over the reclaiming of America and their "right" faith (Mental Note: Prepare for hate mail). At its heart, The Last Exorcism is about the dark side of religious fervor, fanaticism, faux piety and the rise of Christian fundamentalism.

In other words, this flick is scary with just a few moments of stress relieving humor tossed in at just the right times.

The Last Exorcism soars thanks to the performance of young Ashley Bell, a relative newcomer, whose presence on screen is all the more electrifying when one realizes that her physically demanding performance is unaided by CGI effects. This is pure and fresh acting, and Bell's performance here is likely to be highly recognized in horror/sci-fi awards shows come year's end. Keeping pace with Bell, Patrick Fabian is remarkably convincing as Rev. Marcus, a man who has been humbled by his own faith or by God or by Satan or something in between. Marcus wears that "smooth preacher" aura quite nicely, but adds just the right amount of vulnerability as the film moves on that it becomes impossible to not become deeply involved in his ever worsening situation.

The script by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland is a delightful blend of intelligence and suspense hindered only by a rather generic ending meant to surprise, while Nathan Barr's original score is spot-on perfect. D.P. Zoltan Honti manages to give The Last Exorcism a look that intertwines both its humane and divine elements, while Stamm and the entire production team toss in tributes to films past from the remarkably obvious The Exorcist to Lucio Fulci's The Gates of Hell.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic