Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and article.
With tomorrow’s release of The Last Exorcism Part II, I thought I’d share my vilification of the original movie from August 2010.
The Last Exorcism
Review by Rick Klaw
Directed by Daniel Stamm
Starring Patrick Fabian, Louis Herthum, and Ashley Bell
Before the film actually starts, three factors affected the general impressions of The Last Exorcism: its rating, release date, and subject material. In regards to exorcism, Hollywood consistently produces inferior products centered around the topic with the three notable exceptions of The Exorcist, often cited as the scariest movie of all time, the terrifying Poltergeist, and the Tim Burton-helmed comedy Beetlejuice. Studios typically reserve the post-summer blockbuster season period of late August for lesser genre offerings; horror films that would not attract a wide audience and/or not scary enough for the Halloween crowd. A PG-13 immediately saddles the project with lower expectations among fans. As legendary horror film actor Bruce Cambell (Evil Dead films) puts it “You show me a PG-13 horror movie, and I’ll show you a sell out.” Directed by German filmmaker Daniel Stamm (A Necessary Death), The Last Exorcism fails to overcome these perceptions and actually further perpetuates them thanks to a ludicrous script, mediocre acting, and the worst kind of clichéd Hollywood horror ending.
A documentary film crew accompanies disillusioned evangelical minister and exorcist Cotton Mauer (Patrick Fabian), as he performs his final exorcism all while exposing the fraud behind the ritual. Widower Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) summons Mauer to small town Louisiana for a combat with the demon that currently possesses Sweetzer’s teen daughter Neil (Ashley Bell).
Defying preconceptions, the first thirty minutes actually offers an enjoyable insider’s account of the workings behind a ministry and an exorcism. Mauer reveals his methods for deceiving the rubes within his flock and the even more fascinating manner in which exorcists make the supernatural real.
Rather than stick with that far more intriguing and unique track, the Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland (co-writers for Mail Order Wife) screenplay disappointingly degenerates into stereotypical fare, complete with attempts at cheap shocks, tiresome characters, and ineffectual red herrings. Toss in the most ludicrous and inane conclusion of the year, the not scary The Last Exorcism ultimately wastes 87 minutes better spent doing almost anything else. If only there was a way to exorcise this dismal movie-going experience.