The Last Exorcism is a tasty slice of religious themed exploitation of little innovation, yet with plenty of thrills.
What fuels its success is its ability to feed on the prejudice of modern society, especially the fear and suspicion of the evangelical community.
Caricature is ripe, yet like any good exploitation movie should, The Last Exorcism uses it to its advantage. Here is a film set in the South. It pokes fun at the sincerity of true believers, who go along with the supernatural connotations that comes with their faith. The religious are shown as gullible and even dangerous, privy to the whim of suggestion and superstition.
But like a flick of a switch, it reverses these attitudes. Then asserts them again, and so on, and so forth until....well, let’s not say anymore, shall we?
It all begins with a confession from Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian): exorcisms are hokum. In fact, religion and anything associated with it, is bogus.
It is a decision he came to after years of internal conflict. A once devout disciple, Marcus now preaches religion as a form of comfort food, playing the well meaning charlatan to an oblivious congregation, who even yell “Amen!” at a recipe for banana bread (literally).
Wanting out of the preaching game, Marcus arranges one last hurrah in the exorcism of a teen girl (Ashley Bell), who is supposedly possessed by the Devil himself.
A documentary crew is asked to film the gullibility of these backwoods fundamentalists, who are often made fun of and scoffed at behind the scenes. But all of that changes when the realisation hits that they have gotten more than they bargained for.
What follows is a film of very little new ideas, yet under the direction of Daniel Stamm these most generic of possession and mockumentary stapes are put together in a very creative way, making The Last Exorcism an entertaining and genuinely frightening experience.
Depp and meaningful it is not, for while its dialogue into matters of faith is constant, The Last Exorcism feels ingenious as a religious discussion, failing to channel the depth which The Exorcist has in spades.
Yet what it does provide are solid performances (especially from Fabian and Bell), and plenty of twists and turns to keep both believers and non-believers on their toes.