Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Tony Bentley
Directed by Daniel Stamm
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Ever since Paranormal Activity exploded at the box office, it seems as if everyone is looking to make the next big cinéma-vérité style film. Lionsgate’s The Last Exorcism is not your standard found footage movie. In fact, it’s anything but. The film plays as a mock-documentary, but who exactly put it together? Who scored it? What is its purpose? These are some of the many questions people who invest in the rich characters and go along for the ride have raised. We all know it’s not comprised of real footage, and the filmmakers have maintained that fact. Still, it gets you talking and wondering, and that’s all part of this spooky little gem’s charm. That’s not to say this particular package isn’t rooted in reality, though. More on that in a bit. First the plot crunch!
Cotton Marcus (Fabian) is a man of the cloth who has lost his faith. After reading about an autistic boy who was suffocated during an exorcism performed by a group of people who didn’t understand the lad’s illness, he finds himself a new calling in life: to expose exorcisms for what he now believes that they are … useless rituals administered by charlatans who take advantage of the ill-witted families of the mentally disturbed. Armed and invigorated with new purpose, he hires a film crew to follow him along to document what will be his last exorcism.
His destination? The Sweetzer farm, which is home to a father, his son, and one awfully troubled girl named Nell (Bell). Cotton pulls out all the stops for his camera crew, but little does he realize that some things can’t be explained away by science. Sometimes you are brought face-to-face with evil itself. With lives on the line can he believe again? That’s really all we’re going to tell you about the plot because this flick is home to lots of really cool twists and turns.
Let’s face it; no film about possession will ever top The Exorcist. As a filmmaker, even if you attempted half of the things that infamous shocker brought to the table, the fans would label your movie as a rip-off. Thankfully, The Last Exorcism holds its own by not recycling material. Director Daniel Stamm’s keen eye for detail and plot feels fresh and offers its own very distinct interpretation of what a young girl and her family who are dealing with possession would have to go through.
There are four stars here who really pull it all together for him – the amazing Ashley Bell, who brought all of that body contorting terror to the screen herself; the impossible not to like Patrick Fabian, who oozes charisma in the role; the entire sound department headed up by Michael Baird, who brought every unnatural creak, groan, and bump to startling and jarring life; and of course composer Nathan Barr, who provides a pitch perfect score. You can literally close your eyes and sit through the film just listening and get just as creeped out as if you were watching it. Bravo, people, bravo!
The main complaint I’ve heard from others regarding this flick is that the ending didn’t work for them. Some have said it even ruins the experience. I totally can understand where they’re coming from, but me? I LOVED it. Once the realization came of which way the events were headed, I was totally on board for the ride. For those of you worrying who haven’t seen it yet … chill out … things do not get wrapped up with a neat bow, and the filmmakers certainly don’t pussy out.
You would think that a movie filmed in this style would look pretty much the same in either high or standard definition, but you would also be horribly wrong. In 1080p The Last Exorcism looks nothing short of stellar. The image is rich with depth and detail, sharp as a tack with a vibrant color palette and black levels that are not only spot-on but serve to enhance the experience in the spookiest of ways possible. Then there’s the soundtrack … the 7.1 DTS-HD master audio track will have you creeping back into your seat and crawling out of your skin. Really, really good stuff.
In terms of special features the differences between the packages are noted below with Blu-ray owners coming out on the extras heavy side of the fence. Kicking things off there are three commentary tracks. The first with producers Eli Roth, Eric Newman and Tom Bliss is a great listen with Roth (as always) stealing the show. Like him or not, he’s an entertaining guy who celebrates this genre and its roots whenever he can. The second and most lively track features director Daniel Stamm and actors Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian, and Louis Herthum. It’s obvious that this foursome developed one hell of a relationship while making the movie and have a lot of affection for each other. This track plays like watching the flick with a group of old friends – loose, comfortable, and engaging. Then there’s the third, which is without question the most fascinating of the package: an audio commentary with a haunting victim, a deliverance minister, and a clinical psychologist. Ever wonder what people who have experienced these types of terrors firsthand would think of a film like this? Prepare to find out. There are a few dead spaces during the track, and sometimes you get the impression that the participants aren’t exactly sure what they should and shouldn’t be saying, but when they get rolling, it’s truly riveting and thought-provoking stuff.
Before we go on to cover the rest of the supplemental material, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you of the news story we did about this package possibly being haunted. We’ll let Eli Roth take it from here – “There were no supernatural incidents making The Last Exorcism, yet three people quit working on the DVD because demons attempted contact,” said Roth on Twitter. “We have a real possession victim in our special features, the problem is people working on it will no longer touch the footage. I’m serious. People will think it’s a publicity stunt but we are actually having difficulty finding people who will finish the DVD. No one will risk it.” Well, thankfully they found some risk takers, and Lionsgate has taken measures to ensure the safety of its viewers by including a protection prayer on the disc that is to be read aloud before watching the featurette “Real Stories of Exorcism”, which happens to be home to actual E.V.P.’s (electronic voice phenomenon) of demonic voices. Believe what you will, but one thing’s for certain: William Castle would be proud and LOVING this! For the record … yes, I read it aloud. I’m not superstitious or religious, but why tempt fate? I love my PlayStation 3. I want it to keep working, damnit!
From there you have your standard yet very good making-of featurette, some audition footage of both Bell and Fabian that you definitely shouldn’t miss, the theatrical trailer, and the 2009 Cannes Film Festival teaser trailer. All in all? This is a solid package that you should definitely get your horror-loving claws into.
The Last Exorcism is a movie that asks more questions than it actually answers, and that’s a problem for a lot of people. Especially those who like their entertainment to be spoon-fed to them. See it, digest it, and then ask yourself, “What do I believe?” Well … what do you?
DVD Special Features
Blu-ray Special Features
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
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