The Last Exorcism
Time Out says
Daniel Stamm’s frustrating faux-documentary about a charlatan exorcist confronted by a seemingly genuine case of demonic possession sustains its intriguing conceit until the last ten minutes, when a contrived generic ending pops up out of nowhere and erases all of its troubling ambiguities. It’s a crushing disappointment as the intimate immediacy of the preceding scenes is emotionally involving, psychologically disturbing and often downright terrifying.
The Reverend Cotton Marcus, a charismatic evangelical preacher who has lost his faith, invites a documentary film crew to record and expose the truth about his final ‘exorcism’. Even when confronted by 16-year-old Nell, the daughter of a fundamentalist Louisiana farmer, the lapsed believer is sceptical: fragile and naive, Nell appears more psychologically distressed than demonically possessed. Since the death of her mother six years before, Nell has been locked way by her strict father and fiercely protective brother. There are whispers about a secret boyfriend and a faint suspicion of incest but Nell is initially calmed by the reverend’s hollow religious ministrations. Then the demons return with a vengeance.
The credibility of faux-documentary filmmaking relies on clear plotting and convincing, semi-improvised acting. German-born director Stamm is well served in both departments: Huck Botkoand Andrew Garland’s script toys with our scepticism, assumptions and fears, and Ashley Bell, as the shockingly feral Nell, and Patrick Fabian, as the charming showman priest, are both utterly believable. Sadly, the promise of the initial set-up and the atmospheric intensity of the central scenes are squandered by the ending.
Cast and crew
Caleb Landry Jones