I skipped over THE LAST EXORCISM (2010) for years, thinking it just another exorcism movie, and a found-footage one at that (insert raspberry noise). After reading an interesting review, though, I took a chance and boy, what a gem it turned out to be for me. THE LAST EXORCISM delivers a high level of creepiness packaged in a thoughtful, intelligent meditation on faith and skepticism.
The movie is a mockumentary in which Cotton Marcus is a minister who lost his faith after it was doctors, not God, who cured his son of a severe illness. Patrick Fabian brings real charisma, humanity, and likeability to the role, which makes the movie instantly engaging. Marcus still ministers and performs exorcisms, but for him, it’s a show, a service that helps people feel better but otherwise doesn’t mean anything. Still, after hearing about a child dying during an exorcism, he decides it’s time to throw in the towel, and agrees to do the documentary so that fewer people might believe in the power of exorcism and risk getting hurt. His last exorcism turns out to be a Louisiana farm, where Louis Sweetzer (a solid and menacing Louis Herthum) raises his teenage children Nell and Caleb in a strict religious household. Louis doesn’t believe in science because doctors failed his wife, so he’s turned to God for guidance in every aspect of his life.
What follows is something that surprises him. Nell appears to be genuinely possessed. Or is she?
THE LAST EXORCISM rolls out as both an entertaining possession story and also a meditation on God, faith, and fraud. I had one big criticism, which was the ending, which worked on one level for me but not as a whole; it could have achieved the same thing with a smaller scale. But so what. The direction and scripting are tight, the acting is terrific, the found-footage element plays as advantage and not gimmick (the two filmmakers even end up personally involved in the story), and the end result engages your head as well as your heart rate. I’m happy to recommend this as another indie gem that proves good story can make even tired old tropes feel like they’re young again.