Night #5: The Last Exorcism

Here we are faithful reader, our fifth anniversary. Just you and me. When we started on this journey we never knew where it would take us, what dizzying heights we would reach. Sure, there’s been  some low points too but we came back strong. And if we can make it to night five well then there’s no reason we can’t make night ten, or even night thirty.

And so this mini run of found footage movies ends with The Last Exorcism.

There was a quote from some film maker, can’t really remember who, who said that why bother making a film about exorcism, when The Exorcist got it right first time.

It’s an opinion I can see, not necessarily one I share (And with the glut of AWFUL possession films out there, it’s hard not to agree), certainly not after seeing this little gem of a film. In it we follow an exorcist, played here by Patrick Fabian who’s only real notable credit was in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, who is a complete fraud. And after years of doing this he’s ready to give it all up and allows a documentary crew to watch how he does it.

He’s called to the home of a teen girl who’s been showing all the common signs, though her father and brother are a little cagey when it comes to helping out, and goes through his usual bag of tricks. But then things start to get weird…

OK so I really liked this movie. It allows its scares to build more in a more subdued, unsettling way, and hinges around the mystery of just what the hell is going on. You don’t have to look back far to see this type of film done poorly (Hello The Devil Inside) but thankfully this is an example of a film getting everything right. It’s all anchored by a great performance from Fabian, as a carnival conman who slowly starts to regain his faith, and for all of those who complained bitterly about the ending (I thought it was great), just remember that it’s a culmination of that arc. Special mention should go to Ashley Bell, who plays the ‘possessed’ girl of the piece. Her real life, I dunno, gift I guess, of hyper-mobility allows her to contort and twist her body into ways that would’ve looked ridiculous with CGI.

Forget out and out scares, creating an air of tension and making the viewer unsettled is a far better gift to the audience than just having something pop out to say “boo!” and thankfully The Last Exorcism is able to do that right up until its end. It’s not perfect, such is the nature of ‘found footage’ films that they really all just end the same way, it’s a shame that no one yet has found a way to end them differently. They’re all just variations on a theme and it’s a little disconcerting that of the five films I’ve watched to date, those final frames are almost interchangeable.

I doubt this will be the last ‘found footage’ film we’ll cover in the days to come, there’s plenty more out there and I’m sure there’s plenty of good ones that I’m missing but for now I’m a little burned out on them and I’d like something where the camera doesn’t move. Even my dreams are shaky at the moment – just 90 minutes of stillness will do me please.

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