Yes, I was drawn in by the trailer for The Last Exorcism. You know, the one that's like, "Hello, I know I'm produced by the makers of Saw. But I look like a documentary! Please take me seriously." The horror movie lover in me said I should go see it, but the rational person in me took the horror movie lover in me out back and shot her . . . Man, the rational person in me is a real psychopath.
But my boyfriend, a man much more skeptical and hateful of modern horror fare then most, mentioned that it was getting good reviews. One lazy trip to Metacritic showed that, yes, it did get good reviews. It got a 63, better than average, which is more than can be said for big-budget summer hopefuls like Iron Man 2. That was enough for me to temporarily forget that Eli Roth had a big, sweaty hand in making The Last Exorcism.
The only thing to fear from Eli Roth is roid rage
We open in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where a charismatic Cotton Marcus preaches to his small, fiercely devoted flock. He's a good looking man groomed from youth to be an evangelist. But the act has reduced him to an energetic showman without faith, a man who has worked behind the scenes and has seen it for the scam that it is.
With the help of a documentary film crew, he sets out to reveal what he considers the deadliest of religious fraud - exorcism - a mission he takes on after reading about a boy killed during the ritual. He picks one of the letters requesting his exorcist services at random and, unlucky for him, it just happens to be the real thing. Bummer.
The letter brings them to a backwards farming community where they find Nell, a 16-year-old girl who, by day, is the sweetest, Jesus loving thing ever, but by night likes to stab cats to death while in the nude. Marcus performs a fake exorcism on her (his use of literal smoke and mirrors to do so elicits a few laughs), but is soon faced with a teenaged evil capable of killing him and the poor, unsuspecting film students that he probably hired off Craigslist.
In journalism school, they teach you the fundamental rules of writing, one of them being to never leave any questions unanswered. Whoever wrote Last Exorcism must not have heard this rule, as they leave questions floating around like chunks of unflushed vomit. Like why, when they're faced with danger, don't they call the cops? For example, who does Marcus call when, early in the film, he finds Nell chained to her bed? The local preacher. (What?! Dude, child welfare puts people in jail for leaving their kids in an air conditioned car for two minutes! Take advantage of that shit!)
Also, why doesn't the cameraman, who seems the most scared, drop the camera and run the hell away? Why does he keep filming when there's a crazy she-demon running around with knives? Though it starts strong, these unanswered questions soon overwhelm what could have been a decent outing.
The movie also extrapolates the good elements from classics like Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project and craps them out into one bastardized horror hybrid of an ending. It left me wondering if, halfway through, the budget tanked and a high-school film class stepped in to finish the job. If so, then this recession really is a bitch.