Combustible Celluloid
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With: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Tony Bentley, John Wright Jr., Shanna Forrestall, Justin Shafer
Written by: Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material
Running Time: 87
Date: 06/24/2010

The Last Exorcism (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Demon Night

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2009) before it, The Last Exorcism employs the very effective "fake documentary" format. This elevates the drama to a much more immediate, visceral level, but it also brings a great side effect. All three movies tend to focus on implied horror rather than explicit horror; since this leaves something to the audience's imagination the result is much more chilling than all the violence and gore in the world.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been preaching since he was a child, and now no longer believes in what he's saying. As part of his job, he performs "exorcisms," which are fake and designed to bring nothing more than peace of mind. Fed up with the lies, he invites a documentary crew to film his latest performance, on a "possessed" teen, Nell (Ashley Bell). Unfortunately, his ceremony doesn't work and trouble continues with scary threats and violent attacks. Cotton believes that the haunting is man-made, but eventually things get a little too weird to entirely discount a supernatural influence.

The movie loses points for being one of the later examples of a now-familiar genre, but it does have a highly engaging and charismatic flawed hero, as well as a fine performance by television actor Patrick Fabian ("Veronica Mars," "Big Love"). Thankfully the movie gives him enough time to come to life before the scary stuff kicks in. The character's crisis of faith and his curiosity and confidence make him someone worth re-visiting, should there ever be a sequel.

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