TORONTO AFTER DARK: “THE LAST EXORCISM” PREVIEW & REVIEW
The DLB had the chance to see The Last Exorcism last week and was duly impressed (see review below). The Eli Roth-produced horror show opens Aug. 27, and Toronto After Dark is showing the film tonight (Monday, Aug. 16) at 7 pm at The Bloor Cinema. In attendance will be Roth and cast members Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian. I’ll be interviewing the trio Monday afternoon so look for those interviews the week of Aug. 27th, leading up to its national release.
In the meantime…
THE LAST EXORCISM
Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell and Louis Herthum
Directed by Daniel Stamm
Written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland
The cinematic roots of The Last Exorcism are plain: namely The Blair Witch Project, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. Fortunately director Daniel Stamm and writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland have enough ingenuity and enthusiasm between them to make their film more than the sum of its well-known and much copied parts.
The Last Exorcism sets itself up as a faux-documentary. The subject is Cotton Marcus (Fabian), a preacher and exorcist questioning his faith in God. Determined to expose the lucrative practice of casting out demons as fraud after reading of a supposedly possessed child’s death during an exorcism, he invites a film crew to document his final exorcism, that of a small-town Louisiana teen named Nell Sweetzer (Bell). Nell’s father Louis (Herthum) has retreated into the Bible and the bottle since the death of his wife and refuses to believe that his daughter’s acting out is anything over than demonic possession. But Cotton’s faked exorcism is only the beginning of a series of events which cause Cotton to re-examine the power of faith and the existence of both God and the Devil.
Stamm does a great job of keeping the truth behind Nell’s supposed possession in question until the final scenes. Cotton’s exorcisms aren’t real, but he knows that the comfort he gives to the troubled of mind is. And Nell’s actions – killing livestock, attacking her brother – could just maybe be the result of living with an overprotective father whose love for his daughter could just maybe be inappropriate. Is Nell possessed by a demon or is she the victim of guilt and shame? Well, this is a horror film, but the answer to that question remains in doubt until close to the film’s end.
Performances are strong all round. Patrick Fabian, primarily a TV actor, who portrays Cotton as both an opportunistic charmer and a family man determined to do right by his family. But it’s newcomer Ashley Bell who steals the show, convincingly portraying an innocent terrified of what’s inside her as well as a monster who revels in destruction and death.
The Last Exorcism may not be wholly original, but it communicates the horror of what lies outside this earthly plain with enough vigour and skill to shake us to the core.