The Last Exorcism Director: Daniel Stamm Starring: Patrick Fabian, Louis Herthum, Ashley Bell
From 1999's The Blair Witch Project to last year's phenomenon Paranormal Activity, the faux documentary has become a frequent staple of the horror genre in the past decade. Produced by Hostel's Eli Roth, Daniel Stamm's effort is the latest to make use of the format, if only as a sly way of distancing itself from the daddy of all exorcism movies, The Exorcist. In this case, the mock-doc centres on Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a dubious Louisiana-based preacher who is not above faking exorcisms for his gullible flock. Determined to prove that demonic possession is a load of rubbish, Marcus takes a film crew with him to a local backwater, to follow up a cry for help from a farmer (Louis Herthum) who believes his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is under the influence of evil. One bogus exorcism later and Marcus believes his point is proved. It's a neat conceit, using the central character to challenge the very belief that a person can be possessed - which, let's face it, is something of a fundamental in exorcism movies. But like Marcus, we're meant to gradually see our own scepticism erased, as Nell's behaviour (spooky drawings, cat killing and more) becomes increasingly erratic. Stamm, whose previous work includes a documentary on Nick Cave, marshalls the material well, eliciting genuinely authentic performances - in particular from Bell, who is physical, frightening and full-blooded. But if her work sears into the brain, the film's nausea-inducing camera work and lack of genuine scares dampen her impact. Factor in the all-too-abrupt ending and The Last Exorcism ultimately leaves you underwhelmed rather than under your seat.
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