Published Aug 26, 2010Yes, it's another faux-documentary and yes, it's about an opportunistic evangelical preacher with dubious motivations. These familiar elements are invigorated by a narrative so effectively executed as to border on greatness by contemporary horror flick standards. The incongruities continue ― though produced by torture porn impresario Eli Roth, it works on a minimalist level as an old-fashioned slow burn, limiting the violent demon spasms to a couple of climactic scenes.
The subject is Cotton Marcus, a preacher with shaky faith who follows in his father's footsteps as an exorcist in the American south. He rationalizes that his work provides peace of mind to those in need. In more candid moments, he admits his real motivation is to pay his son's medical bills. Sleaze ball evangelicals have become so ubiquitous in genre films that even hardcore atheists must be sick of this stereotype. That's why Cotton's complex, nearly faltering faith is so refreshing.
The clients filmed for the "documentary" are a backwoods family who fit the true believer clichés a little more closely, with implications of incest and other dark secrets driving the plot early on. A type of theistic sweet spot is hit; it won't offend Christians or seem too preachy for secular audiences.
Well-timed revelations will keep viewers attentive until the final moments. If the final act is a bit of a stretch, this can be forgiven. After all, The Last Exorcism is a textbook case of filmmaking restraint. Given the faux-doc POV, it would have been easy to get a little hammy (see: District Nine), even getting away with it.
But this is nothing more than the simple, elegantly told tale of a good man facing down some scary-ass demons. (Alliance)