Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Last Exorcism - Derivative Turns Into a Terrifying Tale

I was scared shitless!

And I don't scare easily. But my catecholamines were all primed to wire me away! I felt twitches on me, and there was a shiver down my spine. How was I to know that it would give me the willies? Let's face it, every bit of this story is pretty much derivative. We've all heard - and seen them before. They were blockbusters too. In fact, Daniel Stamm's "The Last Exorcism" finished a close 2nd place at the weekend's US Box Office.

In A Nutshell

Father Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a charismatic priest who knows how to entertain more than to believe the scripture he teaches. He loves a pumped up crowd, and he knows how to stir them up! But one day, he plans on leaving the service. Heaven knows he needs dough to pay for his delicate son's medical insurance. For now, a documentary crew is following him around. And he has agreed to prove on cam that most exorcisms are indeed bogus, much like the hundreds he's done before. Today, he picks a random letter then proceeds to the sender's address - a farm in Louisiana. He is to perform his last exorcism.

But what he didn't expect was the perplexity of the circumstance. He meets the Sweetzers: Louis the father; Caleb the brother; and sweet girl Nell (Ashley Bell) who has slaughtered half of her father's livestock. She bristles when a crucifix touches her skin. And she disappears at night, only to return in the morning with blood all over her sleeping gown. "Yanggaw" anyone? Since he has admitted that he doesn't believe in the devil, Father Cotton has to rely on rational explanation. Was this medical? Psychiatric? A case of incest? Physical abuse? Rape? As each of these items are gradually ruled out, Cotton and his crew soon realize that they would have to either help the girl or risk the possibility of death.

Patrick Fabian, who's 45 years old, gives a textured performance; he is charismatic and compelling. Where has he been all these years? Busy, apparently. His imdb page lists 85 under-the-radar titles, although I honestly don't remember him from the list of familiar titles. Ashley Bell plays the innocent farm girl Nell who couldn't hurt a fly, until her "possesssion" when she turns malevolent! I was shaking every time Fr. Cotton would come near her. She effectively imparted silent menace. I think the best tool to give this spin a fresh take is its use of a hand-held camera to tell its story. It renders the film a sense of reality and a sensation of immediacy. With brisk and judicious editing, how could they go wrong?

Watch it if you want to be terrified!

Charismatic Patrick Fabian

Nell slices brother Caleb with a knife.

Patrick Fabian and Ashley Bell share promotional duties.

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