Movie Review: The Last Exorcism

It's good - but it's not as good as that other movie about exorcisms

It doesn’t matter who you’ve got in your corner – in this case debuting director Daniel Stamm and horror’s new enfant terrible Eli Roth in the production role – making a modern movie about exorcisms is always going to be a case of David versus Goliath (only with Goliath tagging with the monster from Cloverfield and M.Bison from Street Fighter 2). It’s much like trying to invade Russia with a bin bag of plastic swords and an army of nuns. The odds are piled against you via a relay team of JCB diggers.

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Exorcismus, REC 2… I often wonder why studios bother. Made in 1973, The Exorcist is one of the greatest movies ever made; it’s notorious, it’s superbly made, it’s a rare example of a horror movie that has come to be appreciated by snooty, boring people who disrespect its parent genre.

In the case of The Last Exorcism, I’ll concede that I’m pleased Stamm, Roth and co had a go. This is an enjoyable movie; I’ve long been a fan of the found footage genre, especially within horror, and while The Last Exorcism is no masterclass like Blair Witch, or even The Last Broadcast, its tale of a jaded exorcist taking one last job, videotaping it to expose the hokum of the ritual, only to find he really is going mano-a-goato with the devil himself, is undoubtedly diverting stuff. Likewise, the ending is a rush, a sense of rickety ye olde Americana prevails throughout, while in the exorcist role, US TV stalwart Patrick Fabian is an engaging, empathetic lead.

Problem is, it’s not particularly scary, which for a film about exorcisms is a bit of a problem. It’s like a bar of chocolate not being very chocolatey or lemonade not being very lemonadey. Perhaps if you venture to the cinema to see one horror movie once a year – a practice which helped that other found footage staple Paranormal Activity become such a sensation in 2009 – then you might find it a little bit unnerving. But I was raised in a well by blind witches on a diet of children’s fingers and badgers and regularly watch eight films made by Takashi Miike before breakfast. I need a little bit more.

That said, it’s almost trite to say I don’t need anything more than what The Exorcist has to offer.

James McMahon