Review: The Last Exorcism DVD

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Daniel Stamm | CAST: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones
RELEASE DATE: 1/4/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray/DVD $39.99
BONUSES: two commentaries, featurettes, more; Blu-ray adds additional commentary, audition footage, standard DVD, digital copy
SPECS: PG-13 | 83 min. | Horror | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The Last Exorcism is a tight little demonic possession movie that combines the devilish terror of The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose with the faux-documentary immediacy of The Blair Witch Project.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian, TV’s Big Love) is a second-generation preacher who has been scamming true believers in the rural South for years by performing “exorcisms,” but now he has decided to expose the act as a fraud. With a documentary movie crew in tow to film his last exorcism, Marcus is brought in by widowed farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum, Wrong Side of Town), who believes his teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell, TV’s United States of Tara) is possessed by demons. Marcus goes into his usual soul-saving routine — for the cameras — only to learn that there’s definitely something evil going on at the Sweetzer farm … and in Nell’s soul.

Filmed in the shaky documentary style that has become de rigeur for low-budget, indie horror films since the triumph of Blair Witch more than a decade ago, The Last Exorcism definitely delivers on the creepiness and atmosphere factor. But it’s the performances of Fabian and Bell that really make the movie work. Fabian is outstanding as Marcus, infusing his preacher with well-measured doses of energy and restraint, faith and doubt. And as for 14-year-old Bell, lets just say she contorts her face and body to demonic effect with the best of them.

Like The Exorcist (which every post-1973 possession film has no choice but to be inspired by and compared to), The Last Exorcism works best when it brings in the idea of religious faith and its place in a modern world of science, rationality, psychology and so on. When a feeling of doubt intrudes into a mind of life-long beliefs, the effects can be truly terrifying. And Last Exorcism director Daniel Stamm is wise enough to hold back on any overly graphic depictions and leave some of those unsettling visions to the imagination of the viewer.

The substantial collection of DVD bonus materials includes a pair of commentaries — one with the director and cast and a second by the producers — and a featurette that relates a handful of real-life exorcism stories.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.