The Last Exorcism Review

Published 5 years ago by

the last exorcism review The Last Exorcism Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews The Last Exorcism

I didn’t really know what to expect going in to The Last Exorcism. It looked effectively creepy from what I’d seen in the trailer – and having Eli Roth’s name attached as producer didn’t sway me one way or the other. It was directed by Daniel Stamm, a fellow with a couple of small films under his belt, so in I went without expectations.

As the film started, I was surprised to see that they were going the first person faux documentary route. Right off the bat that rubbed me the right way for some reason – it told me I wasn’t getting just another slick, packaged horror movie production.

We’re introduced to pastor Cotton Marcus, a charismatic husband and father who can make his congregation eat out of his hand with his fiery sermons. He was groomed to be a preacher since he was a young boy and while he has been a believer his entire life, he’s begun to have doubts about his belief in God.

But a guy’s gotta eat, right?

So despite his recent loss of faith he continues to preach – and to make a few extra bucks on the side he performs exorcisms down in Louisiana where he’s based. Now he’s not all scam artist – he’s read in the newspaper more than once about children who are inadvertently killed during exorcisms due to the methods use to expel the supposed demons. He of course doesn’t believe in any such thing  – that instead there are psychological reasons behind the behavior of supposedly possessed people. His logic is that if he gets to them first, before religious types who truly believe they’re exorcising demons, he can save these folks from possible injury or death – and make recommendations that can get them some help.

For some reason (guilt, perhaps) he’s revealing all this to a documentary filmmaker and her cameraman – and he wants them to come along on what he believes will be a typical pseudo-exorcism. They drive deep out into the country to find a father (Louis Herthum) raising his teenage son and daughter in virtual isolation from town. He lost his wife not too long ago and it was only his faith and turning to the Bible that allowed him to get through it. However sometimes at night his farm animals are being killed and in the morning his 15 year old daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) wakes covered in blood with no memory of what happened.

Cotton gets busy laying the groundwork for his fake exorcism – setting up her room to project creepy sound effects, shake the bed, make smoke pour from a crucifix, etc. In the meantime he questions her and her family to try to get to the bottom of the real problem. Eventually of course, things get far more serious and bizarre than anything he’s encountered before and as things progress he begins to wonder if she can possibly be so deeply disturbed – or if something truly supernatural is going on.

The movie wouldn’t work at all were it not for the charm that Patrick Fabian brings to the role of Cotton – sure, he’s a scam artist trying to earn more money to support his family, but you can see that at the bottom of it all he’s got a good heart. At one point, with a chance to leave with a fat roll of bills he decides to return because he’s truly concerned for Nell.

patrick fabian last exorcism The Last Exorcism Review

Patrick Fabian in a scene from 'The Last Exorcism'

Speaking of Nell, Ashley Bell does an outstanding job of portraying a truly wide-eyed innocent caught up in something she cannot understand but wants desperately to escape. That makes it all the more effective when she crosses over to being possessed.

Personally, I’m a fan of this style of filmmaking when it’s done once in a great while – there may be comparisons to Paranormal Activity, but to me it seemed more like the original Blair Witch Project (in a good way). Unlike Blair Witch, there’s no ruining of the movie once you know for sure it’s fiction – that’s a given going in.

Everything is shot with a handheld camera, but it’s not excessively shaky as one might fear. There is a lot of use of low light photography (to great effect) and there’s a low budget feel to the whole thing that just makes it get under your skin that much more. There isn’t much gore (it’s PG-13 after all) but some of Nell’s physical contortions (which are real and not CGI) are at the very least unsettling to watch. The films unravels slowly, keeping the audience on the fence as to whether Nell truly is possessed by a demon or whether she’s suffering some deep psychological trauma from recent events.

All good so far, right? Well the first thing that detracts from the film is the decision to add music to the soundtrack about 2/3 of the way through. It was surprising and took me out of the documentary feel that the film had worked so hard to establish up until that point. It was nothing overly “cinematic” by any means – just some low key suspense music to amp up the tension… but I found it had the opposite effect, pulling me out of the film.

If you’re religious, the portrayals of the locals as fairly ignorant will put you off, although they don’t overdo it much and with Fabian on screen as a guide it softens it quite a bit. Overall however, do be aware that the overall “message” of the film isn’t exactly favorable to people who are believers.

As the film progressed I was curious where it would lead – would Cotton find that Nell was truly possessed and that he’d have to reach deep to rekindle his faith and save her? Or would he (in an anti-climactic fashion) find that she just needed psychological help after all? Sadly, after a fairly interesting journey The Last Exorcism COMPLETELY jumps the rails in its last 10 minutes.

It’s as if they either didn’t know how they should finish the film, or thought “Hey, let’s throw this wild, crazy ending in there that’ll knock people for a loop.” Well I’m here to tell you that as far as I’m concerned it was a HUGE miss – squandering the goodwill the film had built up with the audience in the preceding 90 minutes. It’s ridiculous not only one one level but many – completely ludicrous and unsatisfying.

I usually include a trailer for the film here but really if you plan on seeing the movie and you haven’t seen it yet, it’s best you do yourself a favor and don’t – leave everything for the film itself. Oh, and while it’s PG-13, the real-world approach to what’s happening on screen is the stuff of nightmares for kids, so I’d leave them at home for this one.

In the end I really would have liked to have given this a stronger recommendation, but if you’re looking for something a bit different in a horror movie and are a fan of the first person/documentary style you’ll probably enjoy The Last Exorcism - right up until the really stupid ending.

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If you’ve seen the film, visit our Last Exorcism spoilers post if you’d like to discuss the film without worrying about ruining it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Is this really a three star movie Vic?

    The trailers looked awful, and I know what the stupid ending is (wont spoil it obviously), it looks like a hybrid of Paranormal Activity and The Exorcist.

    • DSB,

      Well as has been pointed out by someone (you?) reviews can be (are?) subjective. For the first half of the film, I found myself really enjoying it… it started to lose its way about 2/3 in and that idiotic ending sucked, but it was the kind of situation where I was bummed the ending was awful because as I sat there I was really pulling for the film to be good – and that’s coming from a Christian guy watching a movie that wasn’t exactly friendly towards that.

      Maybe I was a little too easy on it, but I felt that overall with the performances and the approach it warranted an overall thumbs up. Worst I would have given it would be 2 1/2 stars.


      • Ok Vic fair enough, I think I’ll skip this one and go watch Scott Pilgrim instead :)

        • Now your talking Sam let me know what you think of Scott P.

    • The worst movie i have ever paid to see. I was extremely disappointed. Leaving the theatre everyone was upset and questioning why they had paid to see a movie that quite possibly could have been made by a high school drama class… How can this possibly have had this much publicity.. (((

  2. this movie was so horrible, i dont no how it even got 3 stars

    • castro,

      Can you elaborate? If someone disagrees I like to know the specifics.



      • well first off, the story was stupid, the entire movie, every buddy including my self where laughing intead of being scared, It’s hard to be frightened by something when you’re too busy laughing at it. it has a highly charismatic flawed hero, the back ground music made the movie feel like tinkly piano music, and its very drawn out, and also the ending sucked big donkey nuts, sorry but this movie is a 2 ou of my 1-10 book

        • castro,

          Up until the end, I thought the story was a good one – although I can understand if you have a problem with the direction they chose to tell it (first person/documentary as opposed to a traditional approach). No one was laughing at my screening, BTW. :)

          As to the hero, are you saying you didn’t like that he was flawed or that he was charismatic? Flawed heroes are much easier to relate to than perfect ones. As to the music, as I mentioned, I wish they had left it completely out of the film as it detracted from what their approach.

          And yeah… the ending… yikes.


          • basicly flawed, he didnt show much of a character in my eyes,

  3. Vic
    This is rated pg 13 right?? Do you have the ratings of the film on here?

    BTW i want to see this! :D

    • Ricky,

      Yes, it’s PG-13. I don’t usually add the movie rating in reviews although it’s been mentioned before. I’m just not used to doing it so I forget…


  4. Nice. I think I’ll save it for DVD, though.

  5. I totally agree with this review. Just got back from the theater and thought it was really good till the end. It was almost like the screenplay writer was up late writing this and instead of stopping and going to bed he said **** it and stayed up an extra 20 minutes, finished it and e-mailed it to the director and went to bed. I didn’t really notice the music at the end so it didn’t really distract me. It was pretty funny seeing the the Hasidic Jewish woman(the Kidney/Baseball episode) from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in this, I actually laughed when I recognized her. 3 of 5 sounds right.

  6. Vic
    Ok thanks for letting me know.

  7. Vic, Was the ending so bad that it ruined the movie? Im still debating whether or not to view it…

    • well first off, the story was stupid, the entire movie, every buddy including my self where laughing intead of being scared, It’s hard to be frightened by something when you’re too busy laughing at it. it has a highly charismatic flawed hero, the back ground music made the movie feel like tinkly piano music, and its very drawn out, and also the ending sucked big donkey nuts, sorry but this movie is a 2 ou of my 1-10 book

    • benji,

      The ending was VERY unsatisfying coming at the end of a movie that was pretty interesting. You should probably make it a rental if you have any doubts.


      • Hey Vic,

        Do you think it’s on par with Emily Rose? I actually really liked Emily Rose.

    • DO not pay money at the theater to watch this movie you will feel want to kick yourself right square in the butt i promise you!!!

  8. I wanna see this for sure.

    • dont

    • Honestly dont.. I will do all i can to let everyone i know to not waste their time and hard earned money.. I have avoided going to the movies due to the cost that is involved and truly wish i would have read reviews before i went what a waste!!!

  9. for the record, PG-13 horror films are terrible. just my thoughts

  10. really bad movie bad bad bad !!!!!! i cant wait for the movie the last exorcism suck , like vampire suck !!

  11. Vic, I have to disagree with you.

    I thought the movie was excellent and was not derailed in any way by the ending.

    I thought it was much more exciting that it was something unexpected, yet still making sense and related to the plot threads, than having it be one of two highly expected outcomes (i.e, she’s possessed and that is resolved somehow, or she it’s all psychological and that is resolved somehow).

    Also – I am religious and a Christian – and I was not offended in any way by the movie showing what total SCAM ARTISTS are out there who will use the name of God to decieve people and make a buck. Why was I not offended? Because firstly, it’s true, and secondly – I disagree with you that that was somehow part of the over-all message of the film. I think the ending shows that belief in God and higher powers isn’t a scam.

    The music didn’t bother me either. In fact, I didn’t even notice it, I was so in to the film.

    I’d give the movie at least 4 stars. People, go see this. Great horror movie.

    • Oh, one other thing I liked about the ending ( as well as the whole movie ) is that it drove home the message that people are not always who you think they are.

      I guarantee you crazy crap like what happens at the end of the movie, (crazy to some extent), happens in real life. It was unexpected in the film, but not that far fetched in my opinion.


    Yeah horror pg13 movies tend to suck. But oh well ill give this a try,even though i dont really like lionsgate movies :P

    • no lol

    No what? LOL!

    • to giving this a try? like you suggested? No :)


    I didnt suggest it lol! read my comment again,i said i was giving it a try. :D

    • i didnt say u did, notice the question mark :) and no i do not wanna see this lol

  15. Anthony

    oh no im not suggesting this,cuz i havent seen it once i see it,ill tell u if its worth it lol! :D

  16. This was honestly the worst scary movie ive ever seen the biggest scare in the audience was during the previews for anothermovie, no lie. I cant even tell you how much more common laughing was than screams, which ruins the suspense and made the movie less scary overall… alot of people complaied about the ending, i didnt… i was just glad the movie was finally over, so i could whine how i want my money back just like half of the rest of the audience 1/5 stars

  17. Why dont these people ever call the cops!

  18. 1/5 stars for me too.

  19. wowmany of us gave it 1 star!

  20. I’m always apprehensive to spending money on horror movies as it is. But the lure of Heaven and Hell should be a slam dunk. However, the only dunk (or lack there of) is the this film into a fresh heap of dumpster filled dung.

    This is the most vapid and arrogent waste of horror movie seeker’s time I have participated in. The premise started of doable for about 10 minutes, then you sit and wait, until the credits start rolling and realizing that the crew of this film must have gone on vacation shortly after they powered up the camera.

    LionsGate should be ashamed for this money grab trash.

  21. Joey

    I had faith in lionsgate now its gone. I cant remember ONE good movie that came from them….

  22. im seriously considering my decision to go c this movie now :-/

  23. I agree with the reviewer that the movie was a pleasant surprise up until the ending. I don’t see any similarities to Blair Witch other than the hand held camera gimmick. In fact the ending was a blatant ripoff of one the best horror films of all time (giving the name would be only give away the ending). I will say that I am not referring to the Exorcist. Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian should have just walked off the set after having ery good performances ruined by such a harebrained ending.


    I’m really surprised to read the large amount of negative opinions regarding this movie. I just got home from seeing it and thought it was excellent, ending and all.

    It’s really difficult to tell from the comments why people on this board didn’t like it, since most responses simply say it sucks or they thought it was unintentionally funny.

    I can imagine there are probably many Christians turned off by the film, which is an absolute shame. I can see how many Christians may have the knee jerk reaction that this film is simply slamming them. That’s what I thought too at first, but by the end, you realize that ultimately, the war between Heaven vs Hell is all too real and it’s the non-believers that are the casualties. I couldn’t help but wonder if a man of true faith had been involved, how the situation may have ended differently.

    I think there’s a similar situation with the ending. I can’t say that it was intentional (because I wasn’t there when the film was written), but it seems to me that everyone is missing the point. The question at the end wasn’t EVER supposed to be if the events of the movie were grounded in reality or the result of the paranormal. If that’s what you’re focusing on, then its no wonder why you felt the ending was silly, since the movie clearly gives you the answer. In reality, there’s a far greater issue the movie poses to moviegoers. Did a man who made his living by PRETENDING to be a servant of God find the faith to truly stand against Hell?

    That’s a question that can’t be answered by the movie (although there are some allusions) and its left to the audience to ultimately decide. But its a powerful theme to discuss. Can someone truly believe and be faithful after they’ve spent their lives defrauding the members of that very faith? Even if they can, would God accept them?

    It really does sadden me a bit that some moviegoers seem to be panning the movie due to the lack of gore and action (I’m not referring to the posters on this board per say, as they don’t really specify why they were disappointed for the most part). The pacing is perfect, the characters are likable and you genuinely care about them. This movie is about making you think, keeping you guessing, and creating a psychological level of fear that’s not commonly found in most horror movies.

    If you prefer the type of horror where cookie cutter characters face grisly and and exactingly detailed deaths, then this probably isn’t the movie for you. Conversely, if you enjoy horror movies that build their presence on the atmosphere, the interplay of the characters, and employs a level of fear which is not normally direct, but at the periphery of the senses, then you should love this movie.

  25. ***major Spoilers***

    I just got home from the theater and agree with the reviewer (im honastly not sure if thats a word) vic summed this up rather well. It was a very enjoyable until the last ten minutes or so. I immediatly guessed when the waitor said he was gay that they were gonna somehow attempt to put in the anti-christ(thats what im guessing they were trying to imply). I thought that this was a horrible end to what could have been a worthwhile film. In my opinion the end didnt make any sense to the storyline. I also didnt understand what the point was of making the brother (I forget his name) a murderer who was “in on it” with the random satanist/preachers that really wouldnt even be true satanist if they teach the ways of god in a church, and although I am not a satanist I doubt that a satan worshiper could possibly preach to god on a weekly basis and live inside of a church. Also (almost done) why exactly did cotton die? I mean did this demon anti-christ thing bring him into the fire or something meaning that he was a terrible servant of the lord (p.s. im not even religious) or did the overweight satanists somehow overpower this strong fit man? was the brother some kind of night-vision-gifted/unbelievably fast tracker or something to find this cameraman and somehow get around him also didnt he aim low for a decapation?

  26. tbh the film was aload of crap it wasnt scary and i just thought it was a waste off money

  27. I agree with this review completely, and I could add onto it about small nuances, but they would be spoilers.

    Just saw it tonight and the people in the theatre we on the edge of their seats right along with me. The energy was great and I felt that the room was really enjoying the film and constantly thinking about it.

    Then the ending…that horrible ending which didn’t even visually look like it belonged with the rest of the film. *Sigh* I wish it had come full circle with one of the three major guns (Chekhov reference) presented towards the beginning. That way it could have dealt more with the character development of Cotton, possibly Lewis, and Nell. I would have loved that.

    The film was so masterful in its ambiguity on if there was a supernatural explanation or not–I’d rather have never known, or had an answer which made sense and added to the plot and character development.