‘The Last Exorcism’: Was It Possession… Or Psychology?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 8th, 2012 at 7:09 am,

The Last Exorcism Clips The Last Exorcism: Was It Possession... Or Psychology?

[THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE LAST EXORCISM]

The Last Exorcism is a film that seeks to: Create an exorcism film with a unique voice, challenge its audience to confront their beliefs, and scare the crap out of viewers. The central focus of the film is faith, as it relates to the belief in the presence of evil. We explained The Last Exorcism ending in another article (click on the link to read it), but here we will go much more in depth and give you the answers directly from those involved with creating the movie.

The Last Exorcism takes the stance that there can be no light without darkness, no Heaven without Hell. Producers Eli Roth and Eric Newman seem to represent either side of the faith question; while director Daniel Stamm stands between these two positions as an open minded agnostic.

Eric Newman, who is responsible for producing some of the best genre films in recent years, including Alfonso Cuaron’s incredibly well crafted Children Of Men, had the idea to create a film about an exorcism that was more grounded in reality.

Eli Roth tells us, “It was Eric’s conception several years ago to make a film using the docu-style to tell an exorcism story; following this conception of the exorcism that goes completely wrong. It was Eric who knew to hire Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko to write the film – having seen their film Mail Order Bride which utilized the docu-style so effectively.” Newman also hired director Daniel Stamm to helm the film based on his award winning faux documentary drama­ A Necessary Death.

The docu-style filmmaking was utilized to help support the idea of realism, as well as heighten the fear, by bringing audience into the world of the exorcism. For Stamm, docu-style creates an intimacy with the audience where the camera stands in for us – creating a deeper immersion in the world of the film. The film’s creators wanted to use that immersion to engage the audience in dialectic on matters of faith and science.

The writers used the documentary film Marjoe as inspiration for the film. Marjoe is the story of a minister who allows a documentary crew “behind the curtain and lets you see the whole thing is a fraud.” The film serves as the basis for the character of Cotton Marcus, played by Patrick Fabian. A career evangelical minister who has come up against his “dark night of the soul,” Cotton is a man in the throes of an existential crisis. He comes from a long line of “exorcists” – a practice he now finds both dangerous and destructive. As part of his redemptive process Cotton decides to allow a documentary crew to capture the “tricks of his exorcism trade” on camera, thus exposing the “reality” to the world.

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The film establishes the premise that (according to Cotton’s evangelical ministry) if you believe in God you must also believe in the devil and, subsequently, demons. Therefore to renounce all demon possession as cons, and/or psychological breaks, also in a sense, renounces faith altogether. Fabian believes, “This is a film about how you perceive good and evil. It’s about what your convictions are and if they’ll come through for you when you need them most.”

Cotton’s confrontation with young Nell Sweetzer becomes the outward manifestation of his internal crisis of faith. Director Daniel Stamm says: “Throughout the film, the question is: Is it supernatural or is it human evil? Is Nell schizophrenic or is she possessed?”

During the exorcism sequences, filmmakers specifically stayed away from using any shots that would lock the story into a supernatural explanation. The marketing for the film is a bit misleading in that regard. There are no shots of Nell upside down or twisted on a ceiling in the final film – though these images dominate the marketing materials. In point of fact, Ashley Bell was instructed to “watch every exorcism movie and [then] don’t do that. So it was from the outset to do something really different.”

The Last Exorcism Ashley Bell The Last Exorcism: Was It Possession... Or Psychology?

In preparation for her role as Nell Sweetzer, Ashley Bell was directed to look at both real exorcism documentation as well as psychological disorders that could account for her behavior. She seems to feel that either explanation is plausible. She claims to have “had a book called the invention of hysteria which induced hysterical shocks in women to try and get them out of their human forms. Having those pictures running through my head of real people that are contorted, or don’t look like humans anymore, was really helpful to try to give it that real feel.”

When it came to the exorcism research Bell says, “You are listening to sounds that could be made by humans, and then comes this sound that is neither masculine or feminine, animal or human – it’s just primal. Or not even that, and you just say ‘What is that noise? Where did it come from?’ and it’s very creepy. Even in talking to people who have been around exorcisms, they don’t want to talk about it. They would be nervous to tell me what they had been through and seen because they would be scared it would come back. Or they would be scared to go back there, scared that they were susceptible.”

In keeping with the sense of realism, there was no make-up used on the actors. The contorted positions Ms. Bell creates are thanks to her years of ballet and a naturally double jointed body. Eli Roth feels that, “With the absence of the makeup, and what Ashley does, you think, ‘oh my God, either this girl is possessed or she is truly experiencing a psychotic break.’ But it doesn’t matter because this guy (Cotton) can’t handle either and if he can’t get her to stop – that guy (Luis) is going to shoot her and that’s all there is too it.”

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The dynamic between Cotton and Luis creates the initial tension in the scene. It is this point in the film where, as Roth says, “everyone’s belief in science or religion has clashed and they never see each others point of view and that is what ultimately leads to their downfall.”

The onset of the second exorcism scene felt like the pinnacle moment in the film. For me, one of the film’s greatest opportunities was lost here. Had they built the climax directly from this moment of confrontation between Luis (“faith”) and Cotton (‘science’), with the life of a young woman on the line, the conclusion would have had a greater impact. Both sides of the metaphysical argument, as represented by these men, are equally well intentioned and equally flawed and limited.

I would have loved to have seen the tension ratcheted up to a point where the same tragic conclusion is reached for the documentary crew. Yet the question of cause is far more nuanced. Is it the stubborn hubris of each of these individuals that created the tragedy or was it indeed the hand of evil at play? And what is the difference between the two? The introduction of all the additional characters, as well as the bait and switch with Pastor Manley in the final scene, took away from the gorgeous portrait of this one man facing the external expression of his internal “demons” – at least for me. However listening to Eli Roth’s interpretation of the last scene does add an interesting element to the film’s conclusion – one that wasn’t entirely apparent watching it.

The Last Exorcism Cotton The Last Exorcism: Was It Possession... Or Psychology?

Each of the film’s creators has a different take on the conclusion and final message. Eric Newman says, “I’m not really a believer in exorcism. I believe in psychiatry. I’m spiritual but I generally think that most religions, certainly in their most fundamental forms, are getting it wrong.”

Eli Roth takes the stance of a believer. For him the entire trajectory of the film has been one elaborate test of faith for Cotton. He feels that if, at any time in the process, Cotton and the documentary crew had chosen to believe then their lives would have been spared. That even the theatricality of the “Satanic Ritual” was a device to lure Cotton and the cameras in. The cheese in the mouse trap of destiny as it were.

Roth tells us that the “satanic” chanting in the final sequence is “banana bread, banana bread, banana bread.” As if the cult was somehow aware of Cotton’s “banana bread” sermon and were saying “were going to teach this guy a lesson.” The “banana bread” sermon is one of the film’s best moments, and as Eric Newman says, it is also a great example of Cotton’s hubris, “these are characters that think they are better than these hicks that they are going to grift.” For Cotton, his pride comes before his very hard fall.

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Eli Roth’s take is that “(Nell) is possessed the entire time, and everything Louis says is true, and the whole thing is to teach Cotton a lesson. Even when he picks the letter it is some force that made him choose that letter, to go to this farm, to go do this thing, to test his faith. To see if he truly believes. And he fails at every turn because he thinks he’s smarter than everyone and then finally by the time the demon reveals itself, it’s too late. And then he finds God. But then it’s like – did you find God? That’s a reaction, that’s not true faith.”

When asked whether it was God or Satan conducting this test Roth responded, “That’s the question. Is it God or is it the cult?” Each individual’s take on the film seems to stem directly from their personal belief systems.

When asked if they were concerned about any “real demon activity on the set” Newman commented, “We weren’t making this movie with the studio so it’s very unlikely that any were going to show up.” And that was an eerie feeling in the area post Katrina. “He was never really worried about demons,” Roth countered “I did. I feel like I have a VIP pass to hell after the Hostel films so if we are going to show anything that has to do with Satan we better really, really represent his point of view very fairly.” Give the devil its due as it were.

eli roth hostel 3 The Last Exorcism: Was It Possession... Or Psychology?

One of the most fascinating phenomenons that the film addresses is the rise in the belief in and the occurrence of exorcisms. When asked why they think this is happening at this time in our history Newman responded, “A lot of it is fear based… The greatest human movements have been precipitated by bad s**t happening in the world. And the scarier things get the more people are looking for an explanation that of course doesn’t force them to look inward. And people start to embrace (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad) a different belief. Something that allows them to make sense of what their reality is. In the case of this story, this guy refuses to accept that there might be something wrong with his daughter. There might be something really wrong with his daughter. It’s easier for him to say, ‘we were doing fine until this demon showed up and led her astray.’”

Eli Roth adds, “I think 75 years ago evil had a very clear face. You know, you could say it was Hitler; you could visualize who was evil. Whereas now evil comes in so many forms. It comes in – not just terrorism but in greed on Wall Street and crimes in the schools or even in some churches. There are all kinds of evil and the devil becomes a focal point for that evil. So it becomes: ‘if we can fight that’ then evil overall will go down. But I think it truly comes from this lack of having this one person to pinpoint the evil on and therefore it goes to Satan.”

The Last Exorcism Nell The Last Exorcism: Was It Possession... Or Psychology?

So the question becomes, what is the filmmaker’s stance on the existence and source of evil in our world?

The film purports to pointedly present an “absence of point of view” and agenda on the question of evil and faith. Roth says, “it presents both sides fairly and intelligently and lets them fight it out.” For many filmgoers it is difficult to imagine that the last sequence was not meant to depict some manner of supernatural event. The deaths that occurred were predicted, the fire reacted in an unnatural way, the “demon child” did not physically behave like a human embryo.

As stated, Eli Roth contends that the staginess of the last sequence is in a sense done for the benefit of Cotton, as a part of his “test” of faith. So truly for Roth, and director Daniel Stamm, the question is not if a demon made an appearance. The real question becomes: Will God come in and help Cotton at this point? Or is it too little, too late for his expression of faith?

What did you think of  The Last Exorcism and its ending?

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  1. I think it is refreshing to see a director be so frank about what his intent was in the making of his film .
    Usually when a director is this honest its commentary contained within a store bought copy of the script or a DVD .
    I appreciate that he and his fellow creators told me all of this without My paying first to find it out ,which is usually the case .

    • Gary, I agree with you except for on one point. After reading what the directors intended, I feel heartily betrayed in the way they marketed this movie. If the whole thing truly was supposed to be a constant argument between possession and psychosis, then I do not believe that all the previews should have been centered around Nell acting in a highly supernatural manner. The real movie did not even contain certain scenes the previews were so fond of showing: Nell was never up on a wall or crawling around on the ceiling and her eye never dilated to become completely black. It would not have been difficult to make the trailers just as vague and indecisive as the film. For the previews to heavily imply one thing and the movie to claim something else entirely feels like a lie.

      • I agree with you, Nina.

        Though that’s not all that leaves me dissatisfied by that commentary.

        If it was meant to be open-ended between psychological and demonlogy, it could’ve done a better job in being fair to the psychological side. There were many supernatural hints, such as the scene between hearing two people talking in Neil’s bedroom, which, I assume you wouldn’t call “psychological.” I thought it was clear as day that they were aiming for the Rosemary’s Baby theme and that it was far more biased into the demonology argument of the issue to simply prove that the psychological facts were simply plot devices to lead to the truth that Cotton’s opinion was a lie all along. The movie almost strictly suggests there is supernaturality involved other than the characters and their speculations, some of it seeming like illogical speculations. The ending does not leave it open-ended for the pscyhological vs. demon debate in the slightest slice, if that’s what the directors said they were trying to debunk, to then suddenly say the open-ended debate was between Cotton and his faith. If that’s what it was about, then it had little to do with the psychological aspect of this subject, but more to do with the character’s arrogant opinion.

  2. These are all wonderful points you’ve made here. It’s nice to see film makers don’t just leave films at face value.

    I do have a question for those that have seen it. Is it a frightening film? By trailers, it just doesn’t look frightening at all. is it more of just a film that challenges your faith and belief system by way of an exorcism?

    • strich,

      It wasn’t terribly frightening, other than in a suspenseful way. The “I’m tense because I don’t know what might happen next” sort of thing.

      Vic

    • it would have bin scary until the bogus ending that realy seemed like the hole movie was building to some crazy super natural stuff.. dis apointed it ended so blair witch like not answering anything.

    • It Is More Of A Suspense/Thriller Film That Leaves You Deciding Whether It Was The Supernatural At Hand Or Was The Girl REALLY Sick.

  3. I was wondering if anyone knows what was meant by the brother killing the camera man. Anything specific? Or did he was to get revenge

    • Rose,The Camera Crew And Cotton Had Seen WAY To Much And Needed To Be Disposed Of Because They Could Have Easily Gone To The Police With What They Recorded And The WHOLE Church Would Have Been Exposed As A Cult.

  4. I’m terribly confused as to the ending. Me and my friends were convinced that the son was the one who was possessed, and had impregnated his sister, which was the reason she herself was possessed, because she had a demon baby inside her. But looking back at these things makes that seem ridiculous. I’m also confused as to why the brother had killed the man holding the camera. Was he part of the satanic ritual?

    See me and my friends had concluded that the brother wanting them out of the house and being hostile towards the situation was his acts of trying to hide what he had done to his sister, and what was wrong with him.

    Also, what threw me off was the note that read “Don’t leave her alone with him”. Was that just to delude the audience, or did it have a purpose?

    Victoria Bizarre.

    • Victoria,The Camera Crew And Cotton Has Seen WAY Too Much And Would Have Gone To The Police With What They Recorded And The Church Would Have Been Exposed As A Cult.So It Seemed Reasonable For The Townspeople To Kill The Camera Crew And Probably Cotton.

  5. i went to see this film today, i thought it was a superb film with lots of thrills and twists, but as like everyone else im very confused at the ending, i can understand that it may be possession or psycology but i was very confused at the last scence, why was nells dad tied up, was that preist and the fat woman in on it ? were they satan worshipers?, what happened to cotton?, what happened to nell? why did caleb kill the camera man, if i had to have my opinion it would be that it was possession, i believe she was possesed from the start and caleb killed the camera man because at the start of the film he wasnt happy about all of them being there and filming it, he warned if anything bad happened to his sister he would kill cotton, so maybe he thought the camera man was the nearest thing folr revenge, and maybe all the churchy good dooers at the end were all there to help nell and tied her dad up so they couldnt see the pain she was goiung threw, i believe nell was raped by the devil and once the baby was gone it was all over, thats just my opinion but id like a full explanation!

    • Josh,In The End It Was Revealed That The Church Along With The Townspeople Were A Satanic Cult.The Dad Was Tied Up Because He Would Have Interferred With The Ritual.Yes The Pastor And Fat Lady Were Part Of The Cult Too.I Think Cotton Was Killed Because He Never Found His Faith.At The End It Seems Like He Did But That Was A Reaction To Him Witnessing Supernatural Stuff,Up Until That Point He Had No Faith.It Was A Reaction Not True Faith.Nel Was Probably Killed Too Because Why Would They Need Her? She Was Just A Pawn In The Whole Plan To Reincarnate The Demon.Caleb Along With The Townspeople Killed The Camera Crew Cause They Would Have Exposed The Church And Town As A Satanic Cult.Why Would They Be Helpin Nel If The One That Got Her Pregnant Is The Pastor/Leader Of The Cult! The Pastor Didnt Get Nel Pregnant And Convert The Whole Town And Church To A Satanic Cult Only To Throw The “Baby”(Demon)In The Fire! He Did That For A Reason!

  6. I think that the way they are marketing this Movie is dishonest and wrong. To show scenes in the previews that are not even in the actual movie is very wrong. Its a lie.. I went to see this Movie and felt confused and lost once I saw what its really about. I did like the movie, its ok . But its not at all what you would think and I was dissapointed..

  7. A few things I don’t under stand are. Who killed the producer (the woman) because to my friends and I it looked like a man in a tux and if they where satanists (the town) why would they throw the demon baby in the fire? Because satanists worship nand that baby is obviously the spawn of some type of demon.

    • When Cotten and the film crew are in the car on the way to see the girl for the first time, he discusses how the area they are in is a breeding ground for different cults- satanists included. I believe throwing the baby in to the fire was part of a satanist ritual to release the demon. The tower of unearthly fire we see at the end of the movie is the demon incarnate.

    • Yes,The Satanists Did.They Most Likely Threw The Demon Into The Fire So That It Could Be Re-incarnated

      • Nathan,

        Can you PLEASE not type in title case? Makes your comments incredibly hard to read.

        Vic

  8. I didn’t find the ending confusing at all. It’s a throwback to some old-school Roman Polanski films like Chinatown or Rosemary’s Baby. In those films you get a picture of a society that is red herring until the end – when you find out some truly twisted secret (kind of like Polanski himself!)

    In this case, the film tricks you into thinking that the Father is the corrupt one – when in reality he is the righteous one. It’s about perception of Faith vs. Evil. The brother was the corrupt one and he knew Cotton was a fake, thats why he said “We don’t have a problem.” to Cotton. He knew that a real preacher wasn’t there to disrupt their Satanic plans.

    A great film is House of the Devil, which explains that Satanic Cults were big in the ’80s and in some cases are still big today. Just as God can have followers and faith – so can the Devil.

    The ending actually worked for me. As for the baby – it was a demon spawn so the fire is where it manifested its true form. That’s how I took it.

    • Couldnt Have Said It Any Better!

  9. I agree with you completely except that the ending felt too rushed. It was as if the entire cast suddenly said ” whoa, time for lunch– let’s wrap this thing up!” My entire theater stood up and booed.

    • ppl in my theatre stood up in the middle and walked out

  10. even with their explanations…hehe…i still feel that this is a movie about psychological illness. and that this can be a valid interpretation. i do NOT believe in demons but rather mental illness. all of these things at the end can also be seen as what happens in nell’s head as she clearly has developed a split personality (sybil) because of being raped by a pastor she trusted and becoming impregnated. she is so ashamed she makes the baby (abomination) a demon baby. the other voices you hear her using are her other personalities she’s created in her head to deal with the trauma of being raped and carrying a child and perhaps being made to do other sexual acts by the pastor whom she trusted. people can contort their bodies like that (similar to seizures or spasms) without being “possessed”. i also thought the “demon baby” was actually a fetus not ready to be born therefore it didn’t look human. fetuses in the early stages look like other animal fetuses (since we are just animals) and the spikes could have been something else like people born with gills…etc…there could be an explanation that isn’t demonic. and that old woman wasn’t helping nell deliver. she was performing an abortion and that was the fetus she killed to not let the pastor get into trouble for statuatory rape which would put him behind bars the rest of his life and humiliate him. the pastor was a dirty immoral man and was covering his tracks with his fake cult thing he cons everyone into attending. caleb clearly is sociopathic because he’s sociopathic. he’s just a strange kid. and he is gullible so he believes in the demons. at the end he helps the others murder the film crew because he has no moral base anyway. but it has nothign to do with religion. he’s just sociopathic. this movie to me was still not about demon possession. it was about 2 kids with extreme mental illnesses and a father who had no idea how to deal with them. once the mother died, the family fell apart and were manipulated into being part of a money sucking occult where they were brainwashed.

    • This hole paragraph would have made sense but there’s just one thing.. THERE isn’t any such diagnoses of a split personality. I have skitzophrenia and having that, what would be one of your first questions. “do i have a split personality?” I’ve spoken to maybe 28 psychiatry doctors threw out my life and All have told me there is no such diagnosis and it was imposible so this movie couldn’t be about split personalities.Your hole paragraph is stupid.

      • Don’t forget that she drew pictures of how they were all going to die witch came true. Not planned, because there’s no way she new they were going to approach the forest at that exact time, the hole family including her dad thought they were all leaving INCLUDING the evil pasture. How did she know that all those events would play out that exact way. NOW it’s obvious that she was possessed. There’s no way she could control the way events happened. That PROVES it, demons can see the future.. Human beings can want somthing and hope life plays out in a certain way but its not 100%.. they didnt kow they were going to show up in the bushes.. OR that the pastur cotton would gain faith at that EXACT moment and leap out at the demonic fire. the picture the girl drew had him burning.. the camera man head choped off and the woman chopped into pieces.. If she had mental problems how did she know that the fire would go all crazy like that.. or that there was even going to be a big demonic fire or even that the priest would get all gutsy and leap out at it with a cross..

        • she freakin DREW IT.. demons can see the future HUMANS CAN NOT.

          • Just a bit of education for everybody. Occult is an adjective. It simply means: hidden. People are not in an occult….THE occult simply means “hidden” teaching, not mainstream religion. Some people automatically equate that with evil or Satanism, but that’s not always the truth. A cult is a noun. One which has many different prerequisites to define. Anyway, thought this would help people and their vocabulary.

          • Chan – that’s not true at all. There are countless instances throughout history of humans predicting the future. People freaking out about 2012 just being one example. And such abilities were often linked with or mistaken for psychosis.

            Also, according to the directors, its not certain Cotton found faith. Seeing a demon in the flesh is an inescapable certainty – it requires no faith at all.

            • Yeah I Dont Think It Was True- Faith,More Like A Reaction A “Holy Cow God Help Me!” Type Thing.

            • If your going to give a vocabulary lesson the you should probably use a dictionary. Occult does not simply mean hidden smart guy. You are right it is an adjective, but it means any system of belief that uses or acknowledges the precense of mysterious or supernatural entities. It also CAN be used as a NOUN smart guy. Means supernatural entity or mystrious entity. So don’t come on here giving lessons when you obviously don’t have a clue of what you are talking about.

    • When was it implied she was raped by a Pastor?

      It would be a valid interpretation if the end of the film (as well as her talking to another person in her room; you can’t tune your voice differently like THAT and talk over yourself at the same time, which is what the conversation sounded like; two different-toned people talking, at some points, over each other) did point towards otherwise.

      Just because you believe in mental illness, doesn’t mean a fictional movie – which isn’t real, mind you, since you’re treating it like it is – had that goal. It left little room for otherwise save for technical speculation by viewers.

      As for your baby intepretation; that was already spoken about on this website’s other article; I hardly doubt a human fetus being thrown into a fire would cause a flipping nuclear explosion of flames and demonic sounds meanwhile.

      • When was it implied? When the Pastor lied abt last seeing Nel. When he gave his little parties for the kids in the summer. In one of Nel’s drawings on her wall you see a couple holding hands, the girl is Nel depicted in a white nightie, the other is the Pastor in his red cloak. The guy was a paedophile & the head of a murderous cult. It was pretty heavily implied.

    • And somehow I’m in total doubt a fetus-baby is going to make a two-tone, dinosaur-like screech after coming out of a womb like Mothra from Godzilla. Should an under-developed fetus even be making that much noise?

  11. The movie was very well crafted and the play between natural/supernatural foundations for what was occurring was also drawn out with skill…but the ending. Whether the ending worked or not is a matter of personal perception, but for me seeing the clichéd ritual scene with man in a red hood and the altar destroyed the verisimilitude of everything that came before. To me the ending turned a haunting experience into a typical Hammer Horror b-movie.

  12. I don’t understand how anyone can be saying it was purely psychological/nature and not supernatural. As soon as you saw Nell’s neck snap while she carried on talking you know it’s not a human being dealt with. No contortionist can break their spine. There is no ambiguity whatsoever and if they had intended there to be so they shouldn’t have added physically impossible events.

    • Swift,

      FYI, every contortion the actress did in the film was actually done by her – no visual effects were involved. So the “snap” she did on screen was really her, thus not necessarily an indication of anything supernatural.

      Vic

      • Actually that snap was just sound affects added to the movie. You probably can look up movie sound effects on youtube.

    • She was practicing the ‘neck snap’ & facial expressions in the mirror, later renacting them during the second exorcism.

  13. i think all this discussion is pointless.. the director(producer?) already said he meant her to be possessed, and the entire movie is a trial of cotton’s faith. All those freaky things did happen, and they would have continued to happen, but the main crux of the movie is the fact that cotton stays the whole time to regain his faith.

    Yeah, all the stuff about the “baby” and the brother are confusing, but isn’t that part of being human? We didn’t know what was happening or would happen, and neither did cotton.
    Faith, people..

    • Sorry, where did you read the director saying that? I’ve seen a lot that has Roth saying he intended for there to be no concrete answer.

  14. Grrrr About your message the director/producers had opinions on the movie and gave their prospectives on the movie. Yes it is a fact that the Director did say that but it is not the foundation for the movie.

  15. If you’re going to say you’re a real documentary film with this small crew then how does this footage get edited and made? It wouldn’t serve the cult, or whatever you want to call them, at all to take that camera and raw footage and edit it. Who found it and made the documentary?

    I agree with the 70′s and 80′s movie references: travelers come across a satanic cult and have to deal with it; impregnated by the devil; rituals around a fire, I thought the was a touch by the filmmakers who wanted to mix styles and films that they grew up on. I remember late night tv showing those old cheesy films, Robert Fuest’s 1975 The Devil’s Rain comes to mind.

    I thought the actor who played Caleb did great. The first “turn around and go back” scene was perfectly played. All in all I thought it was all handled really well. Good questions are raised. The shot of the large assistant to the pastor between Nell’s legs waiting for the birth towards the end was one of my favorites; that was a classic 1979 late night satan-cult-ritual-movie-on-tv moment.

  16. Ok.. after reading this, several points still bother me about the movie. I think the final scene clearly shows that this was supposed to be possession, and it does make some of Caleb’s early actions more understandable, given that he’s really a satanic cultist. But: 1) What was the meaning of Caleb’s injury? Was the demon attacking one of its own protectors? (The note does make sense though). 2) The whole thing about the pastor being the ringleader struck me as deeply unfair to the audience – there was nothing even where later (unlike the case of Caleb) you could say, “if we interpreted this right when it happened, we could have possibly predicted this.” No seemingly unimportant hints, nothing at all. 3) Which indicates that this cult was trying hard to remain hidden until the end. Which begs the question of why the demon growing in the girl was killing kittens and livestock and generally going on cranky BEFORE being born, since that would seem to risk the plan. This also relates to point 1, why attack Caleb?

    One interesting point: Nell knew she was possessed, and tried very hard to save Cotton.. to the point of repressing the demon and lying to get him to leave. The demon and Caleb tried to keep them there – sending the girl to the hotel to bring them back, Caleb’s note, etc. They needed Cotton to protect the girl until the birth, from her father.

    • Dai,

    • Dai, I believe it was Nell and not the demon that attacked Caleb

      • Jade, that entirely fits and makes sense.

    • Dai, VERY good point. You nailed it.

    • Nel Attacked Caleb

  17. Very Good Dai

  18. Dai, I believe it was Nell and not the demon that attacked Caleb.

  19. Was lucky enough to catch this before leaving theaters. A few thoughts…
    1) Dai is spot on… the combination of the fact that Cotton was a non-believer and that he was crazy over-protective of Nell made him an asset to the cult to keep the father from killing her. This is the only plausible reason why she would have found his hotel room and tracked him down.
    2) Caleb was obviously not possessed – he was a member of the cult.
    3) Though I was disappointed with the ambiguity of the film, the perception of the father as a fundamentalist nut-job was well played. He was seen as the crazy one throughout the movie (Caleb referred to him as a superstitous drunk early on), but all signs indicated that he was the only one who genuinely cared about Nell in the end – he just had no good way of dealing with the problem. His removal of the children from church and society seemed fanatical at first, but we later see why.

  20. DAI wow u deserve a huge medal! Wow I’ve just read the entire thread and really felt none the wiser and you hit the nail on the head
    The pastor said the dad didn’t think the school was medevil enough but obviously the dad knew something wasn’t right with the whole community and he’d already lost control of caleb, I think the cult performed rituals which caused nells possession, caleb was home raping her while she was all strung out (remeber in the motel she was mauling and licking the camera woman when she was out of it?) mind you, caleb might have bought her out to the pastor at night and killed animals so no one would ask what else happened out there!

    Maybe caleb was also drugging her who knows? But all that boiling water and screetching feotus smacked of possession!

    Peace out xxxxx

    • Caleb saw Cotton put something into the water that made it boil. He confronted him about it later on.

  21. i feel that this movie was retarted i went to the movie like and month ago everything was fine and felt real until the last scence of the movie i believe in stuff like that but this was crazy stupied

    • With those grade one grammar skills of yours, I’m not surprised in the SLIGHTESTY that you believe in “stuff like that” Nicole.

      • oops how did that “Y” get in there. Egg and my face are in alignment. :P. Still. You are a moron Nicole.

        • LOL. You just owned yourself. “SLIGHTESTY”

          • I like the word slightesty. It’s now added to my phones dictionary and I’m not the slightesty bit worried about using it.

      • u just made a joke outta urself lol.
        no worries alright? not the slightesty bit.

  22. Oh my ranting neighbor, jee is too quick in judging others. Thy shall believe in the good and evil of this world.

    What evil compelled you to dis “Nicole” like that.

    OBI-Wan will reign upon thee with great vengeance, as you already noticed with the “Y” conspiracy.

    Rotten egs and overdue pie are aligned for you my neighbor

    • Rotten egs as well as rotten eggs are aligned for him, methinks.

  23. Probably the most pathetic ending I have ever saw in my entire life. Very dissapointing to an otherwise good movie.

  24. There are some really good points here. One thing I just realised though: The title kinda seems more fitting after you watch the ending. “The Last Exorcism” – For me, I take it to mean it’s the last exorcism Cotton performed. He either died that night, or lived and gave up exorcism entirely.

    I also think there should be no doubt with the whole “Possession Or Psychology?” thing. I think it was clearly depicted as a supernatural thing, and after watching the ending, we can be sure of it. For instance: the ‘baby’ was definitely not human, and the fire was behaving unnaturally too.

    Also, I didn’t find the film that frightening, it was more of a suspense thing. I think it was a great film. Very refreshing. I love mock documentary presentations.

    • I enjoyed this film. Unlike ‘paranormal activity’ which was poorly filmed documentary style, this came through with beleivable acting, no cheap ‘jumpy’ moments and felt very normal. I like the decisions it leaves you as a viewer to make.

      I know people are edging to the posession side of things but for me I like to think that the naughty pastor worshipping the devil is Cottons equivilant, maybe he’s pulling the strings with special effects like Cotton was in the exorcism?

      • Now That I Think Of It That Could Be Another Explanation,You Know Like Maybe They Were Giving Him A Taste Of His Own Medicine.But I Still Beleive That Everythin That Happend While At The Farm Was A “Test” Of Cottons Faith As He Seemingly Has Lost It Yet Continues To Preach Cause He Feels Responsible To “Help” These People.And At The End When He Discovers The Whole Church Was A Satanic Cult He Appears To Regain His Faith And Attempt To Fight It Leaves YOU Thinkin.”Did Cotton Regaining His Faith In God Save His Life? Or Was It Already Too Late And God Turns His Back On Cotton And Cotton Is Killed?” All In All I Think The Girl Nel Was Really Possessed And The Whole Thing Ended Up In A “Test” Of Faith And He Failed The Test Cause He Refused To Beleive The Girl Was Posessed And Just Thought She Needed Help Until It Was Too Late.Tell Me What You Think.

        • I like how you capitalized the first letter of each word! it made it very hard to read your reply.

        • You need to learn how to write. Capitalizing every word is a waste of your time,annoying to read and so grammatically incorrect that I am embarrassed for you.

      • I agree with the pastor. Cotton made his own special effects. The pastor very well could have done the same fake exorcism. He either a. WAS a devil worshopper or b. put on the fake devil worshopping ceremony maybe to scare the usually fake excorsist. They may have known about him and faked the entire thing.

        If it went that way, they would have had to gone very far with the dead animals and brother’s slashed face.

        Supernatural makes sense for the movie. The girl having two voices inside the bedroom and finding the motel where the fake exorcist was staying. THEN the satanic ritual has to make some kind of sense at the end. Why was the father tied up with a blind fold? The cover his face so he doesn’t see his daughter’s privates? Maybe they had to tie him up to proceed? The girl did not look pregnant, so did the pastor impregnate her somehow and bring the demon out with a chant? They said “it’s not human” but that could have been planned to mess with cotton. The fire could have had alcohol added to it, or demon.

        Then you have to wonder, how did the town know that the film crew would turn around and come back? If it was all a revenge “act” on cotton they would have had to know. And if it was all psychological for the girl, how did she give birth to a demon baby and not be showing?

        The satanic ritual? So the pastor wrote on the wall? I’m confused. Supsensful, but damn confusin movie.

  25. Well it was obviously possession, being she fore seen the deaths of the cotton the woman and the cameramen. At the end i think Nell tried to warn them to get out so she made up that story about the boy or the demon tried to save their lives. All in all the the movie did not support the ending at all.

  26. Awesome movie…. terrible ending. left me angry…

  27. Epic Fail

  28. I feel like many of you that had promise of being a great film. I was thoroughly enjoying not knowing if Nell was truly possessed or if she was dealing with a multiple personality disorder or some other mental affliction. The ending ruined the film for me. Unlike most of you for some reason I thought the pastor’s assistant was giving her an abortion. I was so disturbed. I thought she threw her aborted fetus into the fire while he/she was still alive. I was thoroughly confused and disappointed. It felt like a cheap cop-out. I hate when a film ends with more questions than answers. That many questions doesn’t seem fair to the viewer.

  29. i liked the movie, but until i took a second look at the end i didnt understand it. nell made the picture of all the crew dead so i think at the end they all die even cotton. i do think she was possesed and knew what was going to happen so thats why she lied about logan. altho what was her brother doing part of the cult i dont know :/

    • When she was speaking about the boy that supposedly got her pregnant she was referring to herself in the third person,it wasnt her speaking it was the demon.The demon knew they would be curious and speak with the boy,find out the truth and come back.

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