Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Last Exorcism - ***1/2

The Last Exorcism has all the makings of a worst-of-the-year candidate: it's approached in the increasingly-tiresome found-footage faux-documentary style with a derivative set-up involving the Devil as the villain and is a horror film distributed by Lionsgate, the folks responsible for almost every shitball torture-porn gore-fest you find at the bottom of the cinematic barrel. But The Last Exorcism features none of the things you expect, delivering very little of the obligatory crowd-pleasing moments that modern horror films seem to require. Instead, it's a very slow build-up, starting as more of an interview-style documentation of a charismatic preacher who doesn't believe in God. The first half of the film is more funny than it is anything else, with the preacher revealing some tricks of the trade, and agreeing to perform the exorcism merely to prove that it's all an empty ritual involving cheap parlor tricks. The central performance by Patrick Fabian as Reverend Cotton Marshall might actually be one of the best of the year. His performance took me from pure dread to loving the film in less than twenty minutes. And what's really amazing is that when it turns from light and funny to dark and scary, the filmmakers actually pull off the transition marvelously, turning a joke into something deeply unsettling. Don't miss it.

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