“The Last Exorcism” is a mockumentary-style horror film that takes a fresh approach to the subject of exorcism. The story follows Reverend Cotton Marcus, a charismatic preacher with a family history of performing exorcisms. However, Cotton is not a true believer in demonic possession. He sees exorcisms as a way to help mentally troubled individuals rid themselves of their delusions.
The Last Exorcism Mockumentary
Cotton agrees to be the subject of a documentary to expose the fraud of exorcisms. However, he soon becomes embroiled in a real case of demonic possession in a small town. The locals speak of cult activity in the area, and warnings for Cotton to turn back are ignored. As Cotton and the documentary crew arrive at the Sweetzer residence, where the possession has allegedly taken place, it becomes clear that Cotton’s beliefs will be challenged.
The effectiveness of the movie hinges on Ashley Bell’s performance as the possessed victim, Nell Sweetzer. Bell’s hypermobility allows her to contort her body in alarming ways, heightening the impact of the possession. While the film was made on a low budget of $1.8 million, it connected with audiences and earned an impressive $20 million on its opening weekend. It also spawned a sequel, although neither film was well-received by critics.
What sets “The Last Exorcism” apart is its exploration of faith and doubt. Reverend Cotton Marcus represents a cynical view of religion, rejecting certain aspects of his faith. However, his condescending attitude towards those he sees as lacking education exposes the thinness of his supposed belief. It is only through the horrifying truth of an actual exorcism that Cotton realizes the limitations of his skepticism.
The film’s structure and examination of faith make it difficult to replicate its impact. While other exorcism movies may focus on the horror elements, “The Last Exorcism” understands the importance of testing faith in all its forms. It may not reach the same level as William Friedkin’s seminal masterpiece, “The Exorcist,” but it effectively explores the complexity of belief and the consequences of challenging it.
In conclusion, “The Last Exorcism” offers a fresh take on the exorcism genre through its mockumentary style and exploration of faith. Reverend Cotton Marcus’s cynicism and eventual realization about the limitations of his skepticism provide a compelling narrative. While not a critical success, the film struck a chord with audiences, earning a significant box office return. It serves as a reminder that a thoughtful examination of faith can elevate the horror genre beyond throwaway attempts.