It's hard to write an objective review of anything with "exorcism" in the title because you're always going to compare it to that little film of the 70s. But I'll try to stay on-topic.
To shake things up, the film decides to use the fake found footage, docu-style filming so popular with horrors these days, using a camera crew to tell the "real" story. The first half does exactly what it needs to - sets up the characters and establishes the lore of the film: Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a religious preacher who's lost faith in the Almighty. Now under the belief that demons don't exist (in his own words if a man doesn't believe in demons, he can't believe in God), he sets about exposing exorcisms for the sham that they are. This is all very on-the-nose, but it's not a big deal - we can move past it.
We quickly move onto Cotton's final job - a young girl whose father believes she is possessed. A lot of horrors pass over character in favour of scares. The Last Exorcism isn't that bad - our religious preacher is compelling (if somewhat cliche), and the young possessed girl demands our attention, as do her father and brother.
But the real horror of the film comes from your own head. Our protagonist tells us that demons do not exist. But we know this is a horror film. So they can. But what if it's all psychological? But what if it isn't? That's what this movie does - you're constantly going back and forth on supernatural vs. science. The way the film presents this is more than enough to keep you entertained for the full 90 minutes.
There's a lot of screaming, some "what was that?!", a sprinkle of "somebody do something!", and plenty of in-the-dark horror set pieces. Everything you expect for the most-part. In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I won't say too much, but the ending is a bit of a side-step chaos-fest. It will divide audiences. I laughed. Then felt cheated. But in hindsight, I think the movie achieves its goal. It makes you question the world of the film and, consequently, the world we live in.
So why only 3/5??? Because it's impossible to watch the film without comparing it to its inspiration. I take that as a 5/5 movie, near-flawless. Don't get me wrong, The Last Exorcism is fun, scary, and intriguing. But it's no Exorcist!
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