Monday, August 9, 2010

The Last Exorcism (2010; Daniel Stamm)

How could I have passed up a screening of this? Knowing my tendency towards all things Eli Roth and mockumentary, the idea of combining the two was just too sweet for me to pass up. I needed a few days to reflect on my exact reactions, but now I think I got them reined up.

Raised to be a minister, Cotton Marcus has been deeply seated in the church community for almost his entire life. Events have unfolded over the years that make him question whether or not being a pastor is his true calling, but he sticks with it for the time being to help people with his natural gift to entertain. He decides to let a small documentary crew accompany him on his final exorcism before he announces his retirement to reveal to the public just how fake it all is.

People can take this movie a lot of ways. It could easily be seen as a heavy handed swing against religion, or even a final revelation that maybe there are truths to be had in the supernatural. Peoples bias on the subject (including mine) will sway their opinion one way or the other, but I really don't think that was the intentions of the film. I think, like other projects attached to Roth, this is a film for enjoyment.

Let me explain. I was so torn on some aspects of the film as they felt as sort of a betrayal to the mockumentary movement. I have fully explained my opinion on what they should and should not consist of (here, here, here, here, etc...), but this experience showed me a little bit of a different light (similar to that of Cloverfield). The Last Exorcism contains both CGI and a musical score. Now normally I found those things so distracting in mockumentaries that I never really felt they had a place in what was supposed to be a reflection of the real world. Something to me really clicked in this one, though. The score highlighted the events properly without taking over and the CGI, while a stretch, really can't be held against the film for realism if I allow the score.

So what is this? This was a piece constructed to be entertainment. They wanted to make a movie that utilized the strengths of mockumentaries and the strengths of more standard fiction movies. It may still seem sort of incompatible, but watch it and see if it really is that much of a problem.

On other notes, the light-hearted tone through large portions of the film help lean your opinion towards the entertainment part of the realism vs. entertainment argument and it has been a long time since such a solid lead has been seen in a mockumentary. Seems like I haven't really found a lead so compelling to follow in a mockumentary since the Blair Witch Project itself, and that is something special. The only part I have to dock heavily for is the CGI-laden ending, because despite leniency for the CGI, the ending will definitely leave most people a little stunned.

Score: 4/5

Notes: Eli Roth.