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September 7, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Exorcism

by Hollis Jay

When I go to see a movie, I try not to enter the theater with preconceived notions of what I am about to view. With The Last Exorcism, it was easy for me to leave those thoughts and ideas at the door. The movie begins with the life and times of revered Reverend Cotton Marcus. To the outside world, he is a man of solid and unquestionable faith. He, supposedly, saves the lives of not only his own parish but of those around him every day. Not only that, but he has performed hundreds of exorcisms and is asked on a regular basis to save souls. But, when Cotton goes to save a soul, one must ask what he is truly saving. For Cotton is a man of a different agenda, to use religion as a placebo for what ails those in need. His practices reminded me of a technologically advanced Father Damien Karras, without his mother, searching for his own faith and purpose. I would have liked to have a Father Lankester Merrin to offset the balance, but instead I was left with the members of the documentary film crew.

Buy The Last Exorcism on DVD or Blu-ray

When Cotton meets Neil Sweetzer, he believes that he can just use his phony methods to eliminate the supposed evil in her soul. But, these methods don’t work. They actually backfire and turn against him. The character of Neil is profoundly innocent. One wishes that she might not be the poster child for religion and purity. It would be nice to have this illusion eliminated that only quote and quote good people who pray to God and are home schooled and who live in small towns are the only ones who ever get possessed. That is one of the reasons that The Exorcist was such a powerful movie. The story was not an ordinary story of possession. One felt as if anyone at any time could become possessed.

When the methods don’t work, Cotton is forced by what appears to be his own conscious, to search further within not only the community but within the Sweetzer household. Louis Herthum performs a powerfully and at points scary betrayal of the desperate father of Neil. His commitment to his faith, and its’ unquestionable authority is somewhat scarier than the actual possession itself. But, throughout the film, I kept asking myself is Neil possessed or are we watching what could be assessed as the question of faith throughout our lives. How far are we willing to go to protect someone that we love and/or something that we believe in? And although the crowd around me booed at the ending and during several scenes of the film, I kept with it and wanted to understand.

Perhaps the most shocking scene in the movie involved the death of a cat, which is foreshadowed earlier on in the movie. That’s one thing that I loved about this movie. They used everything-every piece of action-every visual frame-every word-every character to tell a complete story. Nothing was wasted. Everything told a piece of the story. But, back to the death of the cat. The audience was shocked. I heard several individuals scream behind me. The cat was not taken from this earth peacefully, and perhaps one might also maintain that this-along with the use of Latin-would be on the list of exorcism do’s and don’ts. But, even after this act I had to ask myself: what is really doing on?

The ending is truly one for the books. I can’t quite decide what happened myself, and why it did happen. I am definitely going to buy this one, and watch it over and over again. I also definitely will be watching my back if I ever move to a small town. For in the end, it’s the people that scare me more than the idea of a monster. We are the monsters.

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