August 27th, 2010
04:51 PM ET
Anyone in the mood for a good scare?
Eli Roth’s “The Last Exorcism” opens in theaters Friday, and is reported to be in the fine tradition of other films from the sub-genre, like “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “The Exorcist."
Starring Ashley Bell (“United States of Tara”) as Nell Sweetzer, a 14-year-old girl with some serious possession problems living in rural Louisiana, “Exorcism” follows the cynical preacher Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he attempts to perform one last exorcism for a film crew documenting the practice with the intention of proving that exorcisms are all hoaxes anyway.
But of course, in this genre, as soon as you downplay something it starts to break its own neck and claim a demonic name.
Yet critics seem unresolved as to whether or not this horror flick is truly frightening, rather finding the performances to be more praise-worthy than anything else.
As Cinematical points out, “'The Last Exorcism's' tension comes from its characters and situations, not from its genre cliches like foul-mouthed demon voices or a sweaty, panting little possessed girl.” The review added, “Those dusty, tried-and-true bits are fine, but the real reason to care about the film is because it's more spiritually complex than even most faith-based films.”
Time film critic Mary Pols agreed, saying that “Exorcism” “is itself fairly shallow — the ending yields not only no real answers, but worse, no real mystery to debate on your way home from the cinema. But Fabian, an actor whose lengthy résumé has been largely limited to television work (he plays Bill's brother-in-law on 'Big Love'), gives such a cunning performance that for once, when you're whispering 'Don't go in there,' you actually mean it."
The New York Times agrees that “Exorcism" is “grounded in strong acting (with a notably unsettling performance from Caleb Landry Jones as Nell’s hovering brother) and carefully doled out shocks. Smart but never smirky, the script (by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland) doesn’t swing for the fences, relying on dry humor and an accumulating atmosphere of psychological dysfunction.” However, the Times does note that Stamm’s direction "falters" by the end.
So it seems that if you’re ready for a fairly smart examination of faith and fear, Stamm and the "Exorcism" cast delivers – but nearly all the critics caution against a disappointing ending, so be forewarned.
If you do go to see “The Last Exorcism,” drop us a line in the comments and send in an iReport review with your thoughts – we’ll round up the best of the best on Monday.
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