Scott and Sheena dragged ma and me to The Last Exorcism. Well, I did seriously consider the George Clooney movie The American, but its professional and 'user' reviews were only as good or worse than Last Exorcism. I've complained before about this summer, but it is surprising that there is nothing worth seeing in theaters.
Anyways, The Last Exorcism is yet another twist on exorcism. Although I have to admit that I've never seen The Exorcist. Scott did drag me to 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose which similarly teased the audience with the question of whether a teen girl was supernaturally demon-possessed or merely exhibiting psychological problems. Also, like Emily Rose which re-framed the familiar exorcism story within a courtroom drama, Last Exorcism re-framed its exorcism story through the tired Blair Witch-style shaking documentary footage format. (I actually left the theater nauseous. Note to filmmakers: many reality shows do use Stedicams now.)
Although I'm not a fan of the horror movie genre, I did sympathize with some of the interesting themes the movie tried to incorporate. The Last Exorcism's set-up is that while a disillusioned preacher prepares to leave his flim flam exorcism business, a documentary film crew records his last exorcism of a girl in the stereotypical rural South (which apparently completely lacks cell phone coverage and African Americans). As someone who toyed with the extreme fringe of Christian faith-healing, I was interested in some of the main character's religious disillusionment. However, since the movie was only a fake documentary that was setting-up for a predictable scary movie storyline, there was no compelling reason to seriously ponder the pastor's dilemma.
More annoyingly, the horror movie had the usual foreshadowing making the ending completely predictable. For a movie barely 90 minutes long, it seemed to last much longer -- especially as we waited for the foreshadowed events to finally occur. The question of whether the demon possession was real is disappointingly answered in the last scene leaving little doubt. Thankfully there was no twist ending with unanswered questions or a set-up to a sequel.
Overall, the movie was okay for the horror/scare genre, but I think even horror fans will find nothing original in this tired re-hash. The movie just wasn't entertaining - no humor, no pleasantness, few exhilarating moments, and no sympathetic characters. The typical silent, reality show cameraman was the only relatable character (since we see the movie through his perspective), but, again, the filmmakers were too concerned with maintaining the fake documentary theme and held back his role. The demon-possessed character was well-played, but predictable with nothing new. The movie's biggest problem is that the filmmakers let the fake documentary format break the basic rules of entertainment -- give the audience something to enjoy or ponder, but the last scene pretty much destroys any mystery and undermines the story's premise. In the end, the movie was pointless for the characters and the audience.(09/13/2010 revised repeatedly.)