Movie Review: The Last Exorcism (2010)

Ashley Bell in The Last Exorcism
Photo: Lionsgate

The Last Exorcism is more of an exercise in marketing than it is an actual movie. This low-budget, "found footage" exorcism tale is stamped with "Eli Roth Presents" in hopes of selling tickets based solely on the fact it's an exorcism film and the lowly producer name attached to it. However, despite studio expectation, the fact Roth's name is above the title should tell you more than enough when it comes to this film's ability to actually entertain, let alone offer up any scares.

The Last Exorcism
Grade: D

The Last Exorcism"The Last Exorcism" is a Lionsgate release, directed by Daniel Stamm and is rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material. The running time is .

The cast includes Patrick Fabian, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Tony Bentley, Ashley Bell and Caleb Landry Jones.

The green light for this film comes thanks to Roth's tenacity along with Strike partner Eric Newman combined with the success of Cloverfield and Quarantine, both of which also hyped the hands-on feel of a "found footage" feature. While this film went into production well before the success of last year's "found footage" frightener Paranormal Activity, it has none of the appeal that film had, or even the wherewithal to stick to what it set out to accomplish.

The film, originally titled Cotton, centers on Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a Louisiana reverend that's lost his belief in God (if he ever had any), but has perfected the act of selling the Lord's existence to his flock. He also hasn't let his lack of belief prevent him from performing exorcisms, proving to himself through a variety of cases the afflicted is usually psychotic, faking or just looking for attention. His lack of belief, in fact comes to be the purpose of this film as he agrees to have a documentary film crew follow him around and interview him as he selects one of several letters he's sent regularly asking for his exorcist services.

In this case, the afflicted is a young girl by the name of Nell (Ashley Bell). When Cotton's series of party tricks aren't able to exorcise the young girl's demons things appear to be a bit more real than Cotton ever expected, though his doubt remains for much of the film's run time.

Of course, the goal here is to present this as a real occurrence. It's the reason for shooting it documentary style with one camera. It's a way of giving a first person presentation, allowing the audience to react with the characters on screen as they react and hopefully scare the hell out of everyone in the process. The only problem is director Daniel Stamm forgets this little aspect and begins cutting between various cameras, looking for the best angle and/or reaction shot. It's amateur hour and the decision destroys any and all allusions to this being remotely authentic. I may have been able to overlook this had the film been even remotely frightening, but this film is devoid of anything resembling a scare.

The Last Exorcism goes through a variety of stages, but is, for the most part, built on a typical three act structure. It moves from its comical beginnings, to a mundane second act and a ludicrous finale that is neither interesting nor freaky. It's just plain boring.

Admittedly, Fabian does well in the film's opening to provide a comical look at Cotton's life as a fraudulent reverend as he mocks his followers. It sets up his character well, but it tends to drag on too long and does little to benefit the rest of the feature. Equally, Ashley Bell does a stand out job as the possessed little girl, but the manner in which the film is shot wastes her performance as I can't recall a single moment I was scared, frightened or even on edge despite the various shapes Bell can contort herself into.

Lionsgate has done an extremely good job of getting the word out on this film, which only seems logical as this is a movie built to be marketed before it was ever designed to be entertaining. Eli Roth has said it's one of the scariest scripts he's ever read, which is one of the reasons he decided to produce it. I guess Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland's story worked much better on paper, because all I see here is a chance to sell a ho-hum exorcism film with the name of a director that hasn't had a film since his 2007 debacle Hostel: Part II. Enough said.


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  • maja

    The premise for this actually sounds rather good, shame it seems they wasted it with the execution

  • Winchester

    I've seen Cabin Fever, Hostel and Hostel, Part 2, and the only one I actually enjoyed was Hostel.

    I don't really think Eli Roth is that great - I know he thinks he is but..........I'm not sure trying to sell a movie using his name means anything this early in his career.

    Seeing his name attached certainly would not make me go and see it.

    • mr.rm

      Cabin Fever was great, i felt it was a true blend between gore, suspense, and comedy. Hostel was the first on a long road of recent horror porn.
      Roth definitely has credential and his own style.
      Audiences need to learn that trailers are like used car salesmen. they will say anything to get someone to buy the product.
      when was the last time a trailer quoted a critic and used more then four words?
      so and so said its "scary", "a true fright" blah blah blah.

      Seeing his name shouldn't make you go see, it watch the trailer if it appeals to your senses then go for it

      • Winchester

        Sorry, I don't mean that I wouldn't necessarily see it anyway if trailers etc appealed.

        All I meant was that using his name doesn't swing the difference for me because even though he is a 'name' in horror at the moment, I'm not a big fan of his work.

  • Matt

    I agree with this review. I just came from watching this movie. This movie sucked majorly!!! It dragged on too long and reminds how Blair Witch was filmed. I want my refund back! People do yourself a favor save your money or see something else!

  • darkknightfan12

    The general storyline actually had a good (and fresh) premise. But this film had NO CLUE what it wanted to be. What a shame because it was a waste of some real solid acting.

  • darkknightfan12

    As far as Eli Roth is concerned his best work was very easily Hostel. That isn't saying too much.

  • Mr Stark

    The PG-13 rating was enough to know this wasn't going to deliver.

    • The Truth

      Yup, you got that right "Mr. Stark". I can't for the life of me figure out you anyone gave this movie a positive review.

  • Tam Blank

    I'm sorry, the movie spewed!! I love Exorcism movies!I' m sorry but The Exorcist is defiantly thee scariest Exorcism movie to date!Thank you William Freidkin! I personally think it could have been done better! I laughed at some parts. The whole Satanist part was hysterical(!ROTF!) Eli- ask William F. For a few suggestions! It was a great laugh! Thank you for the laughs! As Siskel And Ebert would say-Two thumbs down.

  • hsTed

    saw it today ... this movie is awful.

  • fjksjljklq

    Hm.. I didn't think the movie was THAT bad. The ending was very good, but I thought it had some really freaky parts. For instance (SPOILERS) I thought when Nell stole the camera and was messing around with it ( I really liked how they blurred out her face a bit), then went into the barn and said "here kitty" in that super creepy voice and killed the cat with the camera leaving blood spatters all over it was a good effect. How about when they lock her in that room and they hear two voices, so when they open the door she is just sitting on her bed with a blank stare until they close the door and you see that flash of a smile. Maybe I just like subtle creepy images, they tend to freak me out more than the whole movie being cheap jump out and scare you tricks. I don't know, that is just my opinion. : /

  • fjksjljklq

    Sorry meant to put "the ending was NOT very good" lol.

  • Beautifulm

    Hmm, I just saw this today and while I'm not sure what to think about it, just yet. I really don't consider this a horror film. I think this film was more of an exploration of the Science vs. Religion debate. I do think that both sides were well represented throughout the entire film and no I don't think the last part ruined it. Like Shutter Island and Inception the last act or twist of the film could be seen as cliche and obvious (Though I think in Shutter Island's case it was more about the journey than the ending). But I think like Inception, The Last Exorcism was pretty much open to interpretation. Some still think she was possessed and others are still in doubt.


    The Baby looked like an undeveloped fetus covered in a lot of blood. I didn't see anything in the fire that resembled a demon ( but other people did). The people were probably occult members who worshipped the devil. She got impregnated by either one of the members (maybe her brother). The father wasn't in on this, which is why he was tied up and probably why he took her out of "Sunday School"(he probably figured something wasn't right about it). The brother joined because he lost his faith after the death of his mother. It's obviously not impossible to contort your body like that since the actress is double jointed and did all of her own stunts.


    The people were demon worshippers and she was carrying the child of Satan. All of this was done against her will because she kept telling the father to kill her. She predicted the deaths of Cotton and his crew through pictures. The demon tricked Cotton into leaving with the "blowing job".