The Last Exorcism (dir. Stamm, 2010)
I wanted to love The Last Exorcism, I really did! I tried with all of my might to find affection for it deep within me, but no matter what I just couldn't. The film started out just fine as we're introduced to our Reverend protagonist (Patrick Fabian who plays Ted Price in Big Love!) and learn that he is filming a documentary to prove that exorcism is a falsity. He believes that all "possessions" these days are really people's ways of dealing with other trauma and an exorcism is actually and exorcising of their personal demons, not a Satanic one. So he randomly chooses a request for an exorcism from his stack of them and off we go to Louisiana to see what is ailing the young Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell). The Reverend Cotton Marcus performs a fake exorcism that looks authentic (with added sound effects and even smoke effects) and then prepares to leave, but there is more than meets the eye here in Louisiana!
Unfortunately, that's about all that exorcism has to do with the remainder of the plot. I'm not going to go into details but how the story unfolds is my only nitpick about the film. I really wish that the film had simply been about an exorcism, and yet it becomes much more, and in an unwelcome way. There are some truly terrifying bits, but 'bits' is a gross overstatement. The film spends so much time building tension and atmosphere and dread that it exploits only in very short bursts. I wish the filmmakers could've used what they've worked so hard to create to greater effect. This film could easily have been the scariest thing in awhile, but the filmmakers attempt a different approach and for me it didn't pay off.
That isn't to say that the film is not of quality, because it certainly is. The camera-work is fine, the acting above-average, and the screenplay is believable and well thought-out. The mockumentary conceit is used well and is perhaps the only way that this story could be told, I just wish that the story had been tweaked a bit. It may be unfair to harshly grade a film based purely upon the fact that you didn't like where the plot went and weren't scared enough, but that's what I'm doing. In their quest for twists, turns, and a mystery the filmmakers hurt their film more than helped it. If you're a fan of horror films, please seek it out because along with Paranormal Activity 2 it's the only other quality horror film I saw of 2010's output.