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The Last Exorcism

Year: 2010
Production Co: Strike Entertainment
Director: Daniel Stamm
Producer: Eli Roth
Writer: Huck Botko
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell

The mockumentary genre comes to deep-south-bible-bashing-priest-turned-conman in this class of one that's scary and effective enough to be a good movie no matter how much some fans dissed the open ending.

As he explains in the various opening expository sequences, Reverend Cotton Marcus has lost his faith, but it doesn't stop him carrying out exorcisms on unwitting yokels throughout America when he's actually giving them psychosomatic relief from mental illness.

But as this is his One Last Job, we know it's going to be different. He's called to a backwater where a welcoming but ironically hostile family welcomes him into their home (after the creepy son has thrown rocks at Cotton and his camera crew's truck). Teenage daughter Nell, it seems, has been going into trances, killing livestock and threatening to kill her Dad and brother under the influence of a demon.

Cotton is convinced the girl's just cracked under the strain of her life. Her father is still consumed by grief after the kids' mother has died giving birth to Nell, and he quickly yanked her away from society to be home schooled.

The story does a good job of developing with some interesting twists that propel you further into the lives of this broken family. When it turns out Nell's not as pure (in the Biblical sense) as they think she is, they assume her father's been molesting her and the scary behaviour they've already seen from her is no more than the resulting psychosis.

But apparently a kid in town's the one who knocked her up and Cotton and his team are prepared to leave town and chalk the whole thing up to experience. But on the smallest plot turn, the kid turns out to be gay and he's never touched Nell. It changes everything and the trio hurries back to the farmhouse to witness the unthinkable during the much-reviled climax.

And all this time Cotton's been trying to keep Nell safe, both from the threats apparently building on every side of her and her own episodes where some very inexplicable stuff happens.

Some of the action and dialogue is a little forced and no exorcist movie has yet stood up to the Godfather (so to speak) of them all, but it's an effective little chiller.

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