From it's title, The Last Exorcism tells you it's going to be a shocking horror. The same way Texas Chainsaw Massacre tells you there's going to be a lot of hacked off limbs, The Last Exorcism evokes images of freaky little girls running around with their heads twisted backwards, vomiting a lot and killing people. Well, there's all that in there, but don't be mistaken in thinking this film is just a cheap attempt at a movie about demon possession, hoping to ride off the back of The Exorcist. This film is much more than that.
In fact, this is the best exorcism horror film I've seen since The Exorcist. And to be honest, I'd expect nothing less from producer Eli Roth (Hostel I and II). Filmed as a mockumentary, the storyline follows Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), an evangelical minister who is very good at putting on a show, and very good at making people believe whatever he says. After having performed numerous exorcisms throughout his career, he decides to make a documentary unveiling exorcism as a money-making scheme after reading a story of a young boy who was killed during an exorcism. Until now he had used tricks like smoking crucifixes, jewellery that cause small electric shocks and hidden iPods playing "demon sounds" to make the experience seem real, thereby curing the "possessed" by giving them some sort of closure in what is really a psychological issue.
He takes on one last case and has the film crew follow him to a farm out in Louisiana to see the Sweetzer family, including overly-protective and uber religious father Louis (Louis Herthum) convinced a demon has possessed his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell), making her sneak out at night and slaughter their cattle, with no memory of it the next day. Cotton performs the exorcism, employing all the usual tricks, and the case is presumed closed. That is until Nell shows up at their motel down the road in the middle of the night, catatonic and vomiting all over herself. Cotton and the crew realise the story isn't over, and decide to stay at the farmhouse until they figure out what's really going on with the Sweetzer family.
What follows is a very well written plot that keeps you guessing right up until the credits start to roll. While all the usual elements of an exorcism movie are there - creepy drawings, animal slaughterings, strange noises and unnatural body movements - nothing is so supernatural that it can't be explained one way or another. And Cotton and the crew certainly entertain numerous theories to explain away Nell's psychotic behaviour. But none of them can ever tie off all the loose ends, and you never can tell if she's actually possessed or if there's some psychological or medical explanation to it all. Is it religion, or science? Just when you think you've figured it out, something happens to change your mind. It's compellingly entertaining.
This is definitely a very creepy and compelling horror movie, and if you're a fan of The Exorcist, Eli Roth or horror in general I'd highly recommend picking this one up. I was hooked from start to finish and can't sing the praises of it's realistic, table-turning storyline enough.