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"The Last Exorcism" slightly redeems Eli Roth as a producer

On September 28, 2010

Eli Roth is one of those directors/producers that makes quite a few people just cringe when they hear he's working behind the camera in any capacity. "The Last Excorcism" is one of those movies where, if it didn't grab your attention, you just cringed or laughed when you saw the previews for it. However, the movie actually does a fairly decent job as a horror movie.

What works in "The Last Excorcism" is the story, which is very well written and incredibly intelligent. The basic idea is that Cotton, the movie's hero, is a religious charlatan preying on people's superstitions, to both profit and to make them feel better. For him, exorcisms are all about the show, since he is having a crisis of faith. After the death of a patient during a fake exorcism, he decides to take a documentary crew to film what is going to be his last exorcism so he could expose the entire business and then retire. That alone poses an incredible psychological character study.

One of the biggest problems in an Eli Roth movie is that, most of the time, the characters are horrible. Even the main characters are despicable.

What sets "The Last Excorcism" apart from previous movies that Roth has been a part of is that all the characters are likeable to a certain extent—including Cotton. What makes Cotton so great is the fact that he feels like a genuine person, and that the writers did a great job at "saving the cat" (creating aspects or actions that make a character more relatable and likable) for him.

One of these positive characteristics is allowing him to give his justification for doing false exorcisms. Cotton does this because he provides a service that comforts someone, even if it is a complete fabrication. Another reason why I liked Cotton is because he is honest about the nature of religion and says that if he could preach anything the right way, a congregation would still be experiencing religious fervor. He proves it by preaching a recipe.

But the problem with the movie is twofold.

First is the mood music in the movie, which is a found footage style of film. So a soundtrack (unless the people are actually listening to music) isn't warranted at all. If anything, it takes away from the immersive nature of the style of film.

The second problem is the ending. The movie is great… until the closing scene. The ending would work better for a movie that has more of a Lovecraftian horror story. It could have been a good ending only if it was done in the right context, or just carried out longer so that there was something resembling resolution. But the ending proved to be the biggest plot hole in the movie, and if a movie does this, it contradicts the whole found footage premise.

Overall, "The Last Exorcism" is worth seeing—just not in theaters. Wait for it to come out on DVD.

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