When someone mentions demons, what group do you fall into? Do you believe in demons, or do you chalk up any mention of demons as the makings of a Christian fairytale? Grab hold of your holy water as we review The Last Exorcism.
The Last Exorcism is a 2010 supernatural treat directed by Daniel Stamm and starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, and Louis Herthum. The story centers around a documentary of a Baton Rouge Evangelical minister, Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) who has been performing exorcisms since childhood in his Minister father’s church. Cotton Marcus can really preach the bible. He is quite the showman, but as the documentary reveals…it’s all showbiz. Cotton doesn’t believe in demons…and we’re pretty sure that somewhere along the line, his belief in God has also dwindled.
Cotton spent years performing fake exorcisms. He liked the fame, the attention, and the power but after his son was born, something changed. Cotton’s mission now, with the help of a filmmaker (Iris Bahr), and her camera man, is to delegitimize the practice of exorcism. Copying the documentary methodology of The Blair Witch Project and the famous 1973 The Exorcist film, The Last Exorcism has Cotton and the film crew heading out to the Sweetzer farm in Louisiana.
Papa Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) is a widower with two teenage children: Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) and Nell. His wife died from cancer, and now this religious man is worried about his daughter Nell. He tells Cotton that his farm animals are being ritualistically slaughtered and that he always finds his daughter covered in blood. Nell (Ashley Bell) has no memory of how the animals are killed or why she is covered in their blood. When Cotton begins his investigation, he learns that Papa Sweetzer has pulled Nell out of school and that she is being homeschooled. She isn’t permitted to even play in the church band run by Pastor Manley (Tony Bentley).
Exorcism Part One
Cotton has everything set up to perform the fake exorcism with all the flair of a Vegas magician. He has enough gadgets to convince the family that there is a real demon inside of the girl, and this grand trickery works. The filmmaker is happy, the family is happy, and Cotton is happy with the money that Papa Sweetzer pays him. But before the night is over, Nell winds up in the hospital where it is discovered that she is pregnant.
Exorcism Part Two
When you try to trick the king of tricksters…you lose. Cotton soon realizes that either Nell is the victim of incest, or that there is a real demon possessing the girl. Ashley Bell is awesome in her portrayal as the innocent Nell. But, behind the girlish giggle and innocent chatter is one of the most powerful demons from hell: Abalam. There are no gadgets or trickery with the second exorcism. Papa Sweetzer has threatened to kill the girl if Cotton is unable to send Abalam back to hell. In true The Exorcist form, Nell twists and bends her body in unimaginable positions, even breaking a few fingers for kicks. Abalam taunts Cotton, but eventually Cotton believes that he has cast out the demon. After Pastor Manley arrives to comfort the family, Cotton and the film crew leave.
Are demons real? If you believe in GOD, then honey…you better believe in the Devil. As a professional spirit activity investigator (Isn’t that nicer than saying ghost investigator?) and an Ordained Minister, I do believe in demons, and I do believe that possession is possible. The Catholic Church in 2018 put out the call for more priests to be trained as exorcists. This world is getting much more evil, and we can’t blame it all on Trump…but if you don’t handle an exorcism correctly, you can kill the person you are trying to save. There are documented cases of abuse by exorcism. You need faith to fight the hounds of hell. If I come across an investigation that I even suspect of demon activity, I call in a priest. I don’t do demons. Hell NO!
I’m not going to tell you how the film ends. I want you to watch it. Sometimes, the devil is someone you know. After Cotton and the film crew speak to the young man who Nell said fathered her child, they rush back to save Nell…and that is where I’ll leave you. Watch the film on Netflix or on demand. It’s really good, but keep your rosary beads nearby….