Monday, October 31, 2011

THE LAST EXORCISM - REVIEW

The Last Exorcism
August 27, 2010
87 minutes
United States (English)


Directed by Daniel Stamm
Written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland




"The Last Exorcism" is a compelling concept with some very creepy sequences. By the second act you'll be invested in wanting to know how it will all play out. It would be a worthy film for any horror fan's library if it weren't for the downright betrayal of an ending.


Last Halloween weekend my lady and I went to the local dollar theater to catch the faux-documentary, "The Last Exorcism." The premise is fascinating. Reverend Cotton Marcus (played by the capable Patrick Fabian) of Baton Rouge, LA questions his own beliefs. He has a disabled son and begins to put more stock in science. He agrees to let a group of filmmakers document him performing an exorcism and plans to use the products as a means to prove such practices are fraudulent. Within minutes I was hooked to this lead character.


Reverend Marcus chooses to take the exorcism request of a humble yet anxious farmer (played with subtlety by Louis Herthum) who's daughter is said to be possessed by a demon. The crew and acting-exorcist travel to their lovely home in the woods and it only continues to grow in peculiarity. We observe the Reverend's tricks (such as planted speakers and a trick crucifix that can emit smoke when he desires). He begins to successfully fool the family, but are we entirely convinced?


The film largely hinges on the performance of this daughter, especially during her possessions. Ashley Bell is incredible in the role and does some very unnatural things that would unsettle even Stephen King. There is a nighttime sequence that is among the most terrifying I've encounter in films. It was near this moment when Nancy shared thoughts of leaving the film. I was rather surprised, especially since she claims to be a horror buff. I was adamant about staying and seeing it to the end, though I suppose if she absolutely insisted we would have left. Ultimately she decided to stay and I think we are both glad we did.


Questions begin to emerge, such as what happened to the family's mother, why is the brother so freakin' weird, and what secret is the father hiding. Most importantly, is the girl truly possessed and how one Earth is a exorcist who is "faking it" ever going to fight this fight? We see some of the things and Reverend Marcus begins to as well. There is a very memorable scene where the film slows down and shows us a scene of the man weighing his thoughts. He is wrestling his beliefs. The very event he thought would help him leave the faith is forcing him to consider it more than he ever has before. At this point I was just hoping this film wouldn't fail me, it was fast becoming a modern horror classic.


Things start to fall apart in the third act and in the last ten minutes they completely unravel in a bewildering manner. I hated the ending.


As with many strong reactions to films, I often scour the IMDb message boards to see how others reacting to my gripe. I found a thread entitled "the last ten minutes" and knew I would hear from others there. IMDb user Kar-lito summed it up nicely: "I was actually getting into the movie...because it seemed grounded enough in reality...was she possessed vs. suffering psychotic episodes due to abuse? It was interesting, creepy and entertaining... Then the ending [...]." That is where I will stop quoting him to avoid spoiler territory. He is right on the money.


"The Last Exorcism" is currently streaming on Netflix Instant. I recommend it with a major asterisk, stop it at about the 78-minute mark and wonder how it would end. Whatever you fathom up will be better than what writers Botko and Gurland end up feeding us. (Okay, okay... You probably do need to see it all. If anything at least to count you have seen the full film, but I can almost guarantee you will feel disappointment.) Honestly, it feels like they threw in the towel in the script's final pages. "We don't know how to end this so lets just go crazy!" This rarely works. I felt it betrayed everything that had come before it. It was a major disappointment for what was shaping up to be an incredible film. All in all, I still regard the first half as greatness, but you can bet that when I ever get around to my "Top Ten Worst Endings" list there will be a throne for "The Last Exorcism" right next Danny Boyle's "Sunshine."


(Note: "The Last Exorcism" was a roaring success, financially speaking anyway, crtically speaking, not so much. The film cost about $2 million to make and made over $40 million in the box office alone. It probably shouldn't surprise anyone that a sequel is in the works. Yeah, clearly this was not the last exorcism.)

"Down here, if you ask five people about a demon story, they'll give you ten demon stories."
- Cotton Marcus


★★★½

CONTENT: disturbing and frightening scenes, some instances of intense violence, sexual references


Updated 3/1/13

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 51 (SPECIAL HALLOWEEN ISSUE)


SPECIAL  HALLOWEEN  ISSUE

NEW IN THEATERS


  • Five Star Day*
  • Killing Bono* / 58%
  • The Other F Word*
  • The Son of No One* / 50%
  • Stuck Between Stations*
  • Tape 407*
  • Tower Heist / 67%
  • A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
* = limited release

NEW IN STORES

  • Cars 2 / 38%
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love / 77%
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan / 19%
  • Tabloid / 92%
  • Water for Elephants / 61%
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

TRAILER ROUND-UP



John Cusak is Edgar Allen Poe in "The Raven." This looks to be an interesting bit of historical fiction as a serial killer in Baltimore is inspired by Poe's short stories. It's "Saw" meet "Sherlock Holmes." I had no idea Poe was such a great detective, I hope his dialogue is as interesting as he writes. Director James McTeigue brought us "V for Vendetta," a stylish film with a twisting story. Here's another I'd say. "The Raven" will land on March 9th, 2012.


"Martha Marcy May Marlene" does look exceptional. A young woman escapes the cult she's been a member to and fears it may come back to haunt her. I couldn't help but think of Utah's own Elizabeth Smart story. Elizabeth Olsen (Mary-Kate and Ashley's little sister) stars as the title role who seems to have been called by each of those names at one time or another. I've a pretty strong notion about how it is going to end. John Hawkes plays the sinister yet alluring leader of the threat. He was brilliant in last year's "Winter's Bone" and looks to play a much larger role here. The film is currently playing in select cities.


On November 11, 2011 a gate is going to open and demons are going to emerge. Thus, is the premise of "11-11-11," the latest film from Darren Lynne Bousman, who directed three of the "Saw" sequels. The trailer is a pretty flashy affair, but certainly full of horrific stuff. Oh, you'll never guess when this comes out.


I still have not seen "Caroline," though I really want to! Here is the next film from its makers (Laika), "ParaNorman." Finally, proof that I am not always against a song with lyrics being played in a trailer. "Season of the Witch" is set to rich tapestry of stop-motion animation with a macabre sensibilities (proof that Tim Burton ain't the only cat in this alley) Our protagonist is a young boy, Norman, who seems to be a fan of all things paranormal. Who better to take part in a fight against the undead? The film is due August 17th, 2012.


Well, shoot your undead horse, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards:

The Head-Scratcher:


The exposition-filled beginning for the trailer of "The Innkeepers" is so thick that you'd have to slice it with a machete. The Yankee Peddler Inn is about to close down and the final employees are adamant about finding prove of the hotel's rumored ghost. I was starting to hear a sick cow in the making, then the  final 30-seconds of the trailer had some genuinely creepy imagery. "The Innkeeper" comes from Ti West who brought us "The House of the Devil" in 2009. It could be The film will be available on iTunes December 30th and then in select theaters on February 3rd.

Lasso of the Week:


"We Need to Talk About Kevin" was making some noticeable waves at Festival de Cannes earlier this year, particularly the lead performance by Tilda Swinton. I did not realize it was a story about a woman who grows increasingly paranoid about her evil son. Yes, this seems to be what a sequel to "Rosemary's Baby" might have been! It looks intense and Swinton opposite the great John C. Reilly (known for his comedic work) is an interesting mash-up. The Guardian claims "We'll be talking about 'Kevin' for years!" Gotta say, pretty psyched to see this psychological thriller from Lynne Ramsay. It will be playing in New York and Los Angeles on December 9th and then worldwide next February.

* * *

ENLISTED


Scott Mendleson has listed "11 of the Better (Best?) Horror Sequels in Recent History" over on his blog. I cannot say I have seen any of these (or very many horror sequels at all for that matter), but I was rather surprised by his inclusion of "Saw VI." I did see a bit of "Halloween III" (pictured above) over the weekend too and thought it looked pretty crazy (in a good way).


Mendleson also posted "Ten of the Scariest Horror Films of the Last 20 Years," "The 10 Best Modern 'Direct-to-DVD' Horror Films," a farewell to the "Saw" franchise, and "The Cost of Love (Terrible Horror Films My Wife Has Made Me Sit Through."


Here's a rather unique list from IFC: "The 25 Scariest Moments in Non-Horror Movies." I must declare, the Large Marge sequence from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" is an inspired choice. (Matt Singer has added five new moments to that list, which was originally published in 2009.)


It was Jack with the ax in the hallway! No, we're no playing movie-themed "Clue" (or are we?), we are looking at IFC's "The Top Ten Way Villains Kill You in Horror Movies."


Rotten Tomatoes posted the "15 Creepiest Movie Children." I just recently saw the original "Village of the Damned" (pictured above) and have to agree on that choice. Some other terrifying little people provide his company.


Total Film has a list of the "50 Scariest Movie Moments." Nice to see "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" getting some love somewhere.


Rotten Tomatoes also did their annual "Horror Countdown" featuring the 75 best horror films of all-time. #75? "The Exorcist." Yeah, the commenters were not very pleased with that ranking.


JoBlo has posted their top 5 horror movie soundtracks. Am I the only one who finds Carpenter's Halloween soundtrack the least bit annoying (especially when it is used 28 times throughout the film). I certainly don't think it should be above any of the other four.


Richard Roeper lists his "Top Five Scary Movies." Yes, of all-time. "The Others" is an interesting choice. Clearly, I need to revisit that film.


The Managing Editor of IMDb, Keith Simanton, posted a list of "Recent Underrated Horror Movies."


Which of the "Top 10 Scariest Star Wars Creatures" are you most afraid of? Thanks Top Tenz.


Blastr was kind enough to share "15 Ghoulishly Gruesome Gore Scenes Likely to Give You Nightmares." Of course Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" (AKA "the goriest film ever made") makes the list. Viewer discretion advised.


Director John Landis ("An American Werewolf in London") just published a book, "Monsters in Movies." This photo gallery from The Guardian displays some of his favorites.


The Hollywood Reporter shares "Halloween Gone Wrong: The Ten Least Scary Movies of All-Time." In case you're wondering, there are the ten least scary "scary" movies. I figured that would be important to note. I'm pretty sure you can add any of these to your queue for a good time. "The Happening" for one is incredibly entertaining B-movie.

* * *

CAST AWAY


Sony Animation has posted early sketches of Count Dracula for their film due in one year, "Hotel Transylvania." Adam Sandler has been cast to provide the voice for the Count himself. Here's JoBlo's thoughts on the manner.

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THE GOOD




Roger Ebert has added Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu" to his Great Movies collection. Here is the review.


Jeff Shannon writes about "the fringes of horror" in a recent blog post about horror films available on demand.

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THE BAD


Here's Rolling Stone's Peter Travers with another installment of "Damn you, Hollywood!" Fittingly, today he is griping about "scary" movies that are not scary.


Peter Travers "tosses Octobers worst films into the Scum Bucket." He's dubbing the month Scumtober.


Noel Murray of the AV Club asks a very important and interesting question in a recent article: "Why Do Horror Filmmakers Lose Their Edge As They Age?" George A. Romero, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter all seem to immediately come to mind.


A stuntman was killed in an explosion (and two others were injured) on the set of Lionsgate's "The Expendables 2" in Bulgaria. The Hollywood Reporter reports.


My lady and I went to see "Apollo 18" today. Yikes! (But not in the way the filmmakers would have wanted.)

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AND THE WEIRD


"Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" was originally rated "R" and had to be re-cut for its "PG-13" audience. The reasons listed include a sex scene between Edward and Bella and a "gruesome birth." Eww. The Hollywood Reporter reports. The film will be out (and be "PG-13") on November 18th.

 * * *

OR THE COOL




/Film posted a special edition of "Page 2" today featuring all film-related Halloween costumes and pumpkin carvings. Check it out!


Ever seen "Frankenweenie," Tim Burton's short film before he began making features. Well, now he is remaking that (with Disney producing) as his next stop-motion animated film! /Film has a "First Look."

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MAYBE THE HILARIOUS


Over on Funny or Die, director John Carpenter ("Halloween" and "The Thing") is presenting several horror/comedy helpings to get you through the day. You'll see clumsy ghosts, cat throwers, and a spoof of "Breaking Dawn."


Cracked has put "26 Famous Characters in their Halloween Costumes." Enjoy!


All right, this is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while, but it helps if you are familiar with John Carpenter's 1982 film, "The Thing" and the remake/prequel that just came out this month. "'The Thing' Cast Watches the Prequel."

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KEEPIN' IT SHORT


Directed by Peter Horn and Jared Marshall

(Disclaimer: Viewer discretion strongly advised, short contain language and violence.) I just barely stumbled upon the very impressive and inventive "Dark Times." I love long takes and I'm currently studying the subjective shot, and this zombie story features both! There is a couple of nice twists in the anything-goes crazy short film. It's pretty awesome!

Looking for some more short horror films? Short of the Week is highlighting several!

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TV TOO


Blastr has "13 Terrifying Star Trek Episodes Worth Beaming Down for Halloween."


The second season premiere for "The Walking Dead" broke basic cable television records. It is no surprise that shortly after AMC announced they would be renewing the series for a third season. I'm pretty sure that mean this zombie apocalypse isn't going to get wrapped up anytime soon. The Hollywood Reporter reports.


I've yet to see "American Horror Story" (surprisingly made by the co-creators of "Glee"), but chances are that I am more likely to see it now that it has been picked up for a second season by FX. The Hollywood Reporter reports. The show revolves around a troubled family who moves into a haunted house unawares.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

THE FILM TOME REPORT: ISSUE 50


NEW IN THEATERS

  • 13* / 9%
  • Anonymous / 45%
  • The Double* / 12%
  • In Time / 37%
  • Like Crazy* / 73%
  • Puss in Boots / 82%
  • Ra. One* / 78%
  • The Rum Diary / 51%
* = limited release

NEW IN STORES

  • Attack the Block / 89%
  • Captain America: The First Avenger / 79%
  • Identification of a Woman CC / 58% 
  • Island of the Lost Souls CC / 94%
  • Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale / 90%
  • Shaolin / 71%
  • Winnie the Pooh / 91%
CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

* * *

TRAILER ROUND-UP



* * *


"The Secret World of Arrietty" is the latest film from Studio Ghibli (the master animators who brought us "Spirited Away," "My Neighbor Totoro," and "My Neighbors the Yamadas") as an adaptation of the beloved children's book by Mary Norton, "The Burrowers." Firstly, let me tell you two things I don't care for. The English dub and the integrated pop song (also English). Those of course are the aspects Disney has slapped on to give the film legs domestically. Now let e tell you what I do care for: everything else. The lush 2D hand-drawn animation is as stunning as ever and the narrative is magical tale worth an kid and/or adult's attention. This film is not directed by Hayao Miyazaki however. No, it is under one Hiromasa Yonebayashi. He was the key animator on Miyazki's last two films and it certainly feels like a Ghibli film. I've no doubt this will be an excellent addition to their track record, but I'm going to strive to seek out the best version (the original).


I rather enjoyed last year's "Despicable Me." It was a surprise hit from a new animation studio. They are adapting Dr. Suess' "The Lorax" this time around for their new project. Not wild abut the pop song (you may wonder if I ever care for such in films), but it's not as out of place as the one I just mourned. Like Dr. Suess books, this looks like a wild and imaginative yarn with lots of fun colors and interesting hair-dos. Filmmakers are proving time and again that they can succesfully adapt short stories into feature film so I suppose that is no longer a legitimate concern. Zac Efron and Taylor Swift lend their voices to boy and girl. Danny DeVito surprisingly supplies the vocal chord for the Lorax himself and he is a pretty funny fellow. Illumination Entertainment is good at crafting funny critters. Remember the minions that populated "Despicable Me." It's night to see some good animation from a studio other than the Big Three. "The Lorax" hits theaters everywhere on March 2nd, 2012.


What's another week without another parody trailer from the "The Muppets"? This time around they tackle "Paranormal Activity," "Puss in Boots" and "Twilight." Wow. The movie trailer announcer informed us that this is the last of the parodies. Can we believe that? Well, November 23rd is only a few weeks away.

Quit horsin' around, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards:

The Head-Scratcher:


Johnny Depp plays a Eisenhower-era journalist who travels to Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper in "The Rum Diary." Whilst there he drinks a lot of alcohol, falls in love with a woman, and breaks more than a few laws. It's either going to interest you or not. Thus far the film is getting middling reviews. That's about where I am.

Lasso of the Week:


One of the world's most interesting filmmakers, Werner Herzog, brings us yet another documentary with "Into the Abyss." The only time I've ever cried watching a trailer was for one of his previous films. This one musters plenty of power itself. It is a tale of death and a tale of life. Herzog interviews inmates on death row and those beyond the walls who were affected by them in one way or another. There's an abyss with some of life's most pressing questions. Herzog is going to take us there (again). In select theaters on 11.11.11.

* * *

THE BAD


With all the Netflix news lately maybe it is not surprising that the company lost over 800,000 subscribers last quarter. The price hike and the introduction of Qwikster (and the morning after annulment) are the causes. The silver lining is that Netflix hopes to bounce back with more promising content. Variety has more.


An unnamed actress is suing IMDb for posting her real age (can you imagine?!) on the website and the Actor's Guild is rushing to her aid. Entertainment Weekly has the story. Here's Joblo's commentary.

* * *

AND THE WEIRD


Check out this interview that Empire had with Steven Spielberg. According to the man "Jurassic Park 4" has a better script than the previous three films, the aliens in fourth "Indiana Jones" were his idea, and the "nuke the fridge" sequence was Steven's idea (and he's proud of it).

* * *

MAYBE THE HILARIOUS

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