In the Details

‘The Last Exorcism’ & ‘Devil’

I don’t go to demonic-possession movies expecting to encounter interesting characters, but The Last Exorcism has them, and that’s what raises Daniel Stamm’s faux documentary to a level of complexity few horror films even attempt.

Its protagonist, Cotton Marcus, has been brought up in Baton Rouge by his minister-father to be an evangelist, a faith healer, and—when the need arises—an exorcist. As the movie begins, Marcus is confessing to the faux-documentary film crew that he lost his faith a long time ago and now regards his preaching and healing as nothing but pandering for profit. He’s a fraud, but a compassionate fraud. If the congregation feels it’s communing with Jesus when Cotton gyrates, so be it. If the superstitious believe a devil can enter them, then Marcus will couple his hocus-pocus with some practical advice (get counseling, join AA) while pocketing their dollars. Besides, Marcus is a talented amateur magician, so this work lets him indulge his hobbies. Summoned to an isolated farm to perform rites on a teenaged girl, he invites the “filmmakers” along to make a movie that will expose what a con exorcisms are. Guess who’s riding for a fall.

But consider the protagonist’s name and recall a more sincere preacher who believed in witches...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.