Film: The Last Exorcism

I went this weekend to see The Last Exorcism. I was really excited about this for a few reasons, firstly, I like movies about exorcisms, secondly, I have a crush on Eli Roth and will see anything he’s remotely connected to. I was actually really impressed with it, usually I have my reservations about horror films with PG-13 ratings, because I like my movies very bloody.  What I do not like is hand-held camera shooting. I find it irritating and disorienting and it makes me want to punch the character holding the camera. There were some really good examples of why I hate this form in this film. Right, so the person with the camera in the film is a guy named Daniel. Daniel is 1/2 of a film crew making a documentary about how one gifted preacher from Louisana’s whole exorcism routine is a fake. Mostly, I am completely fine with this premise, however, amoungst all this hand-held faux doumentary style there are random scenic establishing shots of the rural Lousiana environment. Now, this, makes me wonder, why, in their moments of terror and difficulty would good old Daniel take time to go and stand in the rain and take creepy establishing shots of the house, the barn, the cars?

The other thing that this film really drew my attention to is Demon Logic. It was not a real flaw of this film, or of any demonic or exorcism based movie, but more of a question as to how we have constructed the manifestations and behaviors of demons and in turn, the demonically possessed. I am not totally sure why any demon, possessing the body of a young girl (because apparently all any self-respecting demon wants is to be inside a young girl…make of that what you will.) would use their time the way they do in these films. Let’s have a look into the demon day planner, shall we?

Sundown: immobilize victim, frighten family – 1 hour.

8pm: Spasms.

8:45pm: Froth at the mouth, roll eyeballs around.

11pm: Go for a creepy walk.

11:10pm: Stand creepily in the garden, possibly with arms outstretched.

11:25pm: Gruesomely slash up some livestock, watch Law and Order.

1am: Contort.

2:34am: Take another creepy walk.

2:40am: Stand creepily in living room.

5am: Withdraw.

I don’t want to  be negative here, but exactly what is the point of all this? Why, if you are a demon, don’t you just, you know, defile some flesh, get a good soul grip and be on your merry demonic way? Why all this standing around, and frothing? It’s not really accomplishing anything. Like for example, I’ve never really understood why that whole pea-soup, upside-down-stair-walk was even happening in The Exorcist. It would make sense if the demon in question was killing people, or livestock or making  brownies, but all this gratutious demonic showmanship seems at best, unrealistic, at worst, a real fault in the demonic behavioral structure. I’m just saying that if I were demon, I wouldn’t spend so much of my time standing around creepily and contorting.

That said, The Last Exorcism is excellent, well produced and suspenseful. It’s suitably graphic, and shocking considering it’s mild rating and does a good job of really using it’s setting. Like many horror films, it benefits from the rural Louisiana countryside and the spirituality smorgasbord that is the deep American South. I was particularly impressed with the possessed, Nell. She straddled the boundary between innocence, malevolence and unnerving sexuality well.

The film also does a good job of bringing the nature and location of evil into question. I think the most effective horror films are the one’s where we don’t know who or how to trust. One’s where it’s difficult to figure out whether the monstrousity we’re looking at is a supernatural, Satanic manifestation or whether it’s an evil emerging from humanity and human nature.

I’m also delighted to see a smaller, less gratutious horror film, like this doing so well at the box office. The promotional work has been excellent and it deserves it’s success. It’s not only a triumph for the filmmakers of this work, but for the genre as a whole.

In mildly related news: I found that I has neglected to ever tell my two best friends about The Human Centipede today. I had forgotten how entertaining it is to recount first sequence. Also, my friend Seana, who is a nurse, seem confounded as to why the Doctor didn’t intravenously feel the centipede segments and give them ostomies from which to defecate, thereby eliminating the risk of infection and starvation – but also compromising the link gastrointestinal system. How differently medical professionals think.