The Last Exorcist Movie Review
If she fails, all Hell breaks loose
There are two kinds of horror fans out there. The first kind is always in the mood for a good demonic possession flick, while the second kind groans at the thought of watching yet another one. If you're the former, a Danny Trejo fan, or both, The Last Exorcist may well be on your running to-see list.
Brought to you by genre newcomer Robin Bain and starring the always watchable Danny Trejo, The Last Exorcist promises to bring something different to the table when it comes to this possession horror movie subgenre. Does it actually follow through, though, or is this nothing more than another played out take on a subject that's already been done to death?
The Last Exorcist opens with a bang… literally. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the few remaining exorcists of the Catholic Church have just been simultaneously taken out in a terrorist bombing incident in Vatican City. One of the deceased happens to be Father Peter Campbell (Dennis LaValle), former stand-in guardian to sisters Jo (Rachele Brook Smith) and Maddie (Terri Ivens).
Not long after Father Peter's untimely death, the sisters receive a visit from a former priest named Marco (Danny Trejo). Marco not only happens to have known the girls' late mother, but he warns them of rough times to come, urging them to keep in touch with him. Then there's the matter of Maddie's increasingly troubling behavior and Jo's long-time ability to detect demonic presences.
The Last Exorcist approaches the idea of your typical tale of demonic possession by posing an interesting question. What if demonic oppression and possession are generational in nature? How would that look as it plays out? How can a family with a predisposition for demonic influence overcome their plight and persevere?
It's a good idea, to be sure, but Bain's directorial approach to the material leaves something lacking. The Last Exorcist wants to be artsy and surreal. Sometimes it almost succeeds, but it more often just feels muddy and confusing. The film uses flashbacks to fill in the gaps in Jo's and Maddie's backstories, but there are so many that they hurt the film's pacing and make it hard to follow.
The Last Exorcist also feels like it could have benefited from more of the build-up you'd expect from a possession movie, which movies like The Exorcist and The Possession set the standard for. Instead of gradually showing signs of possible possession, Maddie reads as off the rails from the minute we meet her. There are also a few plot points that seem unlikely any way you slice them. For instance, it's revealed through a flashback that Father Peter used to take Jo along with him to perform his exorcisms. (Really?)
Plot progression and clarity problems aside, The Last Exorcist definitely packs a powerful visual punch. There are plenty of spectacular on-screen battles with evil to please diehard exorcism movie connoisseurs. The hypnagogic approach to the film is also fantastic and gives the film an unsettling quality that keeps you watching. Bain dared to experiment in promising new ways here – a mostly successful experiment, even if it doesn't quite add all the way up by the time the credits roll.
So, should you bother giving The Last Exorcist your time? It depends on what you're looking to get out of the experience of watching it. If you're expecting an award winner that's sure to go down in history as a genre classic, skip it because this isn't it. If you're a sucker for possession films, though, you might enjoy checking this one out, if only for Trejo alone. There's certainly enough here to keep you watching and guessing up to the very end.