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August 26, 2010


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Your description of this movie's formal shortcomings—"various two-camera setups even as it goes to great pains to point out that the 'film' is the work of a single cameraman"—is most excellent. And especially so as compared to The Blair Witch Project, a film I've seen a gazillion times but now want to watch again having read this review.

But I have to admit, I'm one of those people who people who kinda liked this movie. I don't know what your experience of evangelical Christianity is, but I have a familial history with it. (One of my parents was a born again, the other Catholic—and yeah, oh boy). One of the things that was compelling about this movie was its determination to wrest this movie from its Catholic roost. Hate on it if you must, but I don't think this movie completely su-uuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-cked.


Haven't seen it yet, but what bstrong mentions about the evangelical twist to the movie also interests me. I was brought up in a Pentecostal household and witnessed the occasional "casting out of demons", and so the Catholic version in The Exorcist et al. never got under my skin. I'm a big fan of faith healer tricks, (I loved the guy who held a revival meeting at our church who could "see" out of his glass eye) so you've made the beginning of the movie sound very appealing to me.

Fabian W.

I think I sorta liked it as well. Yes, it is a failure as a horror movie or a found-footage-mockumentary. But I do think it succeeds as some sort of quarter-assed horror version of "Man Bites Dog", at least in parts. I liked the fact that Marcus received pleas for help via MySpace (and not via Facebook). And the "blowing job" bit. But other than that: Yeah, it's not really anything.

(BTW: Without a PayPal-account, I'm afraid I can only put good wishes in the tip jar: So glad the troll didn't get you down. The last seven days especially were luminous. Thank you for your blog!)

Fabian W.

I just realized that "Man Bites Dog" is of course a mockumentary as well. Well, I guess that means that I don't think it's a complete failure then, except for the two-camera-setups.
Still, it does su-uuu-uuu-ck as a horror movie.

Glenn Kenny

I forgot to mention that "su-uuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-cked" is best pronounced half-sung, in a faux-operatic soprano falsetto. Granted, the evangelical angle is certainly of what one might call potential interest, as is the notion of setting a horror movie in what Greil Marcus calls "the Old Weird America." (An opportunity that was also kind of squandered by Paul Schrader for his "Cat People" rethink.) But what, I ask you, what does is profit a man to make a horror film that's potentially thematically interesting and yet not at all frightening? For me the film didn't wind up making much of these elements, and so fell flat on that level as well.

Ratzkywatzky, do you know the 1971 movie "Fool's Parade," by Andrew V. McClagen? Jimmy Stewart's character does a glass-eye trick similar to the one you cite in that film. Good stuff.

John Merrill

Off topic. (I assume you are screening before posting.) Have you seen the Mesrine films? I would be glad to hear what you think. Please review.

John from Carroll Gardens.


Oh, of course "su-uuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-uuuu-cked" must be su-uuu-uuu-ng, or anyway I sung it as I typed it.

You're right Glenn, this failed to get under my skin the way a first rate horror movie should, but it felt menacing in places and worked for me as a good quarter-assed something, to paraphrase Fabian W. The atmosphere and setting get squandered ultimately but all kinds of details were unsettling. That red-headed brother, for example. And those oxblood Doc Martens are still giving me chills, as in—Nooooo, don't give her the Red Shoes! And I thought making the man of the cloth a phony, beyond being a necessary update (good-hearted Catholic priests being, uh-hum, passe) had a lot of potential, some of it fulfilled. Those churchies were totally believable. I only wish that in the final scene—SPOILER ALERT—Ruth Gordon had been around to tell someone to shut up and chant.

Glenn Kenny

Ugh. I've actually HAD the British Blu-ray of the "Mesrine" films for a while, and was going to look at said films and write about them for The Daily Notebook in mid-July, and then my plasma display blew up. Feh. I just learned that the elusive part necessary to fix my display will be in the Hitachi warehouse a little after Labor Day, which means my gear may be fixed sometime before the start of the Toronto Film Festival (which I'm not going to) or...well... Anyway, that's when I'm gonna have a look at the "Mesrine" films, which, it occurs to me, might be fun to consider in tandem with Assayas' "Carlos."

Glenn Kenny

Oh, yes...Ooops! I have stopped screening comments before posting, as things have calmed down sufficiently. Don't everybody tell me that I'm bald and badly employed at once, now.


Haven't seen this, but the trailer is pretty clearly lackluster. There's nothing there that draws me in at all, apart from the fact that it's a horror film. If you set out to make an exorcism film, you know you'll be working under a pretty massive shadow, so I'd hope you'd bring something truly unique. I'm guessing that didn't happen here.

Meanwhile, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE had interesting elements to it, at least as an idea, and Jennifer Carpenter was very good. The filmmakers just didn't know what to do with any of it.

Fabian W.

Had the 2006 movie "Requiem" by Hans-Christian Schmid a theatrical run in the US? Because I felt that film really had to offer something unique. I think it's available as a R2 UK DVD, with English subs.


I think REQUIEM is readily available in the US. I just haven't seen it yet. That's based on the same story as EMILY ROSE, isn't it?

Fabian W.

Yeah, I think so. But "Requiem" has much more West Germany-70s-flavor, of course. It's not "scary" or anything, but really heartbeaking, and sincere.

Chris O.

Not to steer off-course, but I really want to see FOOL'S PARADE for several reasons.


Thanks for the Fool's Parade recommendation! If I can't track it down, I'll at least see if I can get the Davis Grubb novel on which it's based. Other than the obvious choice and a slim volume of short stories, I haven't read anything else by him.


Dangit. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is unavailable on Netflix. And I'd gotten all excited.

Fuzzy Bastard

I feel like after the American version of THE OFFICE, the pseudo-documentary has become just another stylistic tic (sorta what lens flares were to the 70s), with little obligation to stick to single-camera setups. I haven't seen this'un yet, but THE OFFICE always struck me as less like an actual documentary and more like Elizabethian theater, with the talking-heads segments functioning as asides to the audience.

Glenn Kenny

@ Fuzzy: My complaint that "Exorcism," cheats egregiously by deviating from single-camera setups would not have been voiced...had film's whole narrative premise not explicitly hinged on the fact that this documentary "crew" has...only a single cameraman! In "The Office," the documentary conceit is presented in such a way that the size and makeup of its crew isn't really germane. Yes; the talking-heads segments certainly do function as asides to the audience, and sure, they have roots in Elizabethan theater, but more pertinently, they're related to the reality-show convention of "the confessional" that started with MTV's "The Real World." And yes, I do believe that "The Office" has a hell of a lot more formal consistency and integrity than "The last Exorcism" has.

Fuzzy Bastarrd

Ah, yeah---if it's actually a narrative element, then such cheating is a pretty big problem. And yes, true about "the confessional"---perhaps I'd just rather believe the source is higher-brow (or at least, that it unconsciously returns to a narrative device that I really miss).


I haven't seen "The Last Exorcism" either but my favourite 'fake exorcist' would be the TV presenter Cavan from The Day of the Beast - there's a queasy sense of exploitation and (extremely!) dark humour throughout that film, best shown in the televised exorcism he performs at the beginning and the sequence three-quarters of the way through when the character returns to his TV studio with bigger problems than that day's television broadcast (he's been co-opted into raising the devil) only to be swarmed with executives and various other lackeys, and witness to a Final Destination-esque blackly comic sequence of events that lead to the fatal electrocution of his biggest fan!

Bob Turnbull

I thought The Last Exorcism was actually quite strong - one of the better recent American horror films actually (Bill, the trailer is NOT a great representation of the film). Mainly because it took its time at the outset to get you involved with the characters - especially the preacher (the banana bread scene was pretty funny) - so that when things go south, it actually matters. I also felt they managed to create a real creepy atmosphere at times and had a good level of tension through roughly the middle third.

Of course, it isn't perfect. The two camera setups pulled me out of the movie whenever I noticed them and I wasn't sure why they felt it necessary (maybe they were "saving" a certain scene in post?). However, it obviously isn't a straightforward "found footage" film since there's an additional soundtrack behind most of it and it includes edits back to earlier scenes (e.g. *minor spoiler* - when he does the first exorcism, it cuts back to some of his preparation for the tricks he uses), so I think they just felt it would make it a better overall film if they cheated on the format. I'm not sure it helps though.

Also, I wasn't completely thrilled with where they ended up going with the movie and had hoped for a bit more of the creepiness, but I was involved with the characters enough to be happy to go along with it.



Thanks for this review. I saw this last night with a friend as a sort of last minute improvised plan and was shocked to see it has gotten fairly good reviews. This is the worst thing I've seen all year. I can't think of a single thing I liked about this movie. I kept wondering, per all the formal cheating: If they can include music why can't they actually have watchable cinematography? Moreover, I have never seen a documentary that looks this horrible so the whole faux-documentary thing fails from the start. Aside from its wretched form, I didn't find it the least bit scary.

John Keefer

I really can't see where the utter disdain of this film is coming from. I'll give you the fact that it does cheat with set-ups and especially the score, which anytime it would kick in would always make me think, "It'd be scarier without the music." What surprises me is that nothing in The Last Exorcism is so blatantly awful nor certainly cinematically transcendent as to inspire such a negative reaction, albeit a funny sing-song one. I found the characters to be enjoyable, especially Toby, who has such a clean menace to his delivery it made me excited to see this actor again (though not excited enough to look up his name...I hope he's not a Culkin). Also, the scares were ADEQUATE. I repeat...ADEQUATE. Some creepy contortions and the poor possessed being somewhere they shouldn't be are enough for me, the film thankfully avoided overreaching here which I would have been more disappointed at. But the film did have the required feeling of doom, stemming from the characters, their decisions, the landscape. Not a favorite by any stretch, but certainly no Cop Out (sorry to jump genres here but that was the last film that inspired in me a sense of "Are you fucking serious, this is pathetic filmmaking"). It's a film that simply 'is' for me.

But aside from that, let's celebrate the birth of a brand new Horror subgenre! That's exciting right? Took a few years after Blair Witch to take hold but here it is and I fear that this presentation may become somewhat of a standard in the horror genre. Going with the idea of a horror film being like a haunted house ride at an amusement park, what better way to put the audience in a rickety cart with a painful metal bar across laps than to give them the first person perspective the entire time. There were moments in this film, and more so in Paranormal Activity, that carried the feeling of a classic cheap horror film. The textures of the houses, the overcast look of the landscapes, (in particular in PA when they meet with the demonologist...I don't know why but it evoked for me a Z-grade feature from 1968 and my cup did overfloweth with third-generation horror nostalgia...again I'm not sure why). But really, what are the implications here? Horror films are essentially always trying to get you into the scenario, to believe in the ghost in the attic, or the unkillable killer, what better way then with the conceit that it's actually taking place? And what better way to legitimize and justify and bring up nostalgic longings for the days when you would be in your parents basement, your feet unable to reach the ground on a well-worn loveseat, as your index finger remained fixed over the Recall button on your remote control, in case what you were watching got to scary and you had to quick flip over to Nickelodeon to keep the demons from invading the wreck room.

Invade the Wreck Room will also be the title of my autobiography.


@John: A lot of my disdain comes down to the fact that it was one of the worst looking films I've seen in a theater in a long time. I actually hope it marks the end of faux-documentary aesthetic. To be fair, I can think of a few recent horror films that did manage that aesthetic well (Paranormal Activity, Diary of the Dead,etc.) I've never seen an actual documentary with so many badly framed shots, out of focus pans and shaky camera movements as this film had.

Had it been watchable on a visual level, I might have engaged more with the story. However, I didn't care for the Rosemary's Baby like ending.

Jeff McMahon

I'd just like to say that The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a highly-polished, well-acted, very dumb movie.

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