The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism

2010

Directed by Daniel Stamm

 

Review in Short: “Meh.”

Review, the Lengthier Version:

The thing about a lot of the horror movies I’ve seen/am excited to see is this: I’m never the one who initiates the watching of either the film or the film’s trailers. I don’t go out into the blinding internet world, with its never-ending cascade of animated banners and links to IMDB pages to actually view the damn things. Trailers exist, for me, only before a movie begins.

This is a problem for a lot of people, because they are then limited in their viewing to whatever trailer they caught or stumbling around poorly-lit, too loud video stores. This is not the case for me.

That is because I have Brando.

Brando, being the one person I generally never fail to see on a day to day basis, has a pretty absurd sway over my film-watching. This, of course, is because the dude never turns off. He has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of film, and when something gets under his skin it gets under all the rest of our skins.

It’s like being best friends with the Billboard Charts. Or, y’know, a flesh eating bacteria.

I really had no interest in seeing The Last Exorcism; indeed, I had no idea what the premise was other than it had the word ‘Exorcism’ in its title, and that ensured me to a couple hours of someone screaming, writhing, and possibly desecrating various godly relics that I have long since ceased attributing any power.

But, given that once, over a year ago, there was a somewhat interesting marketing campaign for the thing, Brando had stored it up in his Super-Brain, added it to his Queue, and awaited it. I had long since ceased to think about the thing until today, when he said, “Let’s watch this tonight.”

So we did.

And I can say this: Meh.

The film starts with mild promise. A young minister expresses, to a documentary crew, his growing lack of faith. He shows his stagey showmanship, explains that he can really get people excited over something as simple as banana bread so long as he’s got them with the whole Jesus thing. He’s got magic-tricks, film aspirations. He’s not being earnest, in short, and we’re not sure whether or not we like him. This is never really answered–do we like him?

He explains that he’s, many times, performed exorcism. ‘Cause, y’know, why the hell wouldn’t you? In his mind, it’s just a bit of showy therapy—expensive, magic-laden therapy, but therapy none-the-less. But he saw a newspaper article about how some kid having an autistic fit was killed because the god-fearing parents tried to exorcise his autism out, and so he decided to debunk the whole practice: he doesn’t want to see other kids to die because people are stuck in the middle-ages.

Alright. Seems like an elaborate set-up about a topic we didn’t know was plaguing the world, but, okay, for the sake of the film, I’ll go with it.

He drives South with his documentary crew of Camera-Man and Sound Girl, and they go to meet the Sweetzers, who are experiencing terrible things with their livestock. Turns out, Daddy Sweetzer thinks Daughter Sweetzer is possessed by a demon and she’s hacking up animals.

Nell Sweetzer is a sweet young lady, and we feel for her—the film has a nice balance of showing us other possibilities to why she would be having psychotic breaks—sleepwalking, waking up screaming, being covered in blood from dead livestock, et cetra: her mother has recently died. On top of that, her father is a slight alcoholic (we hear but never see), and he’s become paranoid about the outside world—he’s taken his children out of school and church and begun to home school them. She lives in a sheltered, restrictive world and she’s besieged by guilt.

Our Minister, Cotton, does a little impromptu physical with the girl, tricks everyone by making water her feet is in boil with some crazy water-boil tablet from his pocket, and proceeds to define the demon to her father. He tells him about how terrible this demon in his old book is, feeding his fears, and then he puts on a show of an exorcism for the Sweetzers: he shows us the tricks he uses to do so—mild electric current to make the girl spasm, hidden speakers for evil noises, a cartridge-loaded crucifix to smoke upon the final banishment of the demon, bing bang boom, exorcised. He receives his payment, gives a fake word of God to the father so he’ll stop drinking so damn much, and then he and the crew go to the motel.

Okay, fair enough, fraud does fraud things.

Then shit gets real. Nell shows up at the motel in the middle of the night, mildly catatonic.

This is where the film gets into the horror, and it goes well—we’re led through a pretty creepy but not all-out rude ride of being freaked out and thinking that maybe, just maybe, she is pretty damn possessed by evil. Our Docu-Crew uncovers new things (was she sexually assaulted? Is that why this is happening) to keep us on the fence of whether or not we’re actually in supernatural territory. The documentary style of the film works for it, and we see our protagonists fumble about, trying to figure out the best way they help poor Nell and set the world straight.

Through the entire thing, we’re not sure what the hell is going on. We cannot commit to demons and we can’t commit to psychotic break, and so we’re left unable to predict where the film is going; that inability makes each scene just tense enough, and the performances become awash in complete suspension of disbelief; we forget that these are just actors for brief but much-needed stretches. Nell’s possible possession is expressed in such human, unspectacular ways that we totally believe it—there is no Regan-esque head spins, no crab-walking, and so our preconceived concepts of possession are laid to the side as we watch this poor girl in agony.

This goes so well that, as we feel the film enter its final stages, as we feel conclusion coming and ready ourselves for that last big shock, we feel that we will be adequately rewarded for our time, predictable or not.

This is not the case.

The final portion of the film makes the entirety of what preceded it bogus. It is almost dishonest how the film concludes with such a definitive and hokey way. It seems that, in a film that seemed sturdy with characters who have achieved human nature and with a pretty decent pre-shock conclusion (or set up for a better ending, certainly), suddenly the narrative and characters are washed out, flooded with mistakes, in just ten minutes; characters who seemed real become two-dimensional with just the nature of where they took the story.

Without revealing anything, I’ll give you this: it degrades into a terrible, under-budgeted and over-stretched cliché-fest.

In the last ten minutes.

That’s a lot of work to destroy for that final shock that we desire in a horror movie.

Movies: Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Activity

Oren Peli

2007.

Holy.

Fucking.

Shit.

Movie: The Informers

The Informers

Gregor Jordan

2008

I love Bret Easton Ellis.

I hated this film.

Even though Ellis himself had a turn with the screenplay, this film was bled dry of the malaise and disruption that made the collection of stories so interesting; indeed, what makes Ellis so interesting: his characters become vapid, terrible people to illustrate the mundanity of cruelty and the foolishness of the leisure class.

What we get in this film is all these vapid and terrible people—and no counterbalance, no purpose for their being or their situations; they just exist solely to exist—the film exists for the same reason. It neither transcends nor falls flat. It just is.

The moments where it seems like we were meant to feel something, to experience emotions, they are not present—you can feel Jordan trying to force them in there, but each minor emotional epiphany comes out feeling trite, overplayed, and just not legitimate.

With the cast this film has (Billy Bob Thorton, Winona Ryder, Kim Bassinger, and fucking Mickey Rourke), something, anything, should have happened.

Instead? Nothing.

Movie: Zombieland

Zombieland

Ruben Fleischer

2009

A rare thing, these days, to see a zombie flick that doesn’t retread familiar ground; the ‘of the Dead’ series, of course, has been run down, the 28 Days/Weeks series is in danger, and a handful of the indies are filled with terrible plots and goofy self-awareness.

So seeing a flick like Zombieland is a good refresher. Funny, aware, well directed, and Bill Murray. Can’t go wrong with that.

Bill Murray should just be in every movie ever. That’s just a fact.

With the inability to turn around and not see a new zombie film gearing up production, everyone is in on the game—it’s good to see Harrelson and Murray end up in a movie with as much unique style as they have themselves. I’ve been a bit hesitant about Jesse Eisenberg because, frankly, every time I see him I think Michael Cera; this movie did clear that stigma up for me, but it did make me see how he could pull out of that role.

Fleischer, it seems, hasn’t really done much–besides Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, which is great. But, turns out Zombieland 2 is happening. I don’t know if that’s good or not.

TV: Colin’s X-Files Commentary, in which I make useless comments about each episode of X-Files as I watch them on Netflix. S01, Disc 3


X-Files, Season 1

Season 1, Disc 3

S01, Disc 3:

S01E09: Space:

Space? That’s your title this episode? Space? Isn’t that more an overarching, series long theme? Maybe an episode named ‘Scully’s Disbelief’ or ‘Mulder Masks His Sadness With Cheeky Sense of Humor’ or ‘Conspiracy: A Variation on a Theme’ are coming in the next seasons. Interesting fact: we see Discovery launched in this episode. A quick Wiki search reveals that it’s the oldest orbiter in space currently—first launched in ’84. Thanks Wiki. While walking through NASA mission control, Scully and Mulder throw their coats heavily onto a panel of highly-sensitive, out of control technology with absolutely no second thought. Be careful! That shit sends people into space! Okay, so the episode is called ‘Space’ because ‘Space Ghost’ is copyrighted.

S01E10: Fallen Angel:

That cop dude? Attacked by a killer strobe light. Return of the terrible motels! This episode? Mulder hangs his hat in ‘Budget-Rest Motel’. The FBI does not pay for good bed and breakfasts. Aw, Mulder and Scully have a fan-club—within the show! And, oh shit, now we’ve got our first solid Overarching Conspiracy moment—Deep Throat, you dick.

S01E11: Eve:

A traumatic experience for anyone: finding their father dead in the back yard with puncture wounds to the neck. Dracula would never be a good read after that. Hey, she’s watching Eek! The Cat! That show was awesome! Also, on Fox. Good marketing synergy for completely different target audiences, Fox. Holy shit, this is where Eve 6 got their name! Do you think Mulder and Scully ever sit down and wonder about these side characters they meet in each episode? Do they have a Christmas card list? “Dear Eve 6; seasons greetings! Love, Scully and Mulder (those people who questioned you and then left you to rot in that cell)”. You know how I’ve said before that I hate creepy children? That goes double for creepy homicidal super-genius twin children.

S01E12: Fire:

Immolation! Yay! Ooo, old Mulder flame. To tie into the title. This arson research dude is a total pyromaniac. Dude loves fire. “A certain ‘demon poetry’”. Yeah. Sheer fire love. Man, super villain akin to X-Men’s Pyro being lame as shit in this one. Oh, man, Mulder and this lady totally had sex on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave. That is. . . messed up. Our crazy villain is also evil enough to offer cigarettes to kids. That bastard. Holy crap, Mulder gets a decent hotel room! Thanks British ex-girlfriend! This episode is rife with terrible euphemism.

Comics: The Flash #1

The Flash #1

2010

Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul

There’s no secret: I’m a Marvel Kid. I rarely give a shit about DC comics, let alone Image or the other ‘super-hero’ universes (Image’s non-superhero stuff and DC’s non-superhero stuff [a.k.a. Vertigo] are fantastic), but DC will surprise me. I grew up with the X-Men and Captain America; Superman and Teen Titans will never be important to me—they’re lesser characters.

But I keep reading, and sometimes I’m surprised. The recent Detective Comics with Batwoman were amazing. This series of The Flash might have that impact—even though I think DC’s decision to suddenly bring people who mattered—people who were already replaced—back to life might be the dumbest thing ever. Let the dead stay dead—unless, of course, they are singular characters; with Blackest Night, they revived characters who are meant to be dead. Deadman’s alive now? What? That makes him the worst character ever, when he was so amazing.

But I digress. The Flash—one of dozens of Flash-like characters in the universe—can be or not be. Barry Allen’s new life? Don’t care one way or the other. Sorry, Geoff Johns.

Can you make the comic matter?

Well, already the pacing and artwork are pretty fantastic. Captain Cold just snowing out sports events for no reason but because he’s a dick is awesome, and to think of Flash’s ridiculous rogues gallery—considering Batman’s or Wonder Woman’s—being around just ’cause it’s amazing.

The series opener doesn’t give us any reason to care, really—good art, a hopeful idea. But, really, the best thing about this book is the Zatanna preview—Zatanna, one of DC’s best characters, is getting her own series. Fuck the Flash, give me Zatanna.

TV: Party Down Season 2 Premiere

Party Down

Season 2 Premiere

2010

Party down has always had a strange, mellow vibe to it that somehow makes the humor even stronger—the strange moments are made all the more surreal because everything is so simple and straight-laced. There are no characters who are over-the-top or uselessly implemented.

This episode does well to express the span of time between last season to present—it reintroduces Lizzy Caplan’s character, gives us strong Ron moments, and Martin Starr as Roman has never failed to be fantastic; in this episode especially. He and guest star Jimmi Simpson (as goth rock star Jackal Onassis) trade places. Simpson, really, has the ability to light up anything he’s in, and this episode is no different—I’m saddened that he’s not going to be a recurring character.

Party Down

Season 2 Season Premiere

2010

Party down has always had a strange, mellow vibe to it that somehow makes the humor even stronger—the strange moments are made all the more surreal because everything is so simple and straight-laced. There are no characters who are over-the-top or uselessly implemented.

This episode does well to express the span of time between last season to present—it reintroduces Lizzy Caplan’s character, gives us strong Ron moments, and Martin Starr as Roman has never failed to be fantastic; in this episode especially. He and guest star Jimmi Simpson (as goth rock star Jackal Onassis) trade places. Simpson, really, has the ability to light up anything he’s in, and this episode is no different—I’m saddened that he’s not going to be a recurring character.

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