The Last Exorcism (2010): A New “Old” Trend of Film Making

1999’s The Blair Witch Project started a trend of “found footage” films. As a trend making film, Blair Witch not only opened the door for a new type of film, but it also showed how use of the internet could be used to publicize your film and how to build an audience before the film’s release.

There is an old saying that goes like this, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In the film world the saying could be changed to, “Imitation is the sincerest form of a successful film.” That Blair Witch was successful is beyond question. Shot on a shoestring budget of 500 to 750 thousand dollars, the film raked in an astounding 248 million box office dollars. Is it any wonder that this new “genre” of films has become a norm at the box office?

The only other film to show that much return on investment was the 2007 film Paranormal Activity with its budget of 15 thousand dollars and an unbelievable box office return of over 193 million dollars. P A was another film to utilize the internet as a valid and lucrative marketing forum. There are other film makers out there that have taken the Blair Witch formula as their template and done well in the box office department.

The Last Exorcism takes a leaf from Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity with its found footage scenario and tossed in a “mockumentary” theme. The film is a “documentary” of an exorcist who lives and works in the American south (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). Father Cotton Marcus (played by actor Patrick Fabian) uses a combination of psychiatry and “smoke and mirrors” via electronic means to “cure” the possessed person.

He has a pretty high success rate. But this man of the cloth is a cynic. He does not really believe in demonic possession, he does believe that the victims do and he treats them in a manner that reflects their belief. Father Marcus is retiring from the world of exorcism and a camera crew is documenting his last exorcism.

The film follows Father Marcus on his last case and we meet the victim, a young girl named Nell (which immediately brought up visions of Little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop), her father and her brother, who is not pleased to see this group of film makers and the good Father descend upon his home. The brother, Caleb is downright hostile to the entire “congregation” and derides the Father at every opportunity.

By the power of my electronics leave this girl.

Father Marcus performs two exorcisms on Nell and finds out that his opponent is all too real and won’t react to his psychological exorcism.

It terms of style, the film conveys it documentary “feel” very well. It looks and sounds like the real deal. Directed by the German independent film maker Daniel Stamm and filmed with “shaky cam” (a technique where camera stabilization is dispensed with giving the film a “guerrilla” and more realistic look) Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) is one of the producers of the film. Marketing for the film was done via a chat room website (Chatroulette) using a viral campaign approach. It was to a degree quite successful, with a budget of 1.8 million dollars and a return of over 67 million dollars the profit is not as impressive as either Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity but with enough of a profit margin to elicit a sequel.

I will say that the film did look like a documentary to me. Stamm did a very good job of letting the run up to the action of the film feel quite mundane and not a little disappointing. The reveal at the beginning of the film that Cotton Marcus (Did you get the play on the name here? Cotton Mather Salem witch trials anyone?) is a man who does not believe in demons nor the idea of demon possession is disturbing; especially as he works as an exorcist who uses the “power of Christ” to cure the afflicted.

The cast do a brilliant job in their roles helping to sell the “reality” of the people and the story. I enjoyed the film very much and can say that I was genuinely surprised at the ending. I do not do a star rating on films, but if I did, The Last Exorcism would get 5 out of 5 stars for originality.

As the sequel is coming out in March 2013 it wouldn’t hurt to see the film before seeing the sequel. I think you will enjoy it.

Are we having fun yet?

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 6

A new arrival in the unit asked me if I was interested in sharing a house with him in a small Suffolk village. He’d rented the house and it was large and had about four bedrooms in it. I went out to the village of Swaffham Prior and had a look at the place.

For starters it was excellently placed in the village as it was right across the street from the village Pub. Don’t get the wrong idea. I liked my drink as much as the next person, but that wasn’t why I was so pleased with the proximity of the Pub.

The Red Lion

Pub’s were, at that time anyway, a meeting place for the village. Through the Pub, you met people, found out what was happening around the area and who was who in the village. That and if the Pub was close enough, you could drink a skin-full of booze and just stagger home.

The house itself was old. It had been a coach house in the olden days. (I cannot for the life of me remember when the house was originally built, but the coach house bit is a dead give away for how old it actually was) It was long, much longer than than the Google earth picture above. And when I lived there with Ralph, it was white.

On the right hand side of the house as you faced it from the street was an agate gravel drive that branched off to the left and led you to the back door. The front door was used only once when I lived there and that was when the local vicar stopped by to welcome us to the village.

When you entered the back door you would find the back hall, bathroom, stairs to the first floor (that’s second floor to denizens of the US) and a smaller hall to the rest of the house.

Nestled in between the drive and the back door path was our ‘sitting’ room. It had a two seater settee, Ralph’s leather recliner, a fireplace and the television. The window faced the front of the Pub across the street.

When you walked out of the ‘sitting room’ you crossed the small hallway and walked past the front door to the huge dining room. If you continued you walked through the kitchen (a perfect square of a room) and on the other side of the kitchen was my massive bedroom. That plus a utility room that housed our washer and dryer made up the ground floor of the house.

My bedroom featured the only other door that opened onto the high street. I say opened, but that is a bit of a misnomer. The massive four inch wide door was sealed shut and could not be opened at all.

The first floor of the house was comprised entirely of bedrooms. The one opposite the Pub was our ‘cold’ store. In the winter we left a window cracked and it kept most of our perishable foodstuff nice and cool.

The first couple of months that Ralph and I lived there we would occasionally both watch the telly in the sitting room. When anyone walked up the gravel drive and the path to our door you could hear them as clearly as if the path were in the room with us. One night we sat there watching the news when, during a break between stories, the volume lowered enough for us to hear someone walking up the drive.

“Looks like we have a visitor.” Ralph said with a smile.

He turned down the volume on the TV. We both sat grinning like a couple of idiots as we listened to the footsteps progress from the side of the house to the back door. The gravelly steps stopped at our back door and waited we for the knock.

Silence permeated the air. No knock. Nothing. We sat there is silence and waited for the footsteps to start their journey back to the street. Still, nothing.

Finally, we couldn’t take the suspense any longer. We both got up and jogged to the back door. Ralph flung open the door with a loud and cheery, “Hi!”

There was no one there.

We had quite a giggle about this turn of events and made jokes about ghosts and possible pranksters having a laugh at the ‘new boys’ in the village. As we walked back into the sitting room we watched the fancy leather throw on the back of Ralph’s recliner start swinging back and forth.

Ralph looked at me with one eyebrow up and said, “The fireplace must be open. I’ll close the draft.” He walked over to the fireplace and knelt down to close the flue. He suddenly stopped and looked up the chimney. He looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Damn thing’s closed already.”

As he stood up, the throw began to sway again. Ralph walked over to it and held his hand by the throw. “Nothing.” He moved his hand fractionally. “Not a breath of air.” We both shrugged and sat back down to finish watching the news.

This occurrence would be a regular event at the house. We used to make jokes about our mysterious sitting room ghost and our invisible house guest who was too shy to knock on the back door.

It was only after we had lived there for about six months that the activity increased and soon shifted it’s focus on to Ralph’s new girlfriend. But that was after it decided to pick on me and after I had moved out of the house and  into  a flat with my new fiancée .

My bedroom and it’s inoperable door.