The Last Exorcism is a low budget horror film from 2010 in the found footage category, shown here as a documentary film that was being made. A small film crew consisting of producer/director Iris Reisen and cameraman Daniel Moskowitz are following a disillusioned evangelical minister, the reverend Cotton Marcus as he performs fake exorcisms on “possessed” individuals. After years of being a well liked, charming & popular priest Marcus lost his faith after the birth of his ill son. He now wants to expose the sham that is exorcism and agrees to be filmed by the crew. He chooses an exorcism request sent by farmer Louis Sweetzer, who claims his livestock is being slaughtered by his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) who is possessed. Also in the farm is the hostile older child Caleb, who wants the reverend to leave the farm After speaking to Louis and then spending time with Nell, Marcus claims that the girl is possessed by a powerful demon named Abalam. Using some tricks and equipment set up, which he shows to us in the recording, Marcus tricks the girl and her father into believing that he is driving out the demon. After the ritual, Marcus and his film crew leave, believing they have cured her of a mental state that was misdiagnosed as a possession. That night, Nell appears in Marcus’ motel room, apparently unwell.
Marcus takes the girl to a hospital for tests but they come back conclusive that she is well & healthy. In the morning Marcus goes to speak to Louis’ former pastor, Joseph Manley who informs him that he has seen Nell in 2 years. In the morning Louis & Caleb take Nell back to the farm but chains her to her bed after she slices Caleb’s face with a knife and Marcus & his crew stay with her as Louis takes his son to the hospital. That night, the crew find a drawing of a dead cat. Nell takes the camera while the 3 sleep and kills a cat in the barn with it and then approaches Marcus with the camera in her hands but the other two stop her in time. They then see more of her paintings. The first depicts Marcus standing before a large flame, holding up a crucifix. The second shows the dead bodies of the crew: Marcus being consumed by the flame in the other picture, Iris hacked to pieces with an axe, and Dan decapitated. When Marcus speaks to the doctor who treated Nell he finds out that she is pregnant. Marcus accuses Louis of incest but he denies it saying that Nell is a virgin who was defiled by the demon. Nell cuts Marcus’s hand with a pair of scissors when he approaches her so the crew decide to leave but stop when they find Nell begging to be killed and Louis taking his shotgun to her. Marcus says he will try another exorcism to pacify Louis and they head to the barn.
Marcus confronts the demon Abalam who agrees to leave Nell alone if the reverend can stay silent for 10 seconds. Marcus agrees but yells out when Nell breaks 3 of her fingers. Abalam then asks Marcus if he wants a “blowing job.” Marcus realizes that a demon would know the actual name of the sex act and concludes that Nell is not a demon, but a very disturbed girl. Nell is agonized over losing her virginity to a boy named Logan resulting in her mental breakdown rather than possession. Marcus arranges for Pastor Manley to come to the house, and leaves. On their way home, Marcus and the crew happen to meet Logan at a fast food joint they stop in, who explains that the only contact he had with Nell was a brief conversation 6 months ago at a party held at Pastor Manley’s home. Logan also admits to being gay and hence didn’t have sex with Nell. Realizing that Manley was lying about not having seen Nell for 2 years, Marcus and crew heads back to the farm where they find numerous occult and Satanic symbols on the walls, and Nell and Louis missing. They search deep in the woods where they find a large fire and a congregation of hooded cultists, led by Pastor Manley. Louis is tied and gagged up against a tree and hooded figures pray at an altar upon which Nell is laid. The girl gives birth to an inhuman baby and Manley tosses the baby into the fire from which demonic roars are heard.
Marcus, having regained his faith, clutches his crucifix and rushes toward the flames chanting to combat the evil. Iris is tackled by a member of the congregation and killed with an axe. Daniel continues to run, until he stops to take a deep breath. He then looks around to see if he was followed, before turning back to find Caleb, who is wearing clean clothes and a bandage covering his wound. Caleb then decapitates Daniel and the camera falls to the ground, before it cuts out.
The Last Exorcism Part II was the much maligned sequel which came out in 2013. Nell is found alone and out of her senses, huddling next to the fridge in a couple’s house. She is taken to a hospital and treated and slowly recovers to a sense of normalcy. After spending a few months at Frank’s home for girls and settling in as a chambermaid at a hotel, Nell’s condition seems to have improved and she no longer has “bad dreams”. She makes friends with the other girls in the home, mostly victims of abuse. Nell and her group of friends visit a costume parade; Nell witnesses many strange happenings there, including masked men watching her. Her personality changes as things get darker. She begins to get hints that the demon Abalam is back. After one of the girls at the home dies of a sudden seizure, a friend tells Nell of the Order of the Right Hand, a secret society which has been monitoring Nell.
At night she feels the odd presence of the demon even though she can’t pinpoint on something solid. Chris, a young man who met Nell and befriended her, cuts his own throat as he says out of sadness and rejection after viewing a clip of Nell lying about how she got pregnant (clips from the documentary that was found and uploaded to Youtube). Chris also liked Nell but was under the influence of Abalam. Cecile seeks help from the Order of the Right Hand, and Nell is introduced to Calder and Jefferey. They attempt to rid the demon which is “in love” with Nell by transferring it into the body of a sacrificed chicken. The supernatural force in Nell proves to be too powerful, and Calder is forced to kill her. The demon appears to Nell and begs her to take it’s hand. Nell finally agrees and seems to die but then the 3 secret cult members are killed and the house bursts into flames. Nell murders Frank and burns the home for girls, leaving her friends to die. Nell appears undead in the rearview mirror, the prophecy of mass destruction among Earth is proven to be correct as she sets multiple buildings aflame.
While the first atleast had a good story (although I was disappointed that I didn’t even get one good scare) the second seems lame and created just to capitalize on the critical success of the first which was a minor hit. The most positive thing for me was the acting of Ashely Bell as a likeable and sympathetic lead. 6.5 for the original and 5 for the sequel.