| HOLLABACK GIRL: Ashley Bell (on the bed) screams at Patrick Fabian (with the cross). |
Unless you shun all Internet frivolity, you were probably infected by The Last Exorcism’s viral marketing last week, in the form of a short video documenting Lionsgate’s undeniably nifty hijacking of Chatroulette’s dick-waggling army of nincompoops. What you most likely didn’t see was the condescending pep talk tacked onto preview screenings of the film, in which an importunate Eli Roth (who produces here) compelled his elite corps of product testers to flood Twitter with hash-tagged hype. Because get this: Your tweets, your precious little dribbles, might join the pith of our nation’s great critics on posters and various other promotional ephemera. But I’m not going to let the Bear Jew siphon too much free work out of his followers, so I’m offering up these non-copyrighted tags for use by all: #iwantmy90minutesback, #i’dratherbegettingmyteethcleaned, #i’veseenscariermoviesonPBS.
I know making horror films is difficult—there are maybe two dozen truly terrifying examples of the genre—but come on, proud bloodletters, you bold poets of viscera: We can do better than this! Stale, unimaginative work like The Last Exorcism, directed by Daniel Stamm (no relation, I hope, or else the next family reunion is going to be awkward), is like industrial-strength coagulant for wonderful wounds that should suppurate forever so that we might know we are alive. A horror movie that does not scare me, no matter how artfully made—and Stamm’s film does manage to pull off a handsome trick or two—is essentially useless.
Until a ludicrous climax thoroughly undermines the logic of the found-footage premise, The Last Exorcism masquerades as a documentary about disillusioned preacher Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), who caps his abjurement by inviting a film crew to record his final exorcism rite. It’s a honed smoke-and-mirrors routine that Cotton’s been bilking true believers with for years, and he intends his exposé to end phony demon-flushings once and for all. But the devil (or something) has found a sturdy, limber host in God-fearing teenager Cass (Ashley Bell). Shit gets real. Real boring. Lights go out, cameras shake, people run, the possessed girl gacks, and amid all the rote chaos, one is overcome by the sensation of rudderless, dreamy drift, as The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby and Paranormal Activity and [REC] all blur into a turbidity of bogus shock moments and borrowed malevolence. Abridged Twitter version: wtf that was lame! PG-13.