Blu-ray: The Last Exorcism
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Earlier this year, Eli Roth brought the Daniel Stamm-directed faux-documentary The Last Exorcism to theaters. After garnering both controversy and critical praise, the film is hitting stores with a Blu-ray combo pack in January. Here’s an advance look at the release.
At first glance, The Last Exorcism appears to be a straightforward demonic possession movie in the vein of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. As soon as the movie begins, however, it becomes clear that it’s something else entirely. The Last Exorcism falls squarely into the “found footage” school of horror movies. It opens with the Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) talking to the camera about his upbringing as the latest in a long line of evangelical preachers and exorcists. Somewhere along the way Marcus has lost his faith and relies on parlor tricks and scam tactics to earn a comfortable living performing fake exorcisms for gullible believers.
After hearing about an exorcism leading to the death of a child and then reading about the Vatican establishing an educational academy to support exorcists, Marcus decides to change his ways and sets about to expose the fraudulent nature of his exorcisms while shining a light on his fellow snake oil peddlers that are claiming to banish demons. He resolves to take the camera crew with him on one last exorcism, setting the stage for the rest of the movie. The final exorcism takes him to rural Louisiana, where young farmgirl Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) purportedly has been slaughtering animals while under demonic possession.
This point in the film is where the audience very logically can assume that Marcus’s skepticism will be put to the test once he arrives and finds a bona fide supernatural situation. That would be a safe assumption with nearly any other exorcism movie, but The Last Exorcism is not quite that straightforward. Marcus’s arrival at the Sweetzer farm and his encounters with Nell, her father Louis (Louis Herthum), and her brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) begin a puzzling quest that leaves both the audience and Reverend Marcus with a lot of intriguing questions. The writing and direction work masterfully to match the exorcist’s vacillating faith and incredulity with the audience’s own take on the validity of the possession. Nothing is entirely clear, and The Last Exorcism does a fantastic job of keeping things horrifying but potentially explainable.
I won’t spill the beans about the ending or about whether Marcus’s doubt is founded, but I will say that the conclusion of The Last Exorcism is a very divisive one. The final fifteen to twenty minutes are the make or break point for many viewers. The ending worked for me and served the questions that had been building through the rest of the film, but I can understand a lot of the dissatisfaction a lot of viewers have with the way things shake out. Whether you love the ending or hate it, the rest of the movie is undoubtedly gripping and engaging stuff with some surprisingly sympathetic characters and performances all around.
The Last Exorcism is releasing as a Blu-ray combo pack in January. It comes in a standard Blu-ray plastic case house inside a cardboard slipcover. The set includes the movie on both Blu-ray and DVD, as well as a card insert with a code for a free digital download of the movie on iTunes. Whatever your platform of choice, this set has you covered. Given the high quality of the visuals on the Blu-ray release, as well as the assortment of extras there, the Blu-ray disc is the way to go. The DVD has no extras beyond the film itself.
The Blu-ray disc is chock full of great features to accompany this disturbing film. There are no fewer than three audio commentaries to play along with the movie, not to mention a full array of featurettes. The full listing of features follows:
- Audio commentary with Eli Roth, Eric Newman, and Thomas A. Bliss
- Audio commentary with Daniel Stamm, Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian, and Louis Herthum
- Witness to an Exorcism: Audio commentary with actual participants in a real life exorcism
- The Devil You Know: The Making of The Last Exorcism
- Real Stories of Exorcism: Interviews with Actual Victims and Participants
- Actors’ Audition Footage: Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian, Louis Herthum, and Caleb Landry Jones
- 2009 Cannes Film Festival Teaser Trailer
- Protection Prayer
- Theatrical Trailer
I definitely recommend this movie for anybody who is into “found footage” horror of the Blair Witch and Rec ilk. It’s also a good one for horror fans who like their movies to play on the fear of the unknown and uncertainty, as answers don’t come easily from this one. The ending is controversial, but you should give it a watch yourself and see what you make of it. And for folks who already have seen and enjoyed The Last Exorcism, the extras packed into the Blu-ray are worth the price of admission on their own.