The Last Exorcism opens with a scene of the protagonist lathered up and shaving an already clean-shaven face, so it really could only have gone up from there in terms of making sense. And it did. Mostly.
The film came out in 2010 and I saw it in theatres here in New York City, remembering that I enjoyed in until the ending seemed to cut off too quickly. This time around, I either saw a version with a slightly more comprehensive ending or concluded that I had likely been drinking the first time. What struck me most, and caused me to pause the movie for frantic Googling, was that a non-Catholic performed exorcisms. Although the film claims that all religions have exorcism and that only the Vatican gets the credit (great, another thing to feel guilty about) I haven’t been able to find much evidence to prove it. Something to ponder next time you’re shopping around for an organized religion.
In terms of social equality and feminism (which is what I’m here for), there isn’t a lot to report. While there wasn’t any blatant assault on the characters of women and P.O.C., they certainly didn’t do us any favors either. The film focuses on a possessed (or is she?!) teenage girl whose troubles are compounded by the fact that after her mother’s death (is the mom always dead?) her father began idealizing her innocence and cut her off from the outside world. It was a really smart look (without actually challenging the idea) at how differently young women are treated in families, particularly by their fathers, than their male counterparts. We still live in a world where dads give their daughters purity rings that come with the promise that she’ll save herself for marriage. That’s traumatic as hell. Most of us can’t even deal with the birds and the bees talk. Realistically, none of that abstinence talk-homeschooling-chaining-us-to-the bed stuff works anyway, which we see when it’s revealed that Miss Possessed is pregnant and in a subsequent shame spiral.
Racially is where this film really misses the mark. Although it takes place in Louisiana, which has the second highest percentage of black Americans in the United States, The Last Exorcism has only two black folks in the entire movie. One is a frantic woman at a gas station who believes the gates to hell are down the road and the other is a rather tense triage nurse. Combined they have maybe 50 words. Call me crazy, but I find it strange that we’re expected to believe a teenage girl is possessed by a demon named Abalam who has an affinity for smashing house cats with cameras but it would be pushing it to get us to believe that there are black people in Louisiana.
The production side is, as usual, worse. The director, writers, and 10 out of 12 of the producers are men. Of the two female producers, they’re both billed as co-producers. I’d say, “But this was 7 years ago,” but it certainly doesn’t feel like much has changed considering the newer films I’ve researched. But hey, spoiler alert, this apparently isn’t the “Last Exorcism” because a Part II came out in 2013. Perhaps they manage to redeem themselves with what I can only assume is titled The Last Last Exorcism.
When it comes down to it, horror fans, the movie is pretty great: clever, twisty, a little snarky. I enjoyed it both times I saw it, even if it didn’t do anything for The Cause. Mac, out.