Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a former evangelist who used to perform phony exorcisms. But now he wants to expose the ritual as a potentially dangerous sham. So he and a film crew visit a rural family that’s looking for some divine intervention. Cotton expects something he’s seen dozens of times, but he winds up with a lot more than he bargained for. Even when the spooky stuff starts, The Last Exorcism
(shot documentary style with handheld cameras and iffy lighting) keeps the audience guessing: Are demonic forces really at work? Or is it just the dark side of human nature taking over? Director Daniel Stamm slowly builds dread while maintaining suspense and actually taking time to develop characters. The Last Exorcism’s influences are obvious, but there’s enough here to keep it from being just another pea soup-spewing Exorcist rip-off. For one thing, Cotton would make a great subject for a real documentary. And except for the ending, the movie mercifully avoids nausea-inducing shaky-cam sequences.