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Posts Tagged ‘Blair Witch Project’
One of the most used film chestnuts is the “one last job” cliché. As a plot device we’ve seen it in everything from “The Sting” to “The Wild Bunch” to “Sexy Beast” to “Inception.” It usually involves a character’s search for redemption; a release that can only come after doing their usual job/gig/illegal activity one more time. Usually things don’t work out as planned but rarely have the consequences been as biblical as the climax of the aptly titled new thriller “The Last Exorcism.”
Staged like a documentary “The Last Exorcism” follows the exploits of Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a fundamentalist preacher and exorcist. I say exploits because Marcus makes a habit of exploiting the beliefs of his followers for money. He is, more or less, a God fearing man, but despite his fire and brimstone sermons, he doesn’t buy into the existence of demons. He’s like a slick salesman who doesn’t really believe in his product. He does however think the process of exorcism helps people who have faith He’s happy to take their money and business is good. “The Vatican gets the press,” he says, “because they have ‘the movie’” but he is called on to do dozens of exorcisms a year. After reading about a botched exorcism in which a young boy is killed, however, he decides to hang up his cross. He’ll do the fabled one last job for the benefit of the documentary cameras but that’s it. Of course, the demonic doings on the farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) in rural Louisiana test his faith—or lack thereof—more than he anticipated.
“The Last Exorcism” is part “Blair Witch Project” and part “Wicker Man” with a taste of “Rosemary’s Baby” thrown in for good measure. Despite some gaping credulity gaps—like a documentary crew who stays well past the point when any sane person would have run for the hills—it’s filled with enjoyably cheap and nasty b-movie thrills. By and large there are no special effects, just old school frights like eerie shadowy figures walking down hallways. The scares come from the situation, the characters and the layer of tension that director Daniel Stamm allows to build slowly as he nears the fiery climax.
As I said earlier, along the way credulity is stretched paper thin, and hardcore horror fans will likely see some of the twists coming, but Stamm compensates for that in the casting. One of the worst aspects of these “found footage” faux documentaries is the acting. Too often amateurish performances stand out like sore thumbs in these films, but with very few exceptions “The Last Exorcism” pulls it off acting wise. Particularly strong are Patrick Fabian as the sardonic know-it-all preacher and Ashley Bell as the 16-year-old demon child. Fabian brings some unexpected charm and humor to the role and Bell impresses as she careens from innocent to evil in the blink of an eye.
“The Last Exorcism” isn’t the most startling or original horror film to come along recently, but it is suitably creepy and should make you gobble your popcorn just a bit faster during the scary scenes.
The most famous “found footage” film begins with the words, “In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared into the woods of Burketville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”
Thus began the Blair Witch Project, a movie Roger Ebert called an “extraordinarily effective horror film.” He also called it a “celebration of rock bottom production values” for its rough hewn camera style and effective no-budget scares.
Those are trademarks of found footage-style movies. The premise is almost always the same: someone has recovered film left behind by, as Wikipedia says, “missing or dead protagonists,” and pieced it together to tell a (usually) horrifying story. This weekend, Apollo 18 uses (fictional) found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission to reveal the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.
In the wake of Blair Witch, theatres were overflowing with found footage movies, partially because they’re cheap to make, and partially because audiences raised on reality television seemed to respond to them. Movies like The St. Francisville Experiment, The Last Horror Movie, September Tapes and The Curse tried, most unsuccessfully, to cash in on the box office bonanza of Blair Witch, but [Rec], a Spanish horror film about a haunted building was the most successful, artistically and financially. If you missed the Spanish version you can always check out the shot-for-shot remake, Quarantine, starring Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter.
Less successful but interesting is Redacted, a Brian De Palma war film shot through the lens of one of his characters. De Palma came up with the idea when he was asked by HDNet Films to make a movie for $5 million on HD. In creating the story of U.S. soldiers on a revenge rampage after one of their friends is killed by an IED, he earned the ire of many conservative groups who called for boycotts of the film and producer, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban.
If the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are the commercially successful of the genre and Redacted the most contentious, the most controversial must be Cannibal Holocaust. The 1980 fake cannibal found footage doc that was so convincing the director was arrested and charged with murder. Police believed several actors had been killed on screen but charges were dropped when the actors showed up at the trial, safe and sound.