A good story needs a strong inciting incident, and Robin Bain’s new film THE LAST EXORCIST has a unique one. While recording his theories on demonic possession, Father Peter Campbell (Dennis LaValle) is killed in an explosion in Vatican City.
With the number of exorcists dwindling in modern times, Campbell’s death is a tragedy, but it’s especially painful for Jo (Rachele Brooke Smith). She and her sister, Maddie (Terri Ivens), were raised by Campbell after their parents’ death. But what starts as a time of mourning soon turns sinister as Maddie begins to exhibit increasingly strange behavior. Convinced her sister is possessed, Jo takes matters into her own hands to try and save her sister’s life.
The premise of the film is a good one: what if demonic possession was generational? The idea that members of a family could be genetically predisposed to hosting infernal creatures is a nice new twist on an old genre. However the execution in this instance is a little muddy.
Make no mistake, THE LAST EXORCIST is a strange film. While all the pieces are there to make a good possession film, none of them come together in the way you’d expect. Instead of a slow build, Maddie appears out of control from the beginning. Jo can see demonic presences, but the seizure-like attacks they induce have no lasting effect. And while I’ve seen plenty of struggles with evil depicted on film, I’ve never seen one turn quite so gymnastic.
The whole movie is dominated by a dreamlike quality that’s hard to pin down. In flashbacks we see that Father Peter used to take Jo along to exorcisms, an idea so unlikely it’s hard to know if the events actually happened or if they’re meant to be symbolic. This is just one example in a long list of hypnagogic choices that make the film unsettling, which is good, and confusing, which is less so.
THE LAST EXORCIST is an interesting experiment in surrealist horror, but for all its compelling elements, I’m not sure the result adds up.