The Last Exorcism

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Last Exorcism Movie Poster Image
Tense "documentary" has some blood, lots of scares.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 24 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Despite its subject matter, this isn't a very spiritual film -- but it does find some good things about human beings. A cynical minister who has lost his faith agrees to let a documentary crew film a fake exorcism to prove that demon possession doesn't really exist -- but when his ceremony fails to help the victim, he does stick around to continue to try to help her.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cotton Marcus starts off a bit like a snake oil salesman; he's a minister who has been preaching his whole life but no longer believes in what he says. But when trouble plagues the fake exorcism he sets up for filmmakers to record, he keeps risking his life to try to help the victim. By the end of the film, he comes across as quite heroic and perhaps may have even regained his faith.


A teenage boy's face is slashed off screen; viewers see lots of blood. In one scene, Nell borrows the camera and takes it out to the barn, where she proceeds to slaughter a cat; the footage is shaky and not much is visible, but it's still a gruesome scene. There's lots of scary imagery, ranging from violent drawing, to Nell suddenly rushing at the camera. In another scene, she twists her neck and back in unholy directions. She also breaks her own fingers while possessed. Some characters are beaten to death -- the footage isn't entirely clear, but it's very suggestive. The subject of rape is addressed.


It's revealed that the teenage Nell is pregnant (it's suggested that the baby is her father's, but later a teenage boy is blamed for the deed).


"Jesus Christ" is used as an exclamation. Other language includes "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Nell's father is said to be a drunk, though viewers never see any evidence of this.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Last Exorcism is a fictional horror movie shot in documentary style, much like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. It's not as relentlessly scary as those R-rated films -- there's a long setup before anything horrific happens -- but once it does get going, it can be very violent and highly disturbing. Though there's some blood and plenty of "jump" scenes, most of the horror is suggested rather than shown, but that actually makes it all the more vivid to the viewer's imagination. There's discussion of a character with a drinking problem, as well as talk of potential rape and incest.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviemonster811 August 5, 2011


This is a very deceptive, disturbing and psychotic approach to movie making of any kind. It leads anyone to believe it is a documentary but in fact is nothing... Continue reading
Adult Written bySb9983 November 7, 2018


I liked it I think it was good. I would to recommend for kids under 16.
Umm just as an FYI since it’s not in the view thing. But under violence they do take th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bystrawberrybum March 22, 2020

not many jumpscares, but it'll mess you up if you're sensitive! *spoilers!*

my sister (12) and i absolutely LOVE horror movies, and we can both handle a good terrifying movie. this one, though, really irked the both of us. yet it kept u... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFilms123 August 23, 2019

Pushes Boundaries

The Last Exorcism is a PG-13 Exorcism found footage flick rolled into one. This would normally mean bad news, but I was surprised. A spooky and effective little... Continue reading

What's the story?

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has been preaching since he was a child and now no longer believes in what he's saying. As part of his job, he performs "exorcisms," which are fake and designed to bring nothing more than peace of mind. Fed up with the lies, he invites a documentary crew to film his latest performance on a "possessed" teen, Nell (Ashley Bell). Unfortunately, his ceremony doesn't work, and trouble continues, with scary threats and violent attacks. Cotton believes that the haunting is man-made, but eventually things get a little too weird to entirely discount a supernatural influence.

Is it any good?

Like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity before it, THE LAST EXORCISM employs the very effective "fake documentary" format. This elevates the drama to a much more immediate, visceral level, and it also brings a great side effect. All three movies tend to focus on implied horror rather than explicit horror; since that leaves something to the audience's imagination, the result is much more chilling than all the violence and gore in the world.

The movie loses points for being one of the later examples of a now-familiar genre, but it does have a highly charismatic flawed hero in Fabian's Cotton Marcus. Thankfully, the movie gives him enough time to come to life before the scary stuff kicks in. The character's crisis of faith and his curiosity and confidence make him someone worth re-visiting, should there ever be a sequel.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's violence. How much was actually shown? Was it more or less scary not being able to see everything?

  • Does the "documentary" format make the film more or less scary?

  • Is Cotton Marcus a good person, or is he a bad person who's deceiving people? What does he learn over the course of the film?

Movie details

  • In theaters: August 27, 2010
  • On DVD or streaming: January 4, 2011
  • Cast: Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Patrick Fabian
  • Director: Daniel Stamm
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 87 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content and terror, some sexual references and thematic material
  • Last updated: February 20, 2020

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