A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
- 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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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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