I had some apprehension going into The Last Exorcism. My chief concern was its rating, which is PG-13. With that in mind I knew it would not be too disturbing, the images would be toned down, and there would be a pitiful lack of masturbation with crucifixes. There were a host of positives working for it, however. I trust Eli Roth's taste (to an extent), it is filmed like a documentary, and it involved exorcism (which I love in films, though I'm not religious). So I went ... without little hope it would be tolerable.
It actually turned out to not only be fairly complex, but also one of the most anti-religious films I've seen in a long time. When I say "anti-religious" I don't mean that it condones religion. Far from it, actually. To say why I feel this way would give away far too much of the plot, as would going into the film's complexities, and it is still too new to being giving away those all-too-pervasive spoilers. Let's just say that if you see it, pay careful attention to everything on screen. Pay attention to things said by people, and pay attention to what the outcome of the film (which was actually the worst part of the movie) ultimately means. Think about what the film is trying to say throughout almost the entire running time, and think about its conclusion. If you don't see the complexities and the religious message, I'll return to it at a later time. You'll just have to trust me in the meantime.
The Exorcist is always going to be the gold standard of exorcism movies. The effect it had on people when it was released is legendary to this day. The Last Exorcism comes nowhere near matching the scope of the its predecessor, but I will tell you it did cause a girl in the audience to cry, which I was surprised by. Its ending also caused a lot of confusion, though not to the same degree that Paranormal Activity accomplished.
I don't have the weekend box office grosses at this point, but I suspect The Last Exorcism will place second or third in the race. I would be surprised if it placed first, but I've been wrong before. I still think far too many people want to see The Expendables because stupid ideas never go out of style. Or perhaps they'll be enamored with the garbage that is Piranha 3D. Either way, I'm fairly sure the amount of money pulled in by the film will have little to do with its actual impact. In my opinion, the movie proved you could do a thought-provoking PG-13 film with an unlikable protagonist, low key creepiness and an actual message. PG-13 and horror movies typically don't cut it for me. I like my horror to be disturbing, and the drones who make up the ratings board don't like to let disturbing into the minds of teens. In this case, it worked.
Time will tell if audiences will think the same as I do (that rarely happens). Critics have been giving the film favorable reviews, but we all know how the average moviegoer feels about critics. Will the audience come out thinking about the layers of religious and social criticism they have just witnessed, or will they just wonder if it were real or not? I know what I'd like to think, but like going into The Last Exorcism, I won't have much in the way of expectations.
There are times I am asked why I love the Kill Bill series so much. Besides the fact that it is an homage to just about every kind of film I love, there is the story. The story has actual heart and emotion. The second part is especially gripping. The scene above, while not the best scene in the movie (that would be when The Bride sees her daughter for the first time), it does exemplify why I rank this film as one of my favorites.
I could probably write a book as to why this film works so well. It can, of course, be seen as a straight-forward revenge film, but if you look deeper you start to see that it is all about motherhood and the bond between a mother and a daughter. That is also oversimplifying things, but that is part of the overall picture, something that is often missed in conversations about it.
I'll probably never tire of this film. It is one of the few films I would have given five stars to had I reviewed it on Film Threat. I don't think everyone is as enamored with it (it does help to have a background in Westerns, Italian giallos, martial arts films and the like -- but not necessary) as am I, but I know that most people at least get the spirit of it.
I watched this scene again this weekend when I was feeling a bit down. It helped boost my spirits, and it also made me pretty damn happy that I have quite a few strong females in my life. I appreciate that, as I believe a woman should be strong to deal with much of the shit men pull on a regular basis. As far as strong female characters go, The Bride is the pinnacle ... especially when you think about the fact that she never loses that maternal instinct. In other words, she remains strong without acting like a man.
A brilliant film with a powerful message. I hope I can someday write something as stunning as this film. I doubt I can, but I'll be satisfied if it's even half as strong.