Frustratingly, the last 30, when things begin to get fascinating and original, is very spoiler heavy. As such, despite a strong argument to be made that it is the movie’s pitch, I cannot really discuss it at length. But, for the patient viewer, The Last Exorcist gets pretty good by the end. It is not quite enough to forgive all the cliches and unoriginality earlier, but it is nice to see the cast and crew attempt to break the mold.
It does not exactly help matters that the direction never elicits a single scare. A few jump moments, sure, mainly in the form of odd daydreams Jo has on occasion, though not enough is done with them to make sense. But, the movie never feels creepy or scary. However, given its emphasis on the family unit, is it at least an involving drama? Again, because there is not enough about the sisters’ dynamic until after Maddie is possessed, not really. Things happen on the screen, and while technically sound, if unremarkable, no one will be riveted or all that invested.
“…never feels creepy or scary.”
At the very least, the cast of The Last Exorcist is trying their hardest to enliven the material. As Maddie, Ivens comes off the worst, mostly because her demon voice sounds rather terrible and unintentionally goofy. But she and Smith share believable chemistry that ensures you buy them as family. Smith is merely okay, until closer to the end when the plot opens up and allows her to really sink her teeth into the role. Then she becomes excellent, but again, to give specifics on how and why would spoil the movie.
Then there’s Danny Trejo, who is always a welcomed presence in every movie he’s in. Despite having very little screen time, Trejo manages to imbue Marco with a world-weariness that sells the gravitas of the supernatural things he’s witnessed. He interacts well with his co-stars and brightens every scene he’s in.
Is The Last Exorcist a bad movie? No, not really. The shot compositions are fine, and the lighting is ambitious, though it does not add a semblance of dread as intended. The acting is, for the most, satisfactory. Plus, the last act is genuinely so much better than the rest of the film. In all honesty, what happens around an hour in should have been the 30-minute point, with “training” and an exorcist-gone-wrong taking up the middle. But, it is a long slog of tropes and cliches, with no scares in sight, to get to that ending. I’m not sure it is worth it, but I am not sure it is not worth it either.
"…Danny Trejo...is always a welcomed presence..."