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DID YOU READ

Eli Roth and “The Last Exorcism,” a film that could make Jesus freak.

Eli Roth and “The Last Exorcism,” a film that could make Jesus freak. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.

“The Last Exorcism” screened outdoors at the Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, and whether you packed a jacket or not, there were chills to be had.

Soon after producer Eli Roth thanked the crowd for “loving Satan more than ‘Twilight,'” a reference to the “Eclipse” world premiere happening across town, “The Last Exorcism” made its world premiere, three months removed from pulling out of SXSW after being acquired by Lionsgate and enduring some criticism along the way when it was revealed to have a PG-13 rating.

Only the MPAA knows how the latter happened. Any concerns about the freaky “Last Exorcism” skimping on the frights should be wiped away like the blood that makes its way onto the lens of a camera crew that accompanies the Rev. Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he travels to (the fictional) Ivanwood, Louisiana to cure the 16-year-old Nell (Ashley Bell) of what appears to be demonic possession.

Although other men of the cloth have had their doubts in films before, Marcus’ level of skepticism is well beyond “The Exorcist”‘s Father Karras. He chalks up the cross burns on the girl’s neck to a nickel allergy and uses props to enhance his initial exorcism.

06252010_LastExorcism.jpgDirector Daniel Stamm juxtaposes Nell’s writhing on a bed surrounded by candles with Marcus showing off the button he presses to emit smoke from his cross.

One wouldn’t know it from the film’s trailer, but “The Last Exorcism” actually has quite the sense of humor, something that’s long been a specialty of Roth to disarm an audience before sinking in the fangs. Here, with writers Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland, who’ve blurred the line between reality and fiction before in their dark 2004 comedy “Mail Order Bride,” Roth shepherds a film of similar mock documentary structure.

The Rev. Marcus is introduced in a Christopher Guest-style opening that scans over pictures of his days as a preacher’s son who presided over exorcisms at age ten, and shows him in the present day so incredulous about his faith since his own son was nearly miscarried that he’s slipping his mother’s banana bread recipe into his sermons to see if anyone will notice.

There’s money involved when Marcus leaves his Baton Rouge ministry for Ivanwood, but what brings him out to the Sweetzers’ farm is the potential to disprove the practice that has been his bread and butter for years. As it turns out, the Sweetzers are nearly as dubious about him, with Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones), the red-headed brother of Nell, tossing rocks at his car after telling the Reverend to turn around and Nell’s father Louis (Louis Herthum) suspicious of all the cameras. All of their doubts about each other are confirmed soon enough, which is what keeps “The Last Exorcism” on its toes.

06252010_LastExorcism3.jpgThere are skittish violins, loud thumps and inhuman contortions to pump up the suspense, but Botko and Gurland’s script is extremely clever in how it positions each character so you’re never quite sure who or what to believe. It’s a horror film of uncertainty well before the visceral scares set in, yet when they do, they’re rattling.

Not all of “The Last Exorcism” works — it could stand to be tightened up a little as the camera crew starts to get more involved as the film wears on, reminding the audience of what they’re watching, and I wasn’t entirely sold on the ending, which isn’t as canny about playing upon genre expectations as a lot of the film is, but the film’s too much fun to dismiss for those reasons alone.

As they say, the devil is in the details and in the case of “The Last Exorcism,” that’s certainly true.

“The Last Exorcism” opens on August 27th.

[Photos: “The Last Exorcism,” Lionsgate, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…