The film follows a disillusioned evangelical minister, who after years of performing exorcisms decides to participate in a documentary chronicling his last exorcism while exposing the fraud of his ministry. After receiving a letter from a farmer asking for help in driving out the devil, he meets the farmer's afflicted daughter. This film received positive reviews from critics and was a box-office success.
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife and son. Marcus, who lost his faith after the birth of his ill son, is accustomed to performing fake exorcisms on "possessed" individuals. He chooses an exorcism request sent by farmer Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), who claims his livestock are being slaughtered by his daughter Nell (Ashley Bell), who is possessed.
Marcus claims Nell is possessed by a powerful demon named Abalam. He bamboozles the family into believing he is driving out a demon and leaves, believing he and his crew have cured her of a mental state that was misdiagnosed as possession. That night, Nell appears in Marcus' motel room, apparently unwell. Marcus takes Nell to the hospital for tests, which conclude that she is in perfect physical condition. Marcus goes to see Louis' former pastor, Joseph Manley. Manley informs Marcus that he has not seen Nell for two years. In the morning, Louis takes Nell home, but chains her to the bed after she slices her brother Caleb's (Caleb Landry Jones) face with a knife.
Nell steals their camera and goes into her father's barn, where she brutally smashes a cat to death. The crew, Iris and Daniel, discover her morbid paintings. They depict Marcus standing before a large flame with a crucifix, Iris cut into pieces, and Daniel decapitated. When everyone learns Nell is pregnant, Marcus accuses Louis of incest. Louis insists that Nell is a virgin and has been defiled by the demon. The crew wants to leave; Nell attacks Marcus, and Louis threatens to kill her with his shotgun. Nell begs him to kill her but to keep Louis from doing so, Marcus offers to attempt a second exorcism.
Marcus confronts the entity, Abalam, who agrees to release Nell only if Marcus can remain silent for ten seconds. Abalam begins breaking Nell's fingers one by one. After breaking three of her fingers, Marcus yells for Abalam to stop. Abalam asks Marcus if he wants a "blowing job." Marcus realizes that a demon would know the actual name of the sex act and concludes that Nell is not a demon, but a very disturbed girl. Nell anguishes over losing her virginity to a boy named Logan. Marcus and the crew meet Logan, who explains that the only contact he had with Nell was a brief conversation 6 months ago. Logan also admits he is gay. Marcus realizes that Pastor Manley was lying about having not seen Nell for two years. He returns to the Sweetzer farmhouse, where they find numerous occult and countercultural symbols on the walls, and Nell and Louis missing.
Marcus and the crew wander into the woods, where they see a large fire and a congregation of hooded cultists, led by Pastor Manley. Louis is tied up, gagged and blindfolded while hooded figures pray around an altar, atop which Nell is bound. She gives birth to an inhuman child. Manley throws the child into the fire, which causes the fire to grow rapidly as demonic roars emanate. At that moment, Marcus' faith is restored, and he grabs his cross and rushes towards the fire to combat the evil. Iris is tackled by a member of the congregation and killed with an axe. Caleb decapitates Daniel and the camera falls.Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus
Ashley Bell as Nell Margaret Sweetzer
Iris Bahr as Iris Reisen
Louis Herthum as Louis Sweetzer
Caleb Landry Jones as Caleb Sweetzer
Tony Bentley as Pastor Manley
Shanna Forrestall as Mrs. Marcus
Becky Fly as Becky
Denise Lee as Nurse
Logan Craig Reid as Logan
Adam Grimes as Daniel Moskowitz
Jamie Alyson Caudle as Satanic Worshipper
Allen Boudreaux as Satanic Worshipper
The film was slated to be a part of the South by Southwest Film Festival 2010. However, on February 12, 2010, Lionsgate purchased the rights for the US Distribution and pulled the film from the SXSW fest and set the release of the film for August 27, 2010.
The film had its world premiere at the LA Film Festival on June 24, 2010 and was here introduced by Eli Roth and Daniel Stamm. Members of the cast were also introduced on stage, Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones, Iris Bahr, and Tony Bentley. The Last Exorcism was the last screened film on August 30, 2010, on the Film4 FrightFest 2010.
Bloody Disgusting hosted the screening of the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International and the second screening on 24 July 2010 is narrated by Eli Roth.
In the UK, a poster image for the film showed a young girl, wearing a blood-spattered dress, bent over backwards below a crucifix. This poster received 77 complaints, the complainants describing it as "offensive", "distressing", and "unsuitable for public viewing". Two people also claimed the girl in the poster seemed to have suffered a sexual assault, a complaint which was not upheld. The Advertising Standards Agency decided that the image could not be used on a publicly visible poster since that was an untargeted medium but was acceptable on the back cover of Cineworld magazine.
The Last Exorcism used Chatroulette as the medium of its viral campaign involving a girl who pretends to unbutton her top seductively, then stops and turns into a monster. At the end, the URL of the film's official website is flashed on screen.
The Last Exorcism was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 4, 2011. The Blu-ray includes the DVD of the film and a digital copy as well.
The Last Exorcism has received generally positive reviews from critics, garnering a 72% "Fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 151 reviews, with the site's consensus being "It doesn't fully deliver on the chilly promise of its Blair Witch-style premise, but The Last Exorcism offers a surprising number of clever thrills." The film received a 63 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews". At Yahoo! Movies the film holds a B- based on twelve reviews.
The Last Exorcism opened at #2 at the U.S. box office the weekend of August 27, 2010, behind Takers. It grossed $20,366,613 from 2,874 theaters in its first three days. The Last Exorcism had a budget of $1.8 million. The film remained in the top five, falling to number four in its second weekend. The film went on to gross $41 million domestically and $26.7 million foreign to total $67.7 million worldwide.
On August 23, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter announced that a sequel was in the works. On April 20, 2012, an audition sheet revealed the film's full title as Beginning of the End: The Last Exorcism II. The film was directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, with Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) providing the screenplay. Ashley Bell reprises her role as Nell. On January 2, 2013, the poster for the film was released, revealing the final title to be The Last Exorcism Part II. The film was also produced by Eli Roth.