The Last Exorcism

Daniel Stamm‘s A Necessary Death is like a shot of whiskey that’s easy to pour but not easy to drink. His directorial debut (which won him the job for The Last Exorcism) follows a film student making a documentary about a man preparing for, and going through with, his suicide. It’s difficult territory to be certain, but it’s handled with grace, humor, and more than a few touching moments which make the horror of the inevitable and the twisting emotions growing in the film crew that much harder to handle. It’s an excellent movie, and Stamm joins us to delve deeper into its creation (and audience’s reactions). Download Episode #138

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Given the nature of the film, and the nature of a sequel that makes no sense given its title, the news that one of the actors from The Last Exorcism is coming back for the next installment could be considered spoiler-ish, so proceed with caution. The first film was a mixed bag that erred on the good side with strong performances from Patrick Fabian (who finally broke out of his Saved By the Bell: The College Years pigeonhole), the newcomer Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Tony Bentley as a calm-headed pastor, and Caleb Landry Jones and Louis Herthum in hard-wrought roles as the only family of the affected girl. The strangeness of making The Next Last Exorcism aside, especially considering the ending, Bloody Disgusting is reporting that (at least) one of these actors will be back.

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Yes, it’s true that The Last Exorcism wasn’t actually the last one, but The Penultimate Exorcism doesn’t have as good a ring to it. Regardless, the commercial success of the first film has warranted a follow-up, and that production has now found a writer to get itself off the ground. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Damien Chazelle will have the spirit move him to write the script. Chazelle is a new name, but he’s already hit the ground running with a thriller spec script called The Claim sold, another thriller spec called Grand Piano to be directed by Agnosia director Eugenio Mira, and his senior thesis – the gritty musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench – graduating from Harvard to premiere at Tribeca and get a limited release. The large question is whether or not faux-doc lightning can be captured twice. The ending of the first film had its own brand of ambiguities, but a sequel could also move away from the first world completely and follow another group. In fact, the field is wide open here which may play to its advantage. Or, it might end up feeling a lot like Paranormal Activity 2: The Reheated Repeat.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Welcome to the first edition of This Week in Blu-ray for 2011. Want to know what my New Year’s Resolution was? 52 consecutive Tuesdays with Blu-ray advising for my adoring fans. Needless to say, we’re off to a good start. That is if we consider timing and completion to be the pinnacle of success with this column. This week’s releases won’t exactly blow you away, as we’ve got some very middling movies to talk about (I’m looking at you, Dinner for Schmucks, Catfish and Machete). However, there are some winners in one back-breaking horror film and a back-catalog release that will likely cause a backdraft of fireballs aimed right at your pocketbook. Does anyone else see a theme here? And why does my back hurt all of the sudden? Quick, you read the column while I go stretch.

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There are two reasons why looking at the best movie posters is fascinating. The first is the inherent interest that all advertising brings. It’s art that’s meant to sell something that can’t admit it’s trying to sell anything in order to succeed. The second is that rating the best of the best in the poster world has the most potential to showcase films that never end up on lists this time of year. This is a celebration of the beauty and effect that movie posters can have. It’s for the films released in 2010, and it’s the posters from the studios (or else Tyler Stout and Olly Moss would completely dominate). The awards are broken up into five categories in order to recognize the wide array of styles and concepts, and because there were a lot of great posters this year (among the absolutely terrible photoshop jobs that still haunt us). See if your favorite made the cut.

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Being a heavy horror fan is a tough gig. Most producers look at horror as a quick buck genre, a franchise to be used, abused, ridden hard and put up wet to make a profit. They don’t really care too much about putting out quality product, instead they just opt for product. Or at least that’s how it seems. 2010, to me at least, felt like one of the weakest years on record for horror. I thought last year was bad, but then the past 350 some odd days happened. I’m pretty confident I could say that this is the worst year for horror since the birth of Film School Rejects. It felt that bad. Regardless of my own disappointment in the movies this year, and in myself for missing a few releases, I scrapped the bottom of the barrel barren and plucked out ten (plus one!) [that means 11] horror movies that aren’t complete wastes of your time. Then again, you might just be better off buying all the Roger Corman Cult Classics for sale from Shout! Factory.

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The top nominations for this year’s Indie Spirit Awards are no surprise. Winter’s Bone continues its march through the woods to find its father and an Oscar with 7 nominations (which is almost all it was even eligible for). In a close second, The Kids Are All Right finds itself with 5 nominations. If you’re a fan of female directors, this year is celebrating a number of them in the top spots, but it’s also incredibly important to point out that Samuel L. Jackson and Bill Murray are finally up for the same award. The Indepdenent Spirit Awards make a good primer for the films that might make their way into the Academy Award nominee pool. In recent tradition, the winner of the Best Feature prize goes on to be an Oscar contender (and occasional winner). Examples of that include Precious, The Wrestler, Juno, and Brokeback Mountain. The full list of nominees continues below:

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Now that the Talking Heads song is stuck in your head, try to wrap your mind around the pairing of Last Exorcism director Eric Newman, producer Eli Roth, and Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. The story of Psycho Killer focuses on a highway patrol officer avenging the murder of her husband by tracking down the serial killer that offed him. According to Variety, a bulk of the story follows the serial killer. The production is currently looking for a known, but not well known, leading lady. How badly do I want to suggest Frances McDormand despite her being super well known? Very badly. Do you have any suggestions?

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The Reject Report

We’ve got a message. For Arizona! Machete has arrived, and he’s brought his sharp, little buddies with him. For over two years now, fans of Grindhouse have been clamoring for a full length version of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Now, they’ve got it, and, more than likely, it will wind up on top of the box office this weekend. It will have some stiff competition, though, as also in wide release are Going the Distance and The American, the newest vehicle for a man who has Rodriguez partially to thank for his film success. It’s gonna be a barn burner. So let’s sit back, crack open a bottle of Dos Equis, and see how the weekend is shaping up.

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I’ve been excited to see The Last Exorcism for the last 5 months. Originally slated to play at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, the Eli Roth-produced horror film was quickly bought up by Lionsgate and subsequently pulled from the festival. A sad day indeed for horror fans who were already chomping at the bit to see the film. Here we are several months later and Lionsgate has pulled out all the stops for a wide release of The Last Exorcism this past weekend. It did very well for itself, going neck and neck with Takers for the top spot at the box office with just over $20 million in ticket sales. Not too shabby for a film produced outside the studio system with a production budget of less than $2 million. I had an opportunity to sit down with producer Eli Roth and director Daniel Stamm and talk about the film in detail. Cut to the interview, already in progress:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, co-director of the Oxford Film Festival Melanie Addington joins fan favorite Luke “Fat Albert” Mullen to discuss the prospect of being sued by Bill Cosby, the prospect of “just doing it,” and the prospect of stealing David Slade’s agent. Plus! We find some spare time to review The Last Exorcism and Make Out With Violence without devolving into a fist fight.

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The Reject Report

It’s a photo finish here on this Monday morning as the two new films this weekend, Takers and The Last Exorcism, estimate numbers only a few hundred thousand apart from each other. When the actual numbers are released, either one of these films could end up on top, but both should consider themselves winners this weekend despite anticipated numbers to the contrary. Regardless which comes up as #1, the more successful of the films has to be The Last Exorcism, a very low budget film that didn’t even have a wide release planned until positive buzz put the film on the radars of many. With a price tag of only $1.8 million, it has already proven to be a huge success. There is no word how much Lionsgate put down for the film’s distribution rights, but they seem to be well into the black on this deal, as well. The Last Exorcism also boasted a bigger opening weekend than any film Eli Roth has released as a director. This could be a sign for him to continue work under the PG-13 banner moving forward.

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Boiling Point

With an announced production budget of under $2 million, The Last Exorcism undoubtedly won big this weekend, pulling in an estimated $21 million. Numbers like that get noticed and, unfortunately, get undeserved sequels greenlit. I openly admit to walking into The Last Exorcism with a prejudice: I don’t like fake documentaries or “found footage” films. It’s a tired trick. Hollywood doesn’t mind them though, because one mediocre weekend turns a big profit, and the film can be sent immediately to DVD. We’ve seen films like The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity use this formula to great success on limited budgets. Since I’m not a Hollywood executive, I don’t really give a damn if they make a ton of money. There are more entertaining ways to earn it, like just releasing more medium budget horror movies. Or releasing horror movies on Halloween. But I digress. I don’t like faux documentaries or found footage films because they rarely work and they’re never even close to real.

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The Week That Was

If you are anything like me — and I hope, for the sake of those around you, that you are not — then you only read Film School Rejects for the pictures. The words within the articles can sometimes be very difficult to decipher. Especially when we let Landon “Thesaurus-saurus” Palmer out of his cage. It’s that college reading level writing that keeps us locked in our niche (read: readership of 12. Hi Mom!). And for most readers (and site publishers), it makes all of our stuff pretty inaccessible. But there are the pictures… With that in mind, I’d like to focus this entry of The Week That Was on the articles with the best pictures. I’ve also thrown in a few with some fancy wordiness, for good measure. Please enjoy and click around on all of the stuff you missed earlier in the week while you were slowly re-reading Culture Warrior for the 35th time.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr puts on his preachin’ suit and heads out to the multiplex to exorcise the demons of bad movies. Sadly, this won’t be the last exorcism of this kind because January and February are just around the corner. In the wake of the money grab re-release of Avatar: The Big Blue Sex Scene Edition, Kevin takes aim at Takers and The Last Exorcism.

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The Reject Report

We’ve got the holy water, the crucifix, and the shaky cam poised and ready, and we’re taking aim at Hayden Christensen’s ridiculous hat. Two new films hit wide release this weekend. Both are determined to take down the muscle behind The Expendables and claim the #1 spot. Whether horror, Eli Roth, and the power of good buzz take The Last Exorcism to the top or the fascination with that damn hat (seriously, that hat has some kind of gravitational pull for me towards Takers) remains to be seen. Let’s see how each one stands up.

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The Last Exorcism is the story of a Louisiana pastor called to the aid of a family living way out in the sticks. The family is aware that Cotton, the pastor, has been performing exorcisms for many years and they are in need of his special talents. The daughter of the family, Nell, has been acting so strangely of late that her father is convinced that she is possessed by the devil. Cotton sees this as an opportunity to reveal the enormous hoax that is church-sanctioned exorcism and brings along a camera crew to document both the flimsiness of the family’s possession claims and the charade of the exorcism ceremony. What he discovers in that tiny backwoods town is something far more real and far more terrifying than he is equipped to handle. Calling The Last Exorcism the best exorcism film since The Exorcist is not only a mouthful, but that seemingly flattering moniker may be more of a backhanded compliment than the film deserves. I for one wholly endorse this, admittedly, sensational claim but I don’t think it’s one the film should wear as a badge of honor (whether the praise come from me or someone of much greater note and worth). The fact is that exorcism films have been few and far between since Linda Blair first showered us in green, soupy terror in 1973. Of the meager handfuls that have cropped up in these near forty years hence, only a smidgen of them have seen theatrical release. […]

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