The Last Exorcism debuted to $9.4 million on Friday. However, based solely on the reaction in my theater, I have doubts about how well the film is going to hold up in a world where reactions spread at the speed of a Twitter bird. The reason? That sudden ending. I actually dug the ending for reasons I’ll explain below, but my fellow moviegoers loudly voiced their disapproval. As soon as the end credits appeared, my audience groaned while a few individuals let out chants of “What?” and “Bulls–t!” Were people merely disappointed that the movie didn’t answer all of their questions? That the conclusion wasn’t wrapped up in a pretty little bow? Or that the movie, as one young man exclaimed while leaving the theater, “wasn’t nearly as scary as Paranormal Activity?” My thoughts after the jump. There will be SPOILERS.The documentary-like horror film
Quick recap of the ending (again, if you haven’t seen the movie, shield your eyes): Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) and the documentary film crew head back to the Sweetzer farm upon realizing that Logan, a gay teenager, couldn’t have impregnated Nell (Ashley Bell). (Why any sane person would ever return to the Sweetzer farm is a nagging question one simply has to ignore during horror movies like these). Cotton and the film crew wander into the woods and find Pastor Manley (Tony Bentley) leading some sort of religious demon-purging ceremony in front a towering fire. Nell gives birth to a red creature that certainly isn’t human, and Pastor Manley throws the creature into the fire, which rages with the fury of a flame auditioning for a role in Disneyland’s Fantasmic! Cotton suddenly gains more confidence than I will ever possess and starts walking toward the fire demon. The film crew is spotted, and someone (did anyone make out who?) chops up the producer as the cameraman makes a run for it through the woods. Eventually, Nell’s creepy brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) appears and slices off the cameraman’s head, causing the camera to fall to the ground. Cut to black. The end.
Now, I appreciated this ending for a few reasons. First, I’m thankful that the film didn’t feel the need to explain what we just witnessed. For the majority of its runtime, The Last Exorcism’s story was engaging because it refrained from telling us whether Nell was possessed, or whether she was suffering from some form of split-personality psychosis. The ending certainly made it clear that there was a demon inside Nell, but it didn’t explain exactly what Pastor Manley and his cohorts were up to, why Cotton felt the need to confront the devil fire, and where Caleb fit into all of this. And I’m completely fine with that. The last thing The Last Exorcism needed was a tacked-on denouement that tidied up the plot. I was worried the movie was going in that direction as Cotton was driving away, convinced that Nell was just a teenage girl in need of serious psychotherapy. But then he turned around and, in the span of five minutes, we got Satanic pentagrams, spicy demon babies, religious cults, and more splicing and dicing than you find in a typical infomercial. I left a satisfied customer.
But I imagine my theater’s disgruntled moviegoers were longing for a more complete conclusion. They bought a ticket ($13.50 in Los Angeles) and, gosh darn it, they wanted some answers. Or maybe they were let down by the fact that The Last Exorcism was short on traditional horror-movie thrills – hardly anything jumped out to scare you, save for that Going the Distance trailer. PopWatchers, what do you make of The Last Exorcism’s ending? How did your theater react? And am I wrong for actually enjoying this movie?