(On-demand video, March 2012) I wasn’t expecting much from this low-budget found-footage horror film: I’m getting allergic to the found-footage shtick (which always ends up the same way), my responses to Christian mythology are muted, and for some reason I had the film tagged as “not well-reviewed” in my mental database. Much to my surprise, though, the film actually works well until its last two or three minutes. The documentary-style setup is more effective than most other horror films in setting up its “what if this could be true?” premise, and Patrick Fabian is almost immediately compelling as the conflicted lead protagonist, an exorcist who has come to doubt even the basis of his faith. Naturally, he’s in for some trying events as he heads over to Louisiana to show a documentary crew the flim-flam behind exorcisms. To its credit, The Last Exorcism ratchets its thrills gradually, and keeps a certain ambiguity as to its fantastic nature. It effectively constrains its characters into fairly outlandish motivations, locking them into a situation where most of us would run and not look back. Ashley Bell is also remarkably creepy as a possessed (?) 16-year-old girl. The film doesn’t do anything startlingly new with the found-footage format, although there’s one grisly cat sequence that’s relatively clever. Where the film falls apart, however, is in the last two minutes, as it seems to shift in an entirely different gear and settle on a very disappointing conclusion that doesn’t feel very satisfying. In a less-favorable state of mind, I may have been tempted to dismiss the film based on its lousy ending. As it is, though, I’m still surprised enough by the rest of the film that I’m tempted to be lenient, and forgive two bad minutes out of 87.