If there's one thing that binds the best exorcism films, it's that the really good ones all offer some great acting. The major players in The Exorcist give amazing performances, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is believable through the work of its solid ensemble, and, now, The Last Exorcism delivers a potentially star-making performance from Patrick Fabian. What seems to be a "me too" attempt at creating another Paranormal Activity is actually a fascinating, uncomfortable, character-driven look at matters of faith and fear.
I expected the typical thrills of a demon possession flick, and while The Last Exorcism delivers, beat-for-beat, almost every creepy trope of the genre, its mature focus on characterization really sets the film apart. This is a welcome approach -- a horror film about people and not just kills and thrills -- but because the scares take a back seat to the characters, it also never quite reaches the fever pitch of terror that it also seems to be working toward. It's engaging, but is it scary? I can't quite say that it is, which is a peculiar criticism of a movie that still stands as one of the best horror films of 2010.