THE LAST EXORCISM and THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
THE LAST EXORCISM. (2010) DIRECTED BY DANIEL STAMM. PRODUCED BY ELI ROTH. STARRING PATRICK FABIAN, ASHLEY BELL, CALEB LANDRY JONES AND LOUIS HERTHUM.
THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. (2012) DIRECTED BY BYRON TURK. STARRING JEAN LOUISE O’SULLIVAN, DANTE ZUCCA AND ZACHARY FLETCHER.
I bought both of these films to watch over the recent Saint Patrick’s Day holiday weekend here in Oireland, hence the double review today. While I always enjoy watching horror that’s new to me, however ropey, I must confess that I found one of these films to be possibly the worst horror film I’ve ever seen, while the other one baffled me at first but grew to be a strong finisher. Want to know which one is which? Stay tuned and I promise to tell all…!
Well, here I am telling all as promised, haha. I’ll start with THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. Being as I am a lifelong fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary horror film PSYCHO (1960) and the book by Robert Bloch from which it derived, I admit I bought this film for the PSYCHO connection and also for the cover of the DVD box.
The cover features a building not unlike the home that Norman Bates shared with his ‘Mother.’ In an upstairs window, a woman is clearly silhouetted holding a knife. To my eternal disgust, THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL has about as much to do with PSYCHO as GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS has to do with crocheting and needlework. I was deeply, deeply disappointed.
The film is set in an existing real-life horror attraction called the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride. It’s situated in rural Pennsylvania on a place called Arasapha Farm and television star Bam Margera is seen advertising the Halloween attraction for real at the film’s outset.
In the film, a beautiful young woman called Agnes Rickover goes to work at this attraction to try to recover from a trauma she experienced there a year ago, namely the death of her best friend Lily (an employee of the attraction’s) who burned horribly on the Haunted Hayride.
People start dying ‘mysteriously’ around the Park pretty much on Agnes’s first shift. She determines to get to the bottom of both Lily’s death and the deaths of the other Park employees also. She enlists the aid of her cute but relectant writer friend Clyde to do this. I don’t want to give too much of the lame ‘plot’ away so I’ll just say this. The ‘who’ is pretty obvious. The ‘why’ is never revealed. I want my tenner back.
THE LAST EXORCISM is much more promising and worthwhile although, again, the DVD box features a scene that’s not even in the movie. Sigh. That always annoys me, even though it happens fairly frequently. At least the film inside was worth the ninety or so minutes of my life.
The Reverend Cotton Marcus, hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and as smug and self-satisfied a character as you’ll find in any film, has been performing exorcisms since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. In this ‘found footage’ supernatural horror film, he admits freely to the public, through a documentary he’s allowing to be filmed about him, that he no longer believes in demons.
Say what? That’s right, folks. A medical issue caused him to lose his faith, but he still continues to perform fake exorcisms as a sort of placebo for the people who think they’re possessed by the devil. In other words, if they think he’s curing ’em, he really is curing ’em, if you follow me, It’s purely the placebo effect but, if it works, isn’t he doing them a favour rather than a disservice…?
Anyway, in this ‘documentary,’ he reveals all the tricks of his trade, such as phoney demon noises and making objects move and fall over by using wires. If this was a real documentary, it’d be hard not to be utterly sickened and disgusted by the tricks being played upon individuals who genuinely believe that they’re possessed by the devil. Still, it’s just a film. Isn’t it…?
Cotton’s camera crew follow him to the Sweetzer farm, where the Dad of the family tells them that he thinks his sixteen-year-old daughter Nell is possessed by a demon. Against the wishes of Nell’s brother Caleb, Cotton, filmed by his crew of Iris and Danny, duly performs a phoney exorcism on the pleasant and obliging young girl.
A few phoney demon noises later and Bob’s your Uncle, or so Cotton thinks. Imagine his shock when he’s confronted by evidence of a genuine possesion taking place inside the body and soul of the home-schooled young lady. Things take a distinctly creepy turn as Cotton and his crew discover that they’ve bitten off way more than they can chew with Cotton’s so-called ‘LAST EXORCISM…’
I was scared once or twice by this film, which is a good sign, although of course by now I know what to expect from exorcism films. Projectile vomiting or spewing, heads and bodies twisting to unnatural angles and girls with long dark hair and white nightdresses scuttling up walls and speaking in tongues.
It’s always the same, isn’t it, and this film is no different, although it’s still good. Show me a possession film where the possessed person is a balding, middle-aged businessman with a paunch and a wart on his face and I’ll show you a possession film with a difference. Don’t think it’s gonna happen, though. Not while girls with long dark hair and white nighties are still selling horror flicks.
A rather Dennis Wheatley-esque ending, which I quite enjoyed, completes the picture. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a watch. Not so, sadly, in the case of THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL. Use it to prop up a wonky table, by all means, but that’s about all it’s good for. I just hope and pray that Alfred Hitchcock hasn’t seen it on the flatscreen television in the elegant and comfortable lounge of the afterlife. He’d certainly be turning in his grave.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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