The Last Exorcism: Is the 2010 Film Inspired by a True Story?

‘The Last Exorcism’ is a horror film that follows Iris Reisen and Daniel Morkovitz, two filmmakers who are documenting the last exorcism performed by Reverend Cotton Marcus. An Evangelical preacher, Marcus has become disillusioned with his own religion after years upon years of performing fake exorcisms on people who only ever needed the help of a psychiatrist. With his last exorcism, the Reverend wishes to prove once and for all that exorcisms are fake so that others don’t fall victim to their fraud. However, when Marcus reaches the place where he has been called to by a distressed father, there is a great mystery waiting for him, and nothing is how he expected it to be.

Directed by Daniel Stamm, the 2010 film features the talents of Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, and Adam Grimes. The film’s storyline goes through a natural progression, and none of the dialogue seems forced. This is aided by the fact that the film was captured entirely in the form of a found footage documentary, which already gives it an air of authenticity. All of these factors combined make one wonder whether the found footage is based on an actual documentary or not. If you are one of these people, then here’s everything you need to know!

The Last Exorcism is Entirely Fictional

No, ‘The Last Exorcism’ is not a true story. The horror film was written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland and is not based on any real-life events or characters. Though entirely fictional, the film does take its believability seriously, with many real-life beliefs and practices being incorporated into it, as well as the use of Louisiana, where the story is set, for filming. Found footage recording looks natural, but when done deliberately, there might be some faults in that naturalness; however, that is not the case with ‘The Last Exorcism.’

What makes it so is not just the brilliant cinematography by Zoltán Honti but the actors as well. “I’ve been trained for twenty years to not look at the camera, to pretend the camera is not there. This was the exact opposite. So, it took a little bit, but it was surprising how quickly I was able to adjust. The whole premise ultimately swings on me using the camera and the documentary filmmaker played by Iris Bahr. They’re my scene partners. Those are the people who I’m really talking to,” said Patrick Fabian, about his experience in working with a new style of filming, in an interview with DVDizzy.

He added, “I just transferred the idea of looking into the lens as being my scene partner. And that made it much easier.” Moreover, very little CGI was used in the film as well. Ashley Bell, who portrays the possessed Nell Sweetzer, revealed in an interview with Movie Web that she did most of the bodily contortions, which become a source of discomfort and horror for the audience, herself, owing to her hypermobility. “When I was preparing for it, I didn’t know what was going to be physically demanded of me on the set, so I just wanted to be prepared for whatever they were going to throw at me,” Bell said.

She continued, “When I was rehearsing and working out some things, I figured out I could do a back bend and they put it in. They really created a safe atmosphere for me to try and explore those kinds of things.” Throughout its run, ‘The Last Exorcism’ is ambiguous about whether there is a possession or not, even at the very end. This makes the story more believable because, despite the countless people who have tried to prove the existence of the supernatural or otherworldly, the evidence presented itself is vague at best and thus makes it harder for anybody to take a stance on the matter.

‘The Last Exorcism’ also touches upon the subjects of abuse, sexual assault, and the adverse effects of a restrictive upbringing, all of which can be used to justify the “exorcism” from a non-fiction point of view. Another aspect that is addressed in the film is the pressure to conform to a certain way of life in an extremely influential religious community. It is a classic tale of faith versus reason at its core, with the ending being left up to the audience’s interpretation.

While fictional, it is interesting to note that something otherworldly did occur at one point long after the film’s release. Eli Roth, one of the film’s producers, disclosed in an interview with Den of Geek that while the DVD for ‘The Last Exorcism’ was being produced, one of the people working on it claimed that there was a ghost in their house and then quit, along with two others; the DVD also has a special that features an interview with a possession victim, but she only agreed to do the interview if a protection prayer was provided before the interview is played in the DVD. These instances add an air of mystery and realism to the otherwise imaginative film.

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