Thursday, 20 May 2010

Terrifying Times Ahead

For horror aficionados, the release of THE LAST EXORCISM (formally titled more imaginatively as COTTON) on August 27th 2010 (no confirmed UK date as yet) marks a much needed shot in the arm for the horror genre. THE LAST EXORCISM doesn't seem like anything special as far as horror movies go, but it provides one of the few theatrical genre releases of the year outside of the usual Halloween period. The movie is described as THE EXORCIST meets CLOVERFIELD, with much of the exorcism action being shot via ostensible hand-held devices as means of boosting notions of verisimilitude, thus in turn cultivating greater scares. The plot concerns a troubled evangelical minister called Cotton Marcus (hence the former eponymous title) who agrees to let his last exorcism be filmed by a documentary crew. Cue lots of creepy possession related set-pieces borrowed from other exorcism movies of yesteryears made culturally/ economically viable because of a new technique that involves shaky mobile-framing. I guess even Romero's zombie film DIARY OF THE DEAD tried to cash in on the hand-held horror craze, therefore why not Eli Roth who is one of the producers behind THE LAST EXORCISM. To be honest, I am a sucker for possession movies as I do find them spooky. Even the minor possession sub-plot in last year's PARANORMAL ACTIVITY gave me the creeps. I thought Scott Derrickson's THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE was one of the better horror movies of the Noughties and made something refreshingly new out of thinking pretty traditionally. Therefore, THE LAST EXORCISM at least deserves a chance. For a start, the poster looks really cool; but then again I said the same thing about the poster for HOSTEL II.

The American film studios have turned their backs on horror movies a little and that's exemplified by dearth of notable scary movies in this year's release schedules. 5 years ago every studio was releasing a cornucopia of horror movies in order to satiate the demand for gruesome torture pornos young audiences couldn't seem to get enough of. Typically, the studios went crazy and were releasing one wank piece of shit after another and we all got a little tired of it. Even the British production companies wanted to get in on the lucrative horror bandwagon and released movies like THE DESCENT, DONKEY PUNCH, THE CHILDREN and EDEN LAKE to disappointing box-office: albeit those were actually pretty good UK horror films. The horror cycle got rinsed and resulted in seriously diminished returns. By 2008 development on a whole bunch of horror titles slowed down and the genre sort of lost its way. Sure, bonafide horror brands like SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY still have a place but no one seems to have hit on where the genre is gonna strike gold next and revive its grisly ass.

This brings us back to THE LAST EXORCISM. Its success may ignite a new trend of progressive possession pictures that go down well with mainstream audiences and guarantee revenue. New Line Cinema has its high profile possession movie THE RITE due next year which is helmed by Mikael Håfström and stars Britain's favourite thesp Anthony Hopkins. If these movies prove successful then we can expect loads more projectile vomiting and head-spinning until we're utterly exhausted and insipid development executives have to go back to the drawing-board to see what else they can milk.

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