Movies: The Last Exorcism ***
(15A, general release)
Made for half-nothing by German film-maker Daniel Stamm and shot in the hand-held 'found footage'-style of movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism bristles with wit and invention for at least its first hour, and opens with a lovely premise.
That premise centres around the Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a gifted Southern evangelical minister who can twist his congregation around his little finger but is secretly a flippant atheist.
For him, his ministry is a livelihood and nothing else, his flock a bunch of simple-minded fools, and when he is called to a remote farm near New Orleans to carry out an exorcism, he glibly prepares his smoke and mirrors.
A documentary crew follows him to the Sweetzer farm, where a teenage girl called Nell (Ashley Bell) has been waking in the night and slaughtering cattle. Her God-fearing dad believes she's possessed, and Marcus makes a big show of exorcising her using hidden sound effects and pulleys that make the bed jump.
He takes the farmer's money and prepares to leave, but things get complicated when Marcus starts to believe the girl might really be possessed.
Stamm builds his low-budget frights beautifully and, with the help of Fabian's delightfully smug performance, expertly mixes humour and fear. Everything is going swimmingly, in fact, until Stamm goes and blows it all with a wildly jarring and overblown climax. Which is a shame.