Rev Cotton Marcus (Fabian) has been a preacher since he was a little boy, following in the footsteps of his father (Wright) to hold his congregation in the palm of his hand and exorcise demons when necessary. But a crisis has undermined his faith, so he hires a TV crew (Bahr and Grimes) to document the the ridiculous trickery he uses to perform one final exorcism. But nothing about this possessed girl (Bell), her father (Herthum) or brother (Jones) is as expected. And Cotton starts to doubt that there's a logical explanation.
Stamm assembles the film as if it's an offhanded documentary, casually shot around Cotton's normal life, capturing his interaction with his father, wife (Forrestall) and son (Shafer) with humour and intelligence. It's so under-produced that it feels utterly real, and the subtle acting helps maintain this authenticity as the characters find comedy and irony even in the most intense situations while reacting with recognisably real emotion.
As a result, we are drawn right into the events with them, and the film rarely feels as controlled as its predecessors (like Rec, Cloverfield or of course The Blair Witch Project). The only thing that rings false here is the fact that Cotton and his crew don't turn and run the moment things start getting weird.
Or at least call the cops. Because while what they find may have a reasonable explanation, they are certainly not equipped to deal with any of it.
The film's final sequence is a little unnecessary; ending it a few minutes earlier would have made the film much more haunting, although perhaps mainstream audiences braying for cheap thrills would have felt unsatisfied.
Because up to this point it's a fiendishly clever dramatic thriller, expertly shot and edited and performed with rare clarity. The characters are vivid and complex, and it's unusual for a genre film like this to be so exhiliaratingly unpredictable.
Run time: 87 mins
In Theaters: Friday 27th August 2010
Box Office USA: $41.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $41M
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Production compaines: Strike Entertainment, StudioCanal, Arcade Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 108 Rotten: 42
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Daniel Stamm
Starring: Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer, Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus, Iris Bahr as Iris, Shanna Forrestall as Mrs. Cotton Marcus, Louis Herthum as Louis Sweetzer, Allen Boudreaux as Satanic Worshiper, Tony Bentley as Gerald