'The Last Exorcism': About that ending...

The-Last-Exorcism-1Image Credit: Patti PerretThe documentary-like horror film The Last Exorcism debuted to $9.4 million on Friday. However, based solely on the reaction in my theater, I have doubts about how well the film is going to hold up in a world where reactions spread at the speed of a Twitter bird. The reason? That sudden ending. I actually dug the ending for reasons I’ll explain below, but my fellow moviegoers loudly voiced their disapproval. As soon as the end credits appeared, my audience groaned while a few individuals let out chants of “What?” and “Bulls–t!” Were people merely disappointed that the movie didn’t answer all of their questions? That the conclusion wasn’t wrapped up in a pretty little bow? Or that the movie, as one young man exclaimed while leaving the theater, “wasn’t nearly as scary as Paranormal Activity?” My thoughts after the jump. There will be SPOILERS.

Quick recap of the ending (again, if you haven’t seen the movie, shield your eyes): Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) and the documentary film crew head back to the Sweetzer farm upon realizing that Logan, a gay teenager, couldn’t have impregnated Nell (Ashley Bell). (Why any sane person would ever return to the Sweetzer farm is a nagging question one simply has to ignore during horror movies like these). Cotton and the film crew wander into the woods and find Pastor Manley (Tony Bentley) leading some sort of religious demon-purging ceremony in front a towering fire. Nell gives birth to a red creature that certainly isn’t human, and Pastor Manley throws the creature into the fire, which rages with the fury of a flame auditioning for a role in Disneyland’s Fantasmic! Cotton suddenly gains more confidence than I will ever possess and starts walking toward the fire demon. The film crew is spotted, and someone (did anyone make out who?) chops up the producer as the cameraman makes a run for it through the woods. Eventually, Nell’s creepy brother Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones) appears and slices off the cameraman’s head, causing the camera to fall to the ground. Cut to black. The end.

Now, I appreciated this ending for a few reasons. First, I’m thankful that the film didn’t feel the need to explain what we just witnessed. For the majority of its runtime, The Last Exorcism‘s story was engaging because it refrained from telling us whether Nell was possessed, or whether she was suffering from some form of split-personality psychosis. The ending certainly made it clear that there was a demon inside Nell, but it didn’t explain exactly what Pastor Manley and his cohorts were up to, why Cotton felt the need to confront the devil fire, and where Caleb fit into all of this. And I’m completely fine with that. The last thing The Last Exorcism needed was a tacked-on denouement that tidied up the plot. I was worried the movie was going in that direction as Cotton was driving away, convinced that Nell was just a teenage girl in need of serious psychotherapy. But then he turned around and, in the span of five minutes, we got Satanic pentagrams, spicy demon babies, religious cults, and more splicing and dicing than you find in a typical infomercial. I left a satisfied customer.

But I imagine my theater’s disgruntled moviegoers were longing for a more complete conclusion. They bought a ticket ($13.50 in Los Angeles) and, gosh darn it, they wanted some answers. Or maybe they were let down by the fact that The Last Exorcism was short on traditional horror-movie thrills — hardly anything jumped out to scare you, save for that Going the Distance trailer. PopWatchers, what do you make of The Last Exorcism‘s ending? How did your theater react? And am I wrong for actually enjoying this movie?

Comments (533 total) Add your comment
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  • tracy bluth

    So on a scale from The Shining to the remake of The Stepfather, how is this horror flick?

    • Cole9219

      I’d say it’s a Drag Me TO Hell. and that’s a huge compliment.

      • Evan

        I can agree with this. The ending reminds me of it as well. We think everything is gonna work out, and then really quickly things just get out of hand and everything’s messed up.

      • Heidi

        the ending WAS abrupt but so was Paranormal Activity (and the ending to that movie was the only scary thing about it, IMO)
        This movie was creepy from start to end and it makes you imagine what happened next, which wouldn’t be pretty. Sometimes things are better left to the imagination!

      • Justin

        heidi, i feel as though the only cheezy part of paranormal activity was the ending. it was a new take on the horror film, not taking the normal gimicky approach to the “thrill a second” and making it almost believable. as did this movie. i like this approach to a movie and i feel it was well excecuted…. except for the ending… haha

      • Ragu

        A film, conceived on the first thought and delivered on the same…..it left me with ???????????

      • Ras

        that movie was AWESOME! especially her face at the END!!

      • Justin

        Drag me to hell was horible with the classic he. Idea but non choralating humor

      • Sammylane

        All I ever want to know is what happened to Reverend Cotton Marcus after pt1 but BEFORE pt2??Did he get consumed by The Demonic Fire or what??That ending was right on the awesome side of things for me!

    • Mike

      Just saw this tonight with the family. I think it was the worst excuse for a movie I have ever seen. I would try to get my $51 back if I could. Should be considered Fraud.

      • J junior

        Whoever thought of making this movie should kill themselves lazy ass filmakers fck the director producer and whoever else was involved

    • amber

      the movie was good till the end i only speak for myself when i say that me being a religious person the ending was absolutely ridiculous! The fact that they tired to “release” abalan speaks for itself… I purchased this movie while deployed and would not recommend this movie to anyone. I say again my personal opinion.

    • gabrielle

      I love this film however the ending the ending makes me think of the writers of the film sitting round a table all shouting ideas . lets have cults lets have demon baby’s , woods with a gate way to hell what about some gore , fire demon hell yeah and that’s how the ending was born lmao

  • Lesfull

    I have never seen an audience get as collectively pissed as when this movie ended. There was audible anger from the people in my theater. I thought the movie was scary enough, but the ending just got silly. That, more than any unanswered questions, was what bothered me.

    • Audience Reactions

      The audience in my theater were pissed as well. Everyone groaned and yelled profanities. And this is coming from an audience full of, what looked like middle school kids!

      • albertkitten

        don’t you just love that? when you’re upset at the ending of a movie but you don’t want to necessarily vocalize your pissed-offed-ness & you begin to think “is it just me or-?” only to realize the majority of the audience agrees with you and starts mumbling unpleasantly? (maybe it’s the high of having a roomful of strangers agree with you!)

      • Alex

        No it was a perfectly fine ending. Has anyone even noticed that the movie ended with what Nell drew on the paper? Cotton got engulfed in flames, the woman gets “chopped up into a million pieces”, and the cameraman gets his head chopped off. Just like the pictures predicted.

      • Lesfull

        Yeah, I got that just fine. I also think everything in the ending had some build up through out the movie, like the interviews with people about the cult that fed people’s souls to demons. I just the think the conception and execution of the end was silly. I really can’t put it any other way than that. It wasn’t scary, it took me out of the movie and I was unsatisfied.

      • StareClips.com

        The fact that the ending so abruptly matched the drawings is what bothered me. It was as if they said “Hmmm… we’ve reached about an hour and forty minutes. Time to end it. Let’s tackle all three of those drawings, then roll credits.”

        There wasn’t an “aha” moment that made me really think. In fact, the ending may have been better IF they hadn’t carefully DESCRIBED each drawing originally in the movie. If they had panned across the drawings and left only the observant ones to notice, then the ending might have had an “aha” moment for some.

        Instead, they talked about how the camera man would lose his head, the other person would get chopped up, and the preacher would be standing in front of fire holding a cross.

        The fact that they left the ending open-ended isn’t the bad part… at least they got that right… but it was that they explained the pictures so clearly and vividly in the middle of the movie.

        It wasn’t a horrible movie… but it had a lot of promise that they just ruined in an instant.

      • Miranda

        Is this movie any good???? Is it based on a true story????

    • Heidi M.

      If you have never seen an audience get collectively pissed, then you have never seen Wickerman. LOL.

      • Bianca Smith


    • Marlon

      They shouldv’e cleared up Nell being possesed or not and her brother being the devil and why would the people kill the director and camera man if thi=eir saving nell alot of questions not answered

      • Stephen

        They are a satanic cult they were using nells demon baby in the fire to make a firedemon. They killed the witnesses. Thats why they didn’t want cameras.

      • Jason Wolf

        Yeah I don’t think some people are realizing that the other reverend was a Satanic Priest , he was not demon purging as this blog describes they were using Nell to create a demon. I thought it was a great movie and I enjoyed the twist at the end. It made sense and I did not see it coming.

  • Brad

    Well, since I have not seen this, I probably won’t now, but having heard, it seems a lot of people could have done without seeing it brought out this way. Still, $13.50? I think I’d wait to see it On Demand, or Net flix, or gee Starz, Encore, Showtime, HBO, by carrier pigeon, etc.

    • ATofClass

      You’ll be able to catch this movie from blockbusters or Wal-Marts $2 bin in a month. And even then if you have the choose from buying this movie or stabbing your self with a rusty nail. Because the hour and half that it will take you to get a tenus shot will be less painful.

      • GrammarFan

        “Have the choose?” “a tenus shot?” And they say public schools are overfunded!

        This movie has received heaps of critical praise. How funny that the harsh criticism comes from such mental giants as ATofClass. Go back to your juggaloo gathering, simpleton.

      • D’s Advocate

        @ATofClass: No you won’t.

      • mark

        don’t listen the the jerk who thinks he (or she) is better than everyone. that person cannot judge other people, because no one is perfect. something seemed to have crawled up their +++ and died because they sure act like it. who uses simpleton? man if i could write to them id tell him off. but i get it. don’t worry about it you were probably just typing fast. i’ve done it too

    • Jeremy

      or bootleg..lol

      • vkngypsy

        Come on, people… suspend your disbelief-isn’t that the point? I think the problem is that this movie (obviously!) isn’t what people expected…it’s not a stereotypical “cut-‘em-up” gory horror flick. I saw it last night and found it mentally stimulating-oh, the possibilites! I was so intrigued that I watched it again. And then spent another 2 hours discussing “the unexplained”. I agree with GrammarFan-I think most of the criticism is coming from “simpletons” who just couldn’t keep up! (thank the gods for vin diesel movies.)

  • Jamesb3

    No, the reason I was unhappy with the ending is that what was an interesting and exceptionally-acted story suddenly got profoundly stupid, with an absurd ending taken straight out of Rosemarie’s Baby.

    Again, this movie was fantastically acted, and very well written up until the last five minutes when it suddenly drives itself off of a steep cliff.

    • Jen

      That’s what I said. It was actually pretty good for the $8.50 (in Dallas) I spent on it. But yeah, the Rosemary’s Baby thing kinda pissed me off.

    • MDS

      I agree the ending was really stupid and it’s a shame because I actually enjoyed the movie up until then. What kind of person would not run straight back to the car the second that they saw all those pentagrams in the house? Also, I do have to hand it to the friend I saw it with, as soon as he saw the pastor drive up to the house in a red car he knew that he was going to be evil.

      • powellxrds

        Marcus stayed and went out to fight the demon because he was grandiose as hell–same reason he volunteered to do the second exorcism, same reason he showed off preaching about banana bread. He claimed not to believe anymore, but his ego wouldn’t let him stop. The extreme stress of Nell’s case launched him into a new level of grandiosity, which he allowed himself to believe was a resurgence of faith. I think the psychology throughout was spot on, and the girl who played Nell was a superb actress. Okay, the ending pulled an unlikely turnaround, but it was better than Marcus heading smugly home believing he had healed a girl.

    • Niko

      Jamesb3, i agree 110% with you.

    • Pixie Face

      I agree totally. The movie had promise from the beginning and contained some amazing acting, and I was disappointed only by the stupid O’Henry ending.

    • Ben

      Agreed. I actually really enjoyed this movie and thought it was truly brilliant in many ways. The ending just got silly and I think revealed too many answers. I thought they should have had the girl kill the f**k out of all of them. It was sufficiently ambiguous as to whether or not she was possessed and having her deal the final blows would have left that completely up to the viewer. Instead we got some gross red demon baby and some really angry CGI fire. I do plan on seeing this movie again though because 90% of it owned face. But the ending admittedly blows.

  • Ryan

    Our theater groaned and left extremely pissed. I was needing to use the restroom at the point where Reverend and crew were leaving the farm. I still thought there was a lot more. However, I didn’t get up. Good thing, because if I had, I would’ve come back to a blank screen and confused moviegoers.

    • Heidi

      Inception did the same thing – we don’t know if the top was about to stop spinning or not…it was left to each moviegoer to decide. I like that.

      • Will

        Did you honestly just compare this to Inception? What have you been smoking? Inception had a brilliantly twisted ending that left evry1 questioning what they just saw. Last Exorcism has a good ending in my opinion, but there’s no big question left here in my opinion. She was possessed. The paster was against Satan babys. Her brother was part of the little cult. The end. No questions left other than wondering if Cotton survived fending off the fire demon.

      • Nick

        Paster Manley wasn’t against demon babies, he set the demon (Abalan) free by throwing it in the fire.

      • Matt28

        SPOILER if you havent seen Inception

        You can actually hear the top fall over after the screen fades to black

      • Tiana82

        Just to reply to Matt28, I have watched Inception over and over(it is my favorite movie) and I have yet to hear the top falling over once the screen fades to black. I did, however, hear the echo of the top spinning. Perhaps that is what you have heard.

  • Tye-Grr

    Good thing there’s a $5 movie theater near me… $13.50?? Eek.

    • Phil the pitcher

      Where the hell is there a 5 dollar theater…… Guam??

      • betty boop

        yeah dude, $5.00 dulla get you the top movie on Guam….you should tsek it out!!

    • Maggie

      There is a dollar theater in my city, but judging by most of the comments, I’m not sure if it is even worth that.

  • Robert Taylor

    The movie was quite good up until that ending. It not only jumped the shark, but barbecued it, ate it and froze the leftovers. Up until that point we were watching a polished, complete “documentary” with music and professional editing. Then it turned into “Blair Witch,” which is not in keeping with the rules the own film had already set for itself. Thematically, I don’t agree with it suddenly going so over the top, with CGI fire demons and a bad Rosemary’s baby impersonation.

    What a shame, because up until that point it was aces.

  • Mei

    *filled with spoilers* The ending was sudden, but I still liked the movie. And everything was basically explained…the brother’s suddenly calming down once he realized the exorcism stuff was faked, the townpeople’s discussions of a local cult, Nell’s drawings that foretold everyone’s deaths. Actually, those drawings were the only things that could sway me to the possession side. Everything else could be explained by psychosis, even the demon-baby could have been a blood-covered pre-term fetus, the pregnancy a result of molestation, the flames a chemical reaction similar to the “boiling” pan of water. But those drawings…I can’t find a reasonable explanation aside from sheer coincidence or the brother seeing them as inspiration.

    • Mark

      lol, what are you talking about? The end explained everything in favor of possesion. The local cult was taking the demon baby from Nell and setting it free by throwing it into the fire. The dad was tied up so they could perform the ritual and Nell’s brother was a part of the cult which was why he chopped the camera man’s head off at the end. The ending was not “open-ended.”

      • Stephen

        Well did the Priest win against the demon?

      • jake

        Pastor Manley was a SATANIC priest who, at the party he threw months prior, performed a INSORCISM on Nell in order for her to give birth to the demon. Than by tossing the demon into the fire, thhe cult would than be giving ‘birth’ to a fire demon. Fire demons are the gate keepers of hell, so by giving ‘birth’ to the fire demon, the cult would be opening the gate to hell here on earth..they stole this story from an ancient sanskirt text from thousands of years ago, that speaks of a father who’s daughter was believed by villagers to be possessed, by the villagers were

  • Rick

    I dug the ending, I’m glad they ended the movie with a f***ed up scene so you could draw your own conclusion. I did hear one person say that the ending sucked and that Blair Witch’s ending was better. At that point I looked at the guy and said, [SPOILER] “Well at least we actually got to see the demon before everyone got killed, unlike Blair Witch where we didn’t see anything.” This movie is going to be a toss up, either your going to like it or hate it. Not as scary as Paranormal Behavior or The Exorcist (a better film obviously with the same subject matter) but more on par with a movie like Quarantine.

    • Lala

      “Well at least we actually got to see the demon before everyone got killed, unlike Blair Witch where we didn’t see anything.”

      Uhm, that’s what made BWP good. Why show something when it looks like cr*p. And why anyone would find Paranormal Activity scary is beyond me. And I actually suffer from slight nyctophobia.

      • Em

        I disagree with the ‘it’s better because we didn’t see it’ theory. I want to see it. If I don’t see it, it’s a cop out. Blair Witch was only scary to me in its motion-sickness-inducing camerawork. Other than that, it was just a group of kids freaking each other out.

      • Lala

        @ Em I didn’t say ‘it’s better because we didn’t see it’ but most of the time when you do see it, it’s a huge disappointment. And no, it’s not a cop out, a lot of times it’s what you don’t see is what scares you the most but I guess you have to have a brain to understand that which you clearly don’t have. Go enjoy your ten-thousand Saw-movies.

      • Maggie

        Lala, I have all six Saw movies and I’m looking forward to “Saw VII” (in 3DE!) coming out this October. I have never seen BWP because I heard about how it ended and it sounded like a bunch of nothing.

      • Lala

        @ Maggie, First of all, I wasn’t talking to you. Second, fine, to each his own. But Em was the one who apparently always has the movie spelled out for her(or him?). I don’t really mind if they show as long as it’s done well. And lastly, how can you judge BWT if you’ve never seen it. An ending may SOUND meh, but the execution (and the rest of the movie) may be brilliant. You two are missing out on a lot of good movies with that childish attitude of yours.

      • hoss1057

        Lala – you are absolutely correct. The reason BWP was brilliant (for those who saw it before the hype got out of control) was because you didn’t see anything over the top. You left the theater very conflicted because you knew you just left a “movie” but the way it was shot and presented seemed so real. I went into BWP knowing absolutely nothing about it. I hadn’t even heard of the movie unil an hour before we decided to go. I still need to see the Last Exorcism, but I’m a huge Eli Roth fan, as well as thinking horror films.

        If you want pretty endings that answer all your questions and you get to see the “bad guy” go see Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th.

        think about real life… what scares you more, when you can’t see what’s there, or when you can?

        The monsters in your mind can terrify you 1,000% more than any special effects could.

      • Seriously…

        @ Lala, seriously that was very childish “first of all, I wasn’t talking to you” this is a discussion board, people give there opinions that’s what they are supposed to do. And I believe you were the first one throwing insults stating “Em” didn’t have a brain mearly cuz he disagreed with you. Grow Up!

    • britanimcclelland

      i disagree quarantine at least made since the ending of the exorcism was where the directors seemed to get lazy.

    • Elecka

      good review

      • ^

        Except it’s Disney’s Fantasia, not Fantasmic. EW, please fire this lazy writer.

      • RaRa

        Um, “^”, if that’s your real name, Fantasmic is the “Nighttime Spectacular” event at Disneyland, with lasers, fireworks, etc. “Fantasia” has already been cast, so the writer’s comment wouldn’t have made sense if he were referring to the movie. EW, please fire this lazy reader.

      • R3

        to “^” – I replied once before, but my post has disappeared. It’s Disleyland’s “Fantasmic”, a laser and fireworks show. I suggest you make sure you have your facts right before you say something snarky and come off looking like a jerk.

      • me

        @^ Disney’s Fantasmic is a nighttime show with lots of fire and pyrotechnic special effects – the writer obviously knows this, but you don’t.

    • JOhnnyThreeToes

      sorry, just have to say that Quarantine demolished this movie in simple fright factors. This movie didn’t have a single “scary” part, except for the ending. I liked the ending, but hated it at the same time. I was expecting more of what happened at the very end, throughout the whole movie. Which is what made me think this movie isn’t worth the money.

      • hank

        O_O the part at the like middle of the movie where nell had the camera and went into the barn and totally fkn raped that cat was sort of scary.. did u see how mutilated that thing was ;D

  • Sam

    The ending did seem a little out of place, but nice and creepy. The problem this film is going to have is that it’s an intelligent, thoughtful film and that’s not what much of America wants.

    • lynn

      i have never seen a “thoughtful film” thant contained a demon baby!

      • fod

        Rosemary’s Baby?

      • Maggie

        fod: Rosemary’s Baby was stupid. So was the book of the same name.

      • RaRa

        @Maggie – Any movie with Ruth Gordon in it can’t be all bad.

      • rebecca fent

        It totally reminded me of rosemary’s baby too. But personally I liked it. Most horror movies endings are stupid haha. I could see why people wouldn’t like it but I don’t understand why its causing such a commotion haha.

      • Stephen

        I saw it with my friends and rated it a 2 and 1/2 out of 5 but then we discused it and it raised to 4/5. This is a movie you need to discuse to fully get it.

  • khia213

    I liked the ending and the fact it was left to the viewer’s interpretation. The audience I saw it with broke into groups outside the theater and got into heated discussions about what they thought it all meant. And I disagree with Mr. Young about what we saw at the end. There may have been a fetus delivered, but we don’t really know what it was and throwing it into the fire may or may not have caused the fire to surge. Maybe Manley was as big a fraud as a satanist as Cotten was as a minister.

    • aleksa

      That’s an interesting way of looking at it. And I liked the movie, too.

  • Claudia

    I also heard “this movie was garbage” from a few people when I left the theater. I agree with you that I find refreshing to see a horror movie not give us all the answers (makes for better conversation and gives us actual use of our head trying to figure it out). However, I did not like it nor would I recommend it, my issue with it was that it was just not scary and I did not sign up for a satan cult movie ala Rosemary’s Baby (which I can’t watch, it’s really disgusting and disturbing to me).

    • Fatima

      You didn’t sign up for a Satan cult movie in a movie called “The Last Exorcism?”

      • Em


      • Claudia

        What does “Exorcism” have to do with a cult?

      • Rick


      • vkngypsy


  • JIm

    I doubt the film makers care all that much. The movie cost them less than 2 million dollars, they more than doubled that in less than a day. They are already laughing their way to the bank.

  • Fox

    The thing that bothered me the most was how much Nell looks like Michael Cera. Seriously, I couldn’t concentrate because of it.

    • ClayS

      Yes! I thought the exact same thing.

    • Levi

      Me three

      • DrD

        Yeah I instantly pointed that out as I saw her and made a joke about her only appearing in films roles where she’s possessed by a demon at the end of the movie

      • Heidi

        I thought that the next time Cera is on SNL he has GOT to do that character in some way

    • kelly

      Ha! I totally agree! I can’t bring myself to actually go see the movie because all I can see is a posessed Michael Cera.

      • Jason

        The difference between her and Cera is she can act. I honestly think she looks more like the girl who played Rayann on My so called life.

    • Jhamm

      Yeah! I immediately thought that too!

  • Ivanwood

    This movie was awesome. Nell oviously suffered from MPD as a result of Satanic Ritual abuse. The reason her creep ginger brother was not threatened by Rev. Cotton is because he knew he was a charleton. The “non-human” spicy demon baby was clearly a hat tip to Rosemary’s Baby. Brilliant!

    • Elizabeth

      Yes, a lot of younger people or those who don’t have decades of horror under their belt may not know that its standard practice to salute the past works in the genre. Its not a rip off or an easy way out. Its honoring your influences.

      No one in my theatre was angry. Everyone was surprised as all hell. It took a while to digest what actually happened and why. I think a Prequel is really called for. There was more talk than actual horror, so I would like to see it expand on the excellent horror, which was really about 25% of the actual time onscreen.

      I think it was pretty obvious at the end that the girl was possessed and that there was a little satanic cult going on. The brother made a lot more sense.

      Why was the Rev. hell bent on saving that girl? Guilt. His profile, his raison d’etre, the why he was making an expose documentary was to make up for all the fraud he committed. Somehow his little movie was going to save a child. So when he bumped up against the limits that said, “No, you ain’t”, well, he couldn’t allow defeat so easily. Hence, he sacrificed his team and himself to save Nell. I really do want to see more of this story. I hope that Eli Roth planned the abrupt ending with a prequel in mind.

    • paxy

      And how come she made that paintings if she was not obsessed? Was she a witch? lol

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