Our critics choose between The Last Exorcism, Centurion, and Takers.
The Last Exorcism
ANDREW: At first, I thought Hollywood was just flat-out lying to me with this title. Americans clearly love the devil and his minions (or scary movies about them, at least), and so I was extremely skeptical that director Daniel Stamm's quasi-mockumentary would truly be the last time we'd see a poor demon-afflicted girl twisting her neck around, scampering across the ceiling, and growling menacing pronouncements in her best glottal chest voice. But then I saw the trailer and realized the title actually refers to the final exorcism performed by the nicely B-movie-monikered Reverend Cotton Marcus, down in Scary Redneck, Louisiana (apparently a few towns over from Bon Temps, where demonic behavior is more common than meth labs). Given Eli "Hostel" Roth's name in the credits as a producer, the lack of recognizable faces in the cast (usually a good sign in horror films), and the fact that one of the screenwriters claims to be named "Huck Botko," does this seem worth seeing in theaters before its swift journey to the DVD bargain bin?
SCOTT: In theory, I should be a fan of these low-budget fake-documentary horror movies — I still have a soft spot for the Bigfoot mock-docs of the '70s like The Legend of Boggy Creek — but I always seem to walk out of them feeling like I've just seen the emperor's new clothes. I never could understand why so many people loved The Blair Witch Project, which played like a special "let's go camping" episode of The Real World to me, and I can't say I was a huge fan of Paranormal Activity either. Not to mention the fact that the dramatic possibilities of exorcism have been pretty well exhausted by this point. Still, I can't completely rule it out yet, as it appears we don't have much to choose from this week.
SCOTT: If you liked 300, wait until you get a load of 3000! The 3000 Roman warriors who get massacred early in this sword-and-sandals epic, that is. A handful of survivors trapped behind enemy lines (including 300's Dominic West, who seems to be making a second career of this sort of thing in his post-Wire life) must evade the savage Picts — or if not evade them, at least hack their heads off in a way that merits an R rating for "sequences of strong bloody violence, grisly images, and language" — while making their way back to safe territory. I might be a little more interested in Centurion if I hadn't seen writer-director Neil Marshall's homage to '80s apocalyptic action flicks, Doomsday, which was nowhere near as entertaining as it should have been. I don't see any reason to believe this is an improvement.
ANDREW: Is this the dead zone between the summer-blockbuster season and the autumnal glut of Oscar bait or something? Oh, right… well, then, in that case I guess we'll have to make do with leftovers this week, and like that last slice of cold cheese pizza left in the fridge, this one actually looks pretty damn appetizing to me under the circumstances. Hot Lady Stardust barbarian queens with snarling Celtic accents shooting quivers of arrows in the misty, mystic wilds of my ancestral homeland could only be more appealing to me if Marshall scored the whole thing to the gonzo Pink Floyd classic "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict." In other words, Centurion may actually get my Top One vote, if only by default.
ANDREW: Then again, as a general rule, the only things I like better than bloodthirsty Celts are heist flicks, and Takers gets points for ripping off Heat's Team Cop vs. Team Robber cat and mouse structure (since if you can't be original, you might as well steal from the best… or at least the pretty good films that came before you). And John Luessenhop's caper gets bonus points for casting another Wire alum, Idris "Stringer Bell" Elba, the go-to guy for smart, stylish criminal menace. On the other hand, the cast also features Hayden Christensen in a tiny hat, which could really go either way. The actor was notoriously horrible pitching woo on the shores of Lake Naboo and throwing hissy fits in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but he was more than decent in Shattered Glass, so it's possible his presence here won't derail the movie. And, heck, it's hard to go wrong with Matt Dillon (seemingly in the Pacino role opposite Elba's De Niro), so I figure this one might be worth a look.
SCOTT: Although I'm always up for the opportunity to spend some quality time with Zoe Saldana, the cast also includes that block of wood Paul Walker from the Fast and the Furious movies, as well as Chris "I beat up Rihanna" Brown, neither of whom are big selling points for me. It also looks pretty damn generic, right down to the "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions" style trailer. How do I know this isn't just The Losers from earlier this summer (which also featured Elba and Saldana) with a new title slapped on it, just like Roger Corman used to do? No, given the slim pickings this week — as is usually the case, the last weekend in August is reserved for the dregs of the summer movie schedule — I have no choice but to swallow my misgivings about The Last Exorcism and hope that the favorable early reviews are on the money. It's not the most ironclad endorsement I've ever offered, but beggars can't be choosers.
ANDREW: Okay, you talked me into it… well, you and our former Nerve colleague Nick Schager's middling review of Centurion. Besides, scary movies are always better in dark rooms filled with strangers, while the two runners-up will surely haunt us on late-night cable for the rest of our natural lives.
The Top One Movie of the Week: The Last Exorcism