While the film title “The Last Exorcism” is sure to remind some of the classic 1973 horror film “The Exorcist,” star Patrick Fabian said the filmmakers wanted to leave their own interpretation on the subject matter.
“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been scared by ‘The Exorcist,’” Fabian said in a recent interview. “But we weren’t trying to make an ‘Exorcist 2.’ We didn’t shoot looking over our shoulders.”
Fabian plays Cotton Marcus, a minister who has lost his faith and hires a documentary film crew to expose his secrets. When he’s called to the Sweetzer family farm in rural Louisiana to perform an exorcism, he thinks he’ll be confessing his secrets. But what he finds is something far worse.
“It was originally titled ‘Cotton.’ And the director, Daniel Stamm, was intent on telling this man’s story of faith, or lack thereof. And what you find is that Daniel’s storytelling abilities are tremendously creative and strong, and completely different from ‘The Exorcist.’ And the themes of faith, good versus evil and redemption have been around forever. This is a great scare that stands on its own.”
Cotton Marcus was a child-preaching prodigy who followed his father’s footsteps into the pulpit.
“But he’s been mostly a fraud,” Fabian said. “And having a crisis of conscience has made him hire a film crew to expose the charlatanism and fakery that Cotton believes exorcism is. However, when we get to the Sweetzer farm, the reverend encounters something he’s not prepared to deal with.”
Fabian praised his co-star Ashley Bell, who plays Nell Sweetzer, the daughter Cotton must try to save.
“Cannot say enough good things about her,” he said. “If you have an exorcist movie and the possessed girl isn’t believable, you don’t have a movie. She was terrific; she really brought it. And everything she does in the movies, she does in the movie; that creepy pose on the poster? All her.”
The film is directed in a faux-documentary style by Stamm, working with cinematographer Zoltan Honti.
“I think the style allows the audience to feel like they’re really living in the scenes they’re seeing,” Fabian said. “What cinematographer Zoltan Honti does so well in this film is allow the audience to truly get comfortable with the characters and story; they’re seduced into feeling relaxed before he straps them in and takes them for a harrowing ride. What I appreciate most about his camera work is his willingness to lay into a scene; it’s not a herky-jerky sensation whatsoever. But it is spooky.”
Fabian said he visited evangelical churches in Los Angeles and New Orleans to prepare for his role.
“The spirit in those rooms was amazing,” Fabian said.
Fabian said he was partially inspired by Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry” as well as modern-day fallen preachers in the role of Cotton Marcus.
“Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Ted Haggard are wonderful examples of holy men who are brought to their knees by their humanity and hubris,” Fabian said. “I think any good preacher has to have a lot of good actor in him.”
Fabian’s next role, in fact, will be playing an actor, in the Teen Nick series “Gigantic,” which debuts Oct. 8.
“It’s a teenage ‘Entourage’ set in Hollywood, and I get to play a movie star dad, which is great, because if you play a movie star on television, you get a fantastic house and wonderful clothes!” Fabian said.
- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman