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WMG / The Last Exorcism

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Cotton faked the entire film.
Note: this only applies to the first film in isolation.

Reverend Cotton is a showman dressed up as a preacher with no respect for religion, who uses demonstrations of faith to bilk the faithful. However, he is weary of the lifestyle and looking to get out of the game. This is laid out in his opening monologue. Despite raking in cash from donations and fees, he is facing financial difficulties, as evidenced by his complaints regarding medical insurance. Thus, he decides to perform one last exorcism on film in order to demonstrate that the whole institution is a sham and make a small profit from the affair. It is a decision that goes horribly wrong when he finally encounters a girl that could actually be a vessel.


Or so he wants you to think.

Cotton knows his audience, and he now extends that sensibility to include moviegoers everywhere. A film debunking exorcisms may attract attention, but it would be attacked and draw the ire of the very people he would want to see it, people who very likely would be driven into a frothing rage when it becomes evident they’ve been manipulated for decades by a conman who stopped believing in God before taking up the role of shepherd. If he wants his film to be a success, there’s no better way than to reaffirm what his victims have believed all along and make himself look like a sympathetic figure before disappearing from public life. He’s been suckering his flock for years. Now, you’re a sucker too.

Evidence is subtle:

  • This is a found footage film, which implies that someone must have found it and distributed it after all the principle characters were brutally murdered at the hands of the cult. The most likely people to find the film? A cult that surely would not want their existence made public.
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  • So how did the movie get out and why? Usually you receive a statement at the start of a found footage film explaining its origins. Here you have nothing.
  • Ignoring the credits, the film is still a finished product. It has been edited together from multiple cameras, and even had music added. This did not jump straight off of a camcorder.
  • Cotton opens the film explaining how he is a scammer and shows off some of the tricks in his playbook. This is a classic technique of fake self-sabotage for engendering trust. He has just let you know that he is a con man and demonstrated how he cons people; he wouldn’t possibly try to scam you too, right?
  • The inconsistency of Nell’s possession/mental illness is more explicable if you consider that they are both just instances of acting out a script written by someone who doesn’t know how either really works.
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  • No one dies on-camera, except for the cat.
  • Every element of the supernatural is explainable as Hollywood trickery. This should be obvious; you are, after all, watching a horror movie. Same thing for the poor cat (see above).
  • The cult is chanting, “Banana Bread,” just like Cotton’s followers. Weird coincidence?

In a strange way, unsuspending your disbelief and applying the context of an actual movie can help strengthen the suspension of your disbelief.


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