I'm not allowed to say much about The Last Exorcism, which started screening for critics and preview audiences last week and is due in theaters on August 27. But I don't think that I'm breaking any embargos when I say that it's a tremendous opportunity for some Lionsgate marketing exec to make a name for himself. The movie is dirt-cheap, with no stars, expensive effects, or brand name. At the same time, it is eminently commercial: an accessible, crowd-pleasing horror mockumentary in the vein of Paranormal Activity. It is also special. I don't want to give away any specifics about a movie best seen cold, but you will be hearing a lot about The Last Exorcism in the weeks to come. If Lionsgate plays its cards right, the movie could be a major word-of-mouth sleeper.
Wise to this, after taking The Last Exorcism to the Los Angeles Film Festival and Fantasia, the studio has begun a campaign to get it on people's radar screens. The film's copious preview screenings include a glowing video introduction from Eli Roth, who begs audiences to tell their friends and tweet up a storm about what they saw. (Interestingly, as I recall, Roth introduces himself simply as "Eli Roth," with no further explanation, which tells you what sorts of audiences Lionsgate is going for here.) Indeed, Roth promised that Lionsgate will fill its ad campaign with blurbs not just from movie critics but also ordinary "twitics" (a word he actually says out loud), so tag your tweets "#lastexorcism," everybody.
Lionsgate has also released a clip of one of the film's creepiest scenes, from early in the film, which I'd nonetheless recommend not watching. You can see, though, why they picked it. It was the moment I knew I wasn't watching your ordinary piece of low-budget horror.
I realize that I'm totally feeding the buzz machine with this post, and I'm totally happy to do it. The movie deserves it. Like I said, you'll be hearing a lot of people talking about The Last Exorcism in hushed tones in the coming weeks; just know that they're onto something.