‘The Last Exorcism Part II’ all but ruins the first movie
If you never saw The Last Exorcism, it was a decent to good PG-13 horror movie from 2010 that did about 40 million domestically on a budget of under two million. While it wasn’t a classic horror tale, that movie was interesting in no small part because it effectively teased a supernatural element, but also managed to effectively develop its characters and maintain a certain level of psychological tension.
Unlike the first movie, there’s less of a question in Part II that a supernatural element is at play. And unlike the first movie, this PG-13 horror flick brings absolutely nothing new to the table or the genre.
Ashley Bell stars again as Nell Sweetzer, the shy girl from the first film who may or may not have been possessed, but certainly was at least severely messed with by a cult. At the start here she is found, taken for psychiatric evaluation, and then eventually taken to a house for forsaken and abused girls in New Orleans.
Things aren’t terrible at the house of girls for Nell. A guy named Frank (Muse Watson, I Know What You Did Last Summer) looks after her and seems to really care about the girls, a girl named Gwen (Julia Garner) befriends her, and she works a job as a maid at a hotel where she has a possible love interest named Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). Nell is somewhat naive and shy, but seems to be making progress recovering from her terrible experiences of the first film.
But then things start going bump in the night and other people Nell meets in New Orleans, weird people, hint that the demon who supposedly possesed her in the first film wants to again. It is revealed that this demon, Abalam, loves Nell and can become extremely powerful by possessing her once more. But Abalam has to get Nell’s permission to enter her again, and fortunately for her the forces of good are monitoring the situation, to include Calder (David Jensen) and Cecile (Tarra Riggs).
Nothing out of the ordinary to see here. Bell seems to be a pretty talented actress, and she gives a valiant effort reprising the role of Nell, which won her some acclaim in 2010. In this film the silly and standard script and dialogue makes her valiant acting performance seem almost laughable, though. She manages a nice, wide-eyed doe in headlights look for much of the movie, which doesn’t nearly compensate for the lines she has to deliver with a straight face. Most of the rest of the cast is competent acting-wise, which helps to elevate this movie from God-awful terrible to only fairly terrible.
All the usual things that you would expect in a movie like this happen. Apparitions appear to Nell, she hears voices, and she even floats above her covers in the middle of the night. What is exactly is going on and how does Abalam, Abalam-a-ding-dong operate? We never really know or care.
Too bad most of what happens is neither genuinely scary nor particularly creepy–it’s just the standard loud noises for cheap frights attempted in most instances. New Orleans is the perfect-type atmosphere for a film that aspires to be unsettling, but for the most part the movie does not maximize its setting to enhance the mood, the only exception being a creepy mime near the start.
Director Ed Gass-Donnelly, 35, has done some good work in the past, especially with short films. Variety named him one of ten “directors to watch” in 2011. But there’s no real reason to watch the end product he’s created here with The Last Exorcism Part II. Donnelly helped write the screenplay with Damien Chazelle, and they have dishonored the first movie with their showing.
The Last Exorcism Part II is rated PG-13 for horror violence, extremely brief terror (if any) and some language. It’s 88 minutes.
PM&S’ VERDICT–Just a pointless grab at a little more cash bereft of any creativity.
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