Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Last Exorcism Part II (2013) Film Review
The Last Exorcism Part II
Reviewed by: David Graham
Cannily (and hastily) sub-titled Beginning Of The End, this sequel to 2010’s sleeper hit follows in the footsteps of Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 by abandoning the found footage format, but unfortunately also follows that flop in diluting its predecessors’ thrills. Some intriguing new story elements and the relocation to voodoo-centric New Orleans keep this from being a total waste of time, but for the most part it’s a dull and lifeless rehash of countless diabolical tropes, despite talented original star Ashley Bell literally bending over backwards again for the role.
Nell Sweetzger has been found in New Orleans, rambling and apparently abused. Given sanctuary in a home for troubled girls, she finds a new lease of life through her friends there and a local cleaning job, where she attracts the affections of a colleague named Chris. Soon, however, she is assailed by sinister visions and inexplicable occurrences, realizing that the demon Abalam is still following her. The fate of her new friends – and perhaps the whole world - could hang in the balance if Nell can’t shake his seductive grip.
Predictably beginning with recapped footage from the original, new writer director Ed Gass-Donnelly handles the transition to traditional camerawork smoothly, the pre-credit sequence instantly raising hackles by playing on our fear of the unknown. It also flies in the face of what went before and comes after, making this script feel like a hotch-potch in service of its jolts.
As we follow Nell’s rehabilitations, the noisy jabs become increasingly frustrating; subliminal flashes of the first film, friends appearing from out of frame, dogs barking just off-shot, every silence-puncturing cliché is wheeled out only to distract from what would otherwise be some involving drama.
When Mardi Gras descends upon the streets, a few unsettling moments play on the facelessness of the revelers, and the line the first film initially toed between the psychological and the Satanic is once again effectively blurred through Nell’s visions. It’s all a little too tame and predictable though, and much of the narrative is too similar to Rob Zombie’s Lords Of Salem (another Eli Roth production), with Gass-Donnelly never conjuring a heady enough atmosphere to really spook the viewer.
Some of it is undeniably imaginative – the fleshed-out mythology detailing the reason for Abalam’s pursuit is both creepy and original – and even clever, with Nell’s friends turning on her when they discover Youtube footage of the first film in a stinging attack on the internet’s dubious influence on teens. This and Nell's tentative romance with Spencer Treat Clark - as impressively restrained here as he was in the Last House On The Left redo - tip the script into Carrie pastiche territory, the climax, in particular, becoming a little too derivative of De Palma's classic, even if it'll be interesting to see where things go next.
It's a shame Gass-Donnelly can't do more with his own script as there are some genuinely intriguing ideas in there and his execution of a few scenes shows some skill - perhaps the budget restricted him. His cast give their all, with Ashley Bell outstanding once more, although her body-warping trickery is kept to a minimum in favour of some genuine human drama. She has quite a unique presence, able to flit from child-like vulnerability one minute to mature conflict the next: hopefully she'll break out of the horror ghetto soon.
Ultimately though, this is another unnecessary sequel with annoyingly cynical aspirations to lead into a franchise. The ending will frustrate many. It does set things up for a potentially insane follow-up, but whether this material will stretch any further is pretty doubtful. Nell and Bell deserve better.Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2013
If you like this, try:Lords Of Salem