The Last Exorcism: Part 2 - Review
The original The Last Exorcism, back in 2010, was a surprisingly well-crafted found footage movie, despite on the surface appearing to be a rote attempt in the genre. It's best aspects were strong performances from its lead actors, in particular Ashley Bell, who also carried out all of the demonic contortions without the aid of special effects. The was she/wasn't she possessed conceit, that ran through the entire movie, was set up well and made for some creepy scenes, with a rational explanation possibly being more disturbing than a fantastical outcome. It was one of the few found footage movies that came in the wake of Paranormal Activity that felt like the filming style added to the tone of the movie, rather than being there just for the sake of it.
This second instalment, directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who previously worked on Small Town Murder Songs, makes some significant changes to the original's formula. The most important, and most obvious, is the change in format. Eschewing the found-footage style is rather odd, especially considering that it typically results in a film needing a smaller budget.
The film opens with Nell Sweetzer, fortunately still being portrayed by Ashley Bell, being discovered almost semi-feral in a suburban house. Ashley Bell is still the highlight of the movie, playing her character very much like Sissy Spacek in Carrie. Nervous and vulnerable, Bell manages to craft a performance that is largely at odds with the rest of the film. After being taken to a young women's hostel, Nell begins to bond with the girls whilst attempting to overcome the ordeals she faced in the first movie, being somewhat reminiscent of Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene. The script teases us here, making the audience think that there's going to be some dramatic twist, or pay-off, as we are unsure how much Nell remembers about her previous experiences.
There's even a few interesting scenes here too. One, where the girls write to their former abusers or absent parents during a therapy session, being a particularly nice touch. Whilst we see another girl angrily address her father, we then cut to Nell, who pens her missive to the demon that has supposedly possessed her.
However, despite the odd flashes of creativity, everything else about the film is severely lacking. Scares consist of repeated jumps and false-scares, as the various characters involved have a strange knack of creeping up on one another. It fits somewhat with Nell, who's characterized as frightened and jittery, but the film literally exploits it at every turn as it struggles to figure out what to do in order to get to the next scene, or to plug up some boring section of dialogue. Worse still is that some of the scares come across as inadvertently funny rather than frightening, such as when Nell encounters a statue impersonator at a local festival, who begins talking about the devil, and, you guessed it, has the ability to creep up right behind her.
By around the half-way mark the film seems to give up entirely, a romance sub-plot is discarded almost as soon as it is taken up, but not before it's wasted our time with a dull dialogue sequence in a zoo. In fact, you have to keep reminding yourself that you're supposedly watching a horror movie. Which brings us to another problem with the film: it's tameness. Other than a few slightly bloody scenes this barely qualifies as a 15, or M rated movie. Moreover, given that there's the word "exorcism" in the title, the film then has to hurriedly cram in an exorcism, simply because the title demands it. Several characters are introduced simply to dole out the necessary exposition, there's even an entire secret society introduced, simply so that the film has a way to get to the end.
A lot of the film's dull exposition could have been forgiven, if the film had actually been scary, which it isn't. It also manages to waste a perfectly good actress who gives a much better performance than the film deserves. Fans of the original The Last Exorcism will be disappointed, since none of the loose ends, or ambiguity, that was left at the end of that movie are tied up. Exorcism movies are possibly the most difficult horror sub-genre to work with, since they are inherently dependent on regurgitating imagery from The Exorcist. This one fails to do even that.
The Last Exorcism: Part 2 is currently in theatres in the UK.
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