Title: The Last Exorcism Part II
Directed By: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Starring: Ashley Bell, Spencer Treat Clark, Louis Herthum, Muse Watson, Julia Garner, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, E. Roger Mitchell
Dropping Nell in an entirely new environment and nixing the found footage format put “The Last Exorcism Part II” on track to becoming a fresh-feeling sequel to the original, but that’s about as far as director/co-writer Ed Gass Donnelly gets.
“Part II” picks up where the first film left off. Nell (Ashley Bell) is the sole survivor of the cult massacre in the woods and is shipped off to a home for struggling girls in New Orleans. She actually manages to assimilate, taking a local job, making friends and even finding a boy she likes, but Abalam still lurks nearby, preparing to make his move to possess Nell forever.
Clearly “The Last Exorcism Part II” is light on story. There are loads of possibilities in plucking Nell out of her rural Louisiana town and plopping her back down right smack in the middle of New Orleans, but the gag loses steam fast, ultimately becoming a wasted opportunity. Rather than provide intimate access to Nell, conveying how uncomfortable and confused she must feel, each new encounter just is what it is. She simply sees an iPod. All of a sudden she’s just walking through a Mardi Gras parade. She looks incredibly awkward each and every step of the way, but not a single new occurrence does anything to build the character.
And the same goes for Nell’s other half, Abalam. “The Last Exorcism Part II” is quite the treat for Bell, as she gets the chance to go beyond playing the crazy, possessed girl and turn Nell into a real person, albeit still being stalked by a demon. Bell certainly seizes the opportunity; you can see it in her eyes and feel her intensity, but plot details are far too sparse for her effort to have much of an impact. Our only way of tracking Abalam in round two is through Nell and the large majority of her encounters with him (them) are wholly uninformative. Rather than have Nell discover new elements along the way, these happenings are reduced to meaningless jump scares or simply spotting a strange person in the distance, none of which amounts to anything, making a certain major development towards the tail end of the film painfully coincidental and wholly unearned.
Another problem plaguing “The Last Exorcism Part II” is Gass-Donnelly. The guy certainly has an eye for aesthetic visuals, but absolutely no sense of pacing. He doesn’t just ditch the manic, found footage format; Gass-Donnelly goes the complete opposite route, loading the feature with exceptionally long, static shots. It’s an interesting move that could have given “Part II” a nice slow burn style, but when there’s little to no compelling build in the script, the combination just winds up turning the piece into something that’s flat out boring.
“The Last Exorcism Part II” is a prime example of an unnecessary horror sequel. The first film was a surprising little gem in and while the idea of getting to see Nell in a big city raised intrigue, the concept proved to be a dead end. You can feel the lack of inspiration and direction in the overabundance of “pretty” imagery and jump scares. Unlike the first film where the situation gets progressively worse and more threatening, here, it’s the same beats over and over again – creepy flashback, eerie dream, message from papa Sweetzer. Even the iconic backbend loses value from the lack of suspense. The moment rocks a beautiful blue hue and an impressive physical feat from Bell, but you feel nothing – and the outrageously bold score very deliberately trying to rouse emotion, only makes it worse.
By Perri Nemiroff