Mark Reviews Movies

The Last Exorcism: Part II


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly

Cast: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, Louis Herthum, Muse Watson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for horror violence, terror and brief langauge)

Running Time: 1:28

Release Date: 3/1/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 4, 2013

Everything that worked—and worked exceedingly well—in The Last Exorcism is absent from the sequel. Gone is the laser focus on character. Gone is the fake documentary style. Gone, above all else, is the possibility that the strange happenings in The Last Exorcism Part II are anything other than some sort of supernatural hokum.

Screenwriters Damien Chazelle and Ed Gass-Donnelly (who also directed) only give the debate of the first film a passing reference here when a character states that, while he doesn't believe in demons, he believes in evil. That evil, he goes on to say, comes from human beings, not ghosts or spirits or any other otherworldly forces.

While the final minutes of the previous film definitely took a side in the dispute, it was forgivable; the film had earned its chaotic entrance into the occult because it spent the rest of the story entertaining the other option. The finale meant that we had to re-examine what had preceded it and leave ourselves open to the notion that, while mankind might be capable of wickedness, the source of it might take some tangible form. It was nonsense, yes, but it was the kind of nonsense that packs a visceral punch and served as a fitting cap to the flawed hero's arc.

The incomprehensibly titled sequel (Beyond the obvious disconnect from logic, there's no context for the title within the movie) ends with a somewhat similar sequence, at least in terms of coming to an unmistakable decision about everything that has come beforehand. Here, though, the conclusion is not a surprise but a foregone one. Our protagonist, the suspected and later confirmed victim demonic possession from the first film, makes a decision early on that she does not believe the demon that had taken hold of her before is not real, and for the rest of the movie, we're given reason after indistinct reason to know that she's wrong. Since we already know she's incorrect from the start, the constant reminders are redundant.

Nell (Ashley Bell) survived the insanity of the previous film's climax and now finds herself without a family or a home (It burned down). In the prologue, she's wandering around some random people's house, scaring the bejesus out of them for no reason. She's then sent to a halfway house for troubled young women (Frank, played by Muse Watson, is the man who runs home and gives her that speech about demons and humanity's capacity for evil).

Nell is socially awkward around the other girls at the house, who only know her as the girl from some "cult" in the backwoods, but she tries. She takes a job as a housekeeper for a local motel and has a crush on Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), who also works there.

Everything is going fine, save for strange dreams, flashbacks to her possessed days, hearing a voice addressing her on a radio, visions of her supposedly dead father (Louis Herthum), and lots of sexual confusion. One moment, she's imaging herself with Gwen (Julia Garner), who lives at the house and flashes a devious smile at inappropriate times (Almost every other character here serves as a red herring at one point or another), and the next, she's trying to explain to Chris how she's never had a boyfriend in any sense of the word but was pregnant at one time.

The point, apparently, is that Abalam, the demon who had possessed Nell, needs to do so again (Why did it leave in the first place, then?) in order to take over the world (What was the point of the whole ritual in the first film, then?). It's best not to scrutinize the movie's mythology with even the laziest examination; it makes no sense. It seems that Abalam can only take hold of Nell now if she allows it to do so; the temptation comes in the form of sensual dreams (One has her literally rising in ecstasy), a couple having noisy sex in the room next to the one she's cleaning, and, again, perhaps some of the people she's met since starting a new life.

Gass-Donnelly offers a few eerie moments in those dream sequences, but there's no clear foundation to understand their significance. There are a few moments of cheap fake-out startles (The music builds up to a scare, only to reveal a friendly character, and a dog appears out of nowhere), and the movie's best idea—that Nell is something of a celebrity because her past experience is on video online—comes far too late for it have any use for the plot or the character.

Instead, the movie keeps going in circles around its limited premise. Naturally, The Last Exorcism Part II is building to yet another "last" ritual, and while the setup of the scene is rushed and absurd (A chicken is involved; don't ask), the one-two punch of the payoff—a pair of stationary shots that watch the devastation a demon unleashes—sends everything spiraling toward dark terrain. It's too little, too late.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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