One of the more successful of the current crop of "found footage"
horror movies, The Last Exorcism
became a surprise hit in 2010, so it's no shock that there's now a sequel. The thing with the found footage format, though, is that it's hard to come up with a plausible reason for someone ELSE to record footage (again to be "found") in a sequel, which is probably why the 2000 flop Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
decided to shoot from a traditional third-person perspective -- with disastrous results. The makers of The Last Exorcism Part II
either didn't watch that film or simply didn't learn from its mistakes.
Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, teen Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found in the sort of near-catatonic state you'd expect after someone is possessed by a demon. She ends up at a group home for troubled girls, where caretaker Frank (Muse Watson) informs her that her father and everyone involved in the unpleasantness died in a fire, leaving her as the sole survivor. Frank convinces her the whole possession thing was all in her head and sets Nell up with a job as a motel housekeeper. For a couple of months, life seems almost normal for Nell, who even snags herself a boyfriend, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), and a new best friend, Gwen (Julia Garner).
However, the darkness within her was only at rest, and when she begins to see ominous visions and hear voices from the beyond, it's clear that the demon is indeed real and is back to finish what it started.
The End Result
Ashley Bell in 'The Last Exorcism Part II'.© CBS Films
For a horror movie, there's perhaps no greater sin than to be boring, but without the found footage angle (which admittedly was a lot fresher three years ago), that's exactly what The Last Exorcism Part II
becomes. It's a tragically standard demonic possession flick that trots out all the overused clichés -- contortions, levitation, froggy voices, discolored eyes -- and yet expects viewers to recoil in terror at stuff we've seen a million times before. But the format alone didn't make the original film so entertaining; it had a smart, endearing script with a palpable sense of mystery, effective scares and even some comforting humor. The sequel has none of this.
It plays out in a series of obvious -- and, in the case of the demon's "love" for Nell and some nonsense about a secret society trying to avert a prophecy, dunderheaded -- plot points revolving around Nell's visions leading up to the underwhelming climactic exorcism. You'd think a movie with "exorcism" in the title would come up with an exorcism that brings something new to the table, but The Last Exorcism Part II once again falls flat, its only innovation being a voodoo slant that doesn't amount to much in the long run. These types of films hang their hat on gasp-worthy moments -- contortions, vulgarity, bodily fluids -- but this entry in the genre plays it safe throughout, its cutaways whenever someone is killed making its safe PG-13 approach all the more glaring. While the original Last Exorcism was also PG-13, it didn't TRY to replicate the edgy, Exorcist-like theatrics; this one seems to want to do it, but is afraid to actually show anything.
- Acting: C (Bell delivers a solid, emotional performance; the rest of the cast makes no impact.)
- Direction: C- (Few scares work; no memorable visuals.)
- Script: D- (A shallow, predictable regurgitation of exorcism movie tropes.)
- Gore/Effects: C- (Goes out of its way to avoid gore; mediocre CGI.)
- Overall: D+ (A bland, dumb, visually inert retread of every demonic possession movie that preceded it.)
The Last Exorcism Part II is directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for horror violence, terror and brief language. Release date: March 1, 2013.