As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly Writers: Damien Chazelle, Ed Gass-Donnelly Stars: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark “Last Exorcism II” is a slower-than-slow thriller built around Bell, who isn’t at her most subtle or empathetic here. There’s fear and the burden of “If he seduces you, all hope is lost.” Not that Bell gets that across. There’s no urgency to the performance, or that of anybody else trying to save poor Nell from hell.
It’s a film of cheap shriek scares and fizzing frights that pack no punch. The tropes of the genre — exorcists who have the tools but face long odds, bleeding walls, birds that fly into a house where Nell hides out (hey, it was ALIENS who caused that in “Dark Skies”) — are there. But the effects are skimpy and cheesy, with that crazy contortion business that the first “Last Exorcist” took to new extremes rarely used.
Filmmaker Ed Gass-Donnelly sets too much of the action in broad daylight, which isn’t spooky. The dull acting doesn’t hide that there’s not enough story to justify setting this in New Orleans — Voodooville, U.S.A.
When The Last Exorcism debuted in the fall of 2010, it’s safe to say that it was definitely cashing in on the found footage genre. It was at it’s peak, with Paranormal Activity just hitting th e screen a year prior and lighting the horror scene ablaze. This isn’t to say it wasn’t a bad movie, by any means, in fact it was likely one of the best of the slew of found footage features. It didn’t hurt to have Eli Roth as an executive producer. While we lost Daniel Stamm, the director of its predecessor, but Eli Roth and star Ashley Bell return for The Last Exorcism: Part II which ditches the handicam look and goes for a more traditional cinematic look.
This is the continued story of Nell Sweetzer, who has been found in New Orleans and is put into a home for troubled teen girls. Frank, the owner of the home, is convinced that the demon Abalam does not exist and that Nell has created that story as a way to deal with her prior trauma in Ivanwood. For a while, Nell does well at adjusting to her new life. She finds a job, meets a boy, and even makes friends with the girls in the house. But it isn’t long before Abalam makes his presence known and starts again on his quest for Nell. It’s up to herself and The Order of the Right Hand to stop Abalam from possessing Nell and fulfilling an ancient evil prophecy.
The change from a found footage to a traditionally shot film was a solid move. Not only is the trend dying down but it made the story much easier to tell and allowed for more plots and motives to be explained and shown. It also created the opportunity for many of the tense moments to arise, such as growing shadows and demonic voices, all things that would have been difficult to portray from the view of a video camera without washing away the sense of dread. Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs) picks up the directing duties this go round as well as getting credited with co-writing the film. He does a great job at building tension, creating numerous armrest gripping moments, but unfortunately most of these scenes have no climax. You can sense the scare coming but end up mildly confused and let down when instead of peaking, it’s plateaus and you find yourself breathing normally again without ever having to experience any fright. Where he shines are his stabs at minimalist horror: a living statue that offers an “I miss you,” a telephone call with demonic origins, and disturbing eavesdropping that depicts sin and lust.