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Movie Review: “The Last Exorcism Part 2”

the-last-exorcism-part-2-banner copyBy Van Roberts

“The Last Exorcism Part 2” (** OUT OF ****) doesn’t conjure up half as many chills as its polished predecessor.  Mind you, nobody performs an exorcism in this predictable but eerie PG-13 rated follow-up.  Nothing here will afflict you with nightmares.  Some of the surprises may catch you off-guard.  Basically, this CBS Films release proves just as immaculate in its depiction of blood and gore.  The throat slitting scene exemplifies the approach of less is more.  Similarly, it substitutes physical contortions for violent outbursts.  Mild would best describe the discretion with which everything is orchestrated.  As sequels go, ‘The Last Exorcism Part 2” remains faithful to the original but doesn’t surpass it.  The second film picks up the narrative thread from the first and makes a slick segue.  Ashley Bell reprises her role as Nell, while Lewis Herthum encores as her father.  Otherwise, aside from the demonic spirit Abalam, the entire cast consists of newcomers.
“Small Town Murder Songs” director Ed Gass-Donnelly co-scripted this edgy, 87-minute, paranormal horror chiller with Damien Chazelle.  Occasionally, genuinely scary stuff occurs as in the first half of the film.  More often than not, however, he resorts to a yapping canine, jangling telephones, or decibel-heavy musical cues that generate goose bumps.  Red herrings are almost as stimulating as the genuine jolts in a fright flick.  Often, the false alarms amount to pranks.  “The Last Exorcism” appropriated the ‘found footage’ approach for this reason.  If you’ve seen neither the recent “Paranormal Activity” franchise or long before it the 1999 ground-breaking “The Blair Witch Project,” you’re acquainted with the ‘found footage’ technique.  Nevertheless, like “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” “The Last Exorcism Part 2” shuns the ‘found footage’ format.  The filmmakers take a straightforward, chronological approach to their material.  Consequently, the level of irony that enhanced the thematic value of the original is as conspicuously absent as any sense of humor.  The Reverend Manley and his wife served as comic relief in the first film.  Donnelly relocates the action primarily to New Orleans, and the ambiance of the Crescent City lends itself atmospherically to the supernatural shenanigans.
Since the hypocritical Reverend Cotton Marcus perished in “The Last Exorcism,” Nell Sweetzer has to carry the burden of the plot in “The Last Exorcism Part 2.”  The premise this time around is that our heroine must pick up the pieces of her life and begin her recovery.  Nell scares a couple when she breaks into their house and they find her in a catatonic state in their kitchen.  Afterward, she undergoes a battery of psychological tests and then moves into the Deveroux Halfway House in New Orleans before she can re-enter the world on her own.  When she isn’t suffering from ‘bad dreams’ in this psychiatric outpatient clinic with other girls, she lands a job on the outside as a motel maid.  Those of you who skipped “The Last Exorcism” should know that Nell was the sacrificial virgin in the original.  She delivered Abalam during a satanic ritual performed in the sticks of Ivanwood, Georgia after sundown.  Reverend Marcus and his crew forfeited their lives during that frightening scene.  Predictably, the demon stalks Nell every foot of the way because he wants to dominate her.  At one point, Abalam possesses Chris (Spencer Treat Clark of “The Last House on the Left”) with fatal results.  Not surprisingly, Nell wants nothing to do with the Devil.  She struggles to live her life in the present rather than lingering on the past.  The man (Muse Watson of “Hollywood Vampyr”) who supervises the patients in the half-way house tries with little success to convince Nell that nothing about her predicament is  supernatural.  Despite her ambitious plans, she finds that her notorious past has reared up to challenge her after found footage from the original surfaces on the Internet and propels her into the spotlight.
Whereas the first film pitted Christians—albeit it bogus Christians—against the Devil, “Part 2” replaces the Christians with Voodoo witchdoctors.  Unfortunately, despite some shocks and surprises, Nell doesn’t emerge as a strong protagonist compared with Cotton Marcus from the original.  She survives her encounters at the hands of the voodoo disciples who are prepared to kill her if they cannot save her. One scene involving an aviary suicide scene appears to have been copied from another recent horror “Dark Skies” that is better than “The Last Exorcism Part 2.”  Meantime, the happy ending is disconcertingly consoling when everything should be nerve racking.  Ashley Bell manages to convey vulnerability and tenacity in a subtle performance, but her character is so one-dimensional that she lacks charisma.  Ultimately, “The Last Exorcism Part 2” does bend over backward to horrify but little about it is spine-tingling.


1 comment

  1. Great review. I really loved The Last Exorcism and was so excited for the sequel. But I got to say I left the theater feeling disappointed. I think this movie brushed off the great elements of its predecessor and left us with a simply average horror movie. And I don’t know if the world needs another possession movie.

    If you get the chance, check out my full review on my blog. I review Horror Movies and could always use more feedback.


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