In 2010 Daniel Stamm directed what I consider to be a decent little surprise horror flick. The Last Exorcism takes the tired found footage formula and mixes it with the already drawn out and lifeless exorcism sub-genre. The result was something that I completely skipped in theaters, but found on home video and was mostly impressed. It’s nowhere near perfect quality, but it manages to suck the air out of a few particular scenes and the acting by most is top notch for this kind of stuff. The Last Exorcism Part II however takes the series in a completely different direction, one that’s nowhere near as effective or even remotely creepy. It ditches the found footage angle and by doing so falls victim to sequelitis.
Nell (Ashley Bell) has somehow escaped the crazed cult that was prepping her for the end of times. Everything we thought we knew from The Last Exorcism is merely touched up upon poorly via flashbacks and certain dead characters making their presence known throughout The Last Exorcism Part II. Now Nell is trying to start over and forget the past, by moving into a house with other young women trying to find themselves again too.
Things seem to be going smoothly until Nell discovers the demon that’s been stalking her. She soon realizes that you just can’t run from the Devil or his many minions and eventually she attempts to try and rid herself (again?) of this evil spirit in hopes of finally living that normal life.
Pshht. Like that ever works out for films with the word EXORCISM in the title.
The Last Exorcism Part II is an interesting piece of work, coming in a whopping three years after the first film’s mediocre box office success. Ed Gass-Donnelly replaces Daniel Stamm as director this time around, also ditching the whole found footage angle that made the first film work slightly more than you’d ever expect. Now the film is plagued with an excessive score and too many shots of black figures lurking in the shadows. Oh and since this film deals with exorcism let’s not forget the flies buzzing around constantly.
Seriously, The Last Exorcism Part II embraces almost every single exorcism film trait and it does so without ever bothering to add a little creativity to freshen things up. Gass-Donnelly keeps the film leveled and at times almost builds up to an actual scare. But most of those buildups are quickly flattened by the predictability of it all.
We know the demon is coming to get her and we know that there isn’t anybody walking the streets that’s actually going to help this poor girl rid herself of it. So why the runaround for nearly an hour and a half? Clearly someone over at CBS Films thought this was a perfect franchise-starter sequel or else no one would have bothered to pick up the rotten pieces leftover at Lionsgate after the first film was long forgotten.
I’m not sure what attracted producer Eli Roth back for a second outing. There’s nothing horrific about this film aside from maybe star Ashley Bell‘s demonic possession scenes. I’m not even talking about the possession itself, but Bell’s performance of said possession. She seems like a bright enough girl and I don’t blame her for reprising her role, but she gives us nothing to work with. She whispers her dialog and almost always approaching everything with an innocent smile, but that doesn’t help convince us that she’s a full-blown killing machine when the time calls for it.
The Last Exorcism Part II dances heavily with the idea of accepting or denying faith. I like that it presents the option for our protagonist to choose, but the path the film steers her down is all too familiar and quite frankly too safe.
There’s also the film’s approach to sex which I found extremely off-putting from the first film. Yes, it was included in the original film, but not once did we have to sit through one invisible masturbation session. The Last Exorcism Part II features not one, but two and a half (some might argue that I should round it up to three) sexual encounters between Nell and her demon-in-the-sack known as Abalam or Honest Abe, as I like to call him.
I know what you’re thinking. I should probably skip The Last Exorcism Part II and instead stay home and watch reruns of Gilligan’s Isle, right? Not exactly. There is a sliver of a silver lining at the end of the film that if followed up on would make way for one of the most insane studio horror films ever. I’m serious. There’s so much carnage and chaos unleashed by the film’s closing curtain that you’ll either be laughing hysterically or pissing your pants in fear of what’s to follow. Okay, maybe you won’t actually soil yourself, but you might end up walking out with a big old grin on your face.
I honestly doubt they’d build a sequel around these events, but if they did it would be pretty damn sweet.
For that I suggest that fans of the first film at the very least give this one a rental sometime later down the road. The Last Exorcism Part II works much less than the first film, which barely got away with a few scares and a string of strong performances. This one is mostly a dud, but it hints at a blazing third film finale that even I’d want to return for.
The Last Exorcism Part II – 6.5/10