The Last Exorcism Part II (2013)
★ / ★★★★
Nell (Ashley Bell) is sent to live in a home for girls after she is found with only fragments of memories involving what had happened to her while living in the woods. There is one thing she knows for certain: her entire family had perished in a fire. At first, her integration goes well. She gets along with her roommate, Gwen (Julia Garner), and has made friends with all of the girls in the house. Also, there is a nice boy around her age, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), who seems to show genuine interest. But the demon that possessed Nell in the woods is not finished with her. Its plans have evolved and it is desperate to get her back.
“The Last Exorcism Part II,” based on the screenplay by Damien Chazelle and Ed Gass-Donnelly, feels like a rehash of a rehash. While it does offer a few hair-raising scenes, there is a lack of control in many of its attempts to scare and so the majority of them end up silly or laughable. For instance, must Nell make sexual sounds while being possessed as she sleeps? Is she supposed to be liking it? I don’t know, but it made me feel awkward. A lot of people tend to make jokes about the title. The truth is, the joke is on those, like myself, who has taken the time to sit through the picture and hoped that it would get better. It did not.
The first third is tolerable. I enjoyed the way it is communicated that Nell has lived such a sheltered life. Bell does a good job in underlining the fragility of Nell. Like a child plucked out of the darkness, a lot of things, like rock music, are new to her. Though she cannot remember the graphic details of her past, I rooted for the character because I did not want to see her get hurt. She deserves a new beginning.
There are warm moments between the girls, particularly during Mardi Gras and while at work, but getting to know some of them might have elevated the picture. As a movie that relies on formulas, we know that it is only a matter of time until they figure out Nell’s bizarre history. The betrayal that she feels would have packed more wallop if we had known the girls as much as we know Nell. Instead, during that important scene, the girls end up looking like bullies when, in reality, it is likely that they have troubled pasts, too.
Its ailment is having no ambition: it lacks solid scares because of its reliance on tired techniques. For example, when the camera moves down a hallway, it slithers so slowly that it is obvious that it wants us to wonder what is right around the corner. When the supposed jolts do arrive, the loud music does all the work.
When all is silent, cue the CGI and–can you believe it–more loud music. This is especially problematic in the second half. Horror is at its most effective when simple. Instead, we watch black vein-like figures on the wall (why is that scary?) and various moving shapes underneath a woman’s stomach (it comes across as an act of desperation than being genuinely creepy). The lack of context in these would-be scare attempts is astonishing.
I went into “The Last Exorcism Part II,” directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, willing and ready to be scared. One is more susceptible to be played like a marionette or a piano when one is willing and ready. But the picture barely lifts a finger. Instead, the sheer laziness of the writers and director ends up being on screen for the world to see. If I were them, I would be really embarrassed.