– Summary –
Director : Ed Gass-Donnelly
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, Muse Watson, Louis Herthum, Boyana Balter, David Jensen, Tara Riggs, Judd Lormand, Joe Chrest, Andrew Sensenig.
Approx Running Time : 89 Minutes
Synopsis: Nell Sweetzer is transferred to a home for girls after the events of the previous film. There, she is continually haunted by demonic images, figures of evil and a prophesy that she seems destined to fulfill.
What we think : Insipid, uninspiring sequel to The Last Exorcism sees Ashely Bell deliver a performance far better than the film she’s starring in. With a story that goes nowhere, a constant, uninterrupted stream of pseudo-chills, nearly-scares and altogether manipulative film-making, this erroneously named Last Exorcism entry is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Devoid of heart, lacking even base emotional weight, Part II is a mess.
Shouldn’t that make the previous film….. The Second-to-last Exorcism?
Constant readers to this site will know I love to rip a shitty film to shreds. It’s a perverse pleasure I take in telling the world about a film that’s so abominable as to warrant the blogging equivalent of a dawn firing squad execution; The Last Exorcism Part II is one such film. The problem I have here is that the film’s so ghastly an effort that part of me just wishes I didn’t have to – I only watched this follow up to the abysmal original because part of me wanted to see if things went uphill (hint, they don’t) considering that film ranked quite low on our rating scale. Had I decided not to review this film, it would be a failure of duty-of-care to warn my constant readers about a film they should avoid at all costs; then again, perhaps an even more perverse part of me wanted to inflict the same sense of horror this film inflicted on me through simply watching it onto those who might otherwise watch it, and I couldn’t let my pain remain my own for long. So, for the sole purpose of spreading my emotional strain around the internet, strap in and prepare for my interminable review of the equally interminable Last Exorcism II.
Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is taken to a home for girls following the horrific events of the original film. There, she’s cared for by owner Frank (Muse Watson), who sets her up with a job as a housekeeper. Nell seems to be recovering from her demonic ordeal as she starts her job, but gradually, horrific visions and appearances by a masked individual convince her that her possession is not entirely over with. After a particularly violent vision of her father (Louis Herthum) and the suicide of a potential boyfriend (Spencer Treat Clark), Nell is taken under the wing by a member of a secret society, the Order Of The Right Hand, Cecile (Tara Riggs), who decide to perform an exorcism to rid her of the demon Abalam once and for all.
The Last Exorcism Part II had a lot going for it, initially. Unlike the original film, Part II wasn’t a found footage movie. Ashley Bell was set to reprise her body-twisting portrayal of Nell, since she was the only survivor of the previous film. It’s a shame, then, that Part II ends up as diabolical a mess as it does. Simply put, director Ed Gass-Donnelly seems to have an innate inability to create a genuinely chilling film off his own back – the film is replete with genre cliches and hammered-home spooky imagery that – rather than scare – bores. The opening 70 minutes of the film (before we get to the titular exorcism) are a constant barrage of jump-cut scares, spooky men standing in the out-of-focus middle distance, electrical appliances working even when they’re not plugged in, and shadowy demonic occurrences happening off-camera, with the accompanying sound of cracking bones. Yeah, it’s all been done, only this time, Gass-Donnelly decides that overkill is the order of the day, so there’s something of all of this happening every few minutes (or sometimes, a couple of times per minute), just in case our attention becomes diverted by whatever facebook status just made us laugh.
Spooky films are often so because of directorial restraint; check out The Sixth Sense and (here we go again) The Exorcist for examples of films that scare the shit out of people because they’re not trying to jam jump-scares and horrific imagery down our eyeballs every few seconds. Gass-Donnelly seems to work with the mantra that the more he throws at the screen, the more he tries to scare us, the more scared we’ll be. Not so, dear fellow. Not a minute goes by without the screechy-screech of goosebump music and supposedly creepy visuals, and then BANG we’re done with that moment and on to the next in rapid succession. It’s like it was a competition to see just how many “moments” of creep they could squeeze into each minute of the movie! By the time I’d encountered the umpteenth dog-barking-behind-the-fence jump moment, and the numerically nonsensical bass rumble accompanied by a spooky crash-edit, I’d completely lost interest in this movie. Ashley Bell, bless her, seems to spend the whole film wandering about looking either confused, scared or nonplussed, or a mixture of all three; I’m not so sure she knew what she was getting into by signing up for this, but the point at which I’d have picked up the phone to my agent was when Spencer Treat Clark’s character offed himself with a knife to the neck.
It’s one of those moments that you just sit there going “why?…. I mean…. why?” a lot, because it’s a character beat that makes no f@cking sense at all. Ever since his gallant “acting” in Gladiator all those years ago, where he was obviously cast due to his weirdly similar appearance to Sixth Sense kid Haley Joel Osment, I’ve been wondering what on Earth old Spence has been up to all this time: now I know, it’s appearing in rubbish sequels for what can only be described as a “paycheck movie”. Chris is supposed to be Nell’s romantic interest, a point the film tries to make with as much subtlety as a sledgehammer to the groin, but when he finds out she’s previously been a birth-mother for the spawn of Satan (thanks, YouTube) he doesn’t run away or say “no thanks, not interested” like a normal guy, he sits on his bed and slits his own throat. Obviously the film-makers were trying to make a point of how hot-yet-unattainable Nell is, to make men just suicide like that. But for f@cks sake, at least give us a reason to care – at no point did I really worry about Spence’s character, and when he carked it I cared even less. I just wondered how much more of this bore I had to sit through.
Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention, but the vaunted Order Of The Right Hand (that’s the one we all masturbate with, right?) didn’t seem much chop – the exorcism sequence at film’s end is lamentable in both style and effectiveness. Sorry, did I spoil it for ya? F@ck that, this film deserves to be spoiled. This ain’t Max von Sydow summoning the spirits to flee the body while covered in pea-soup vomit, this is some white dude with a couple of arm tatts and a black guy who looks scared shitless the whole time. No bible, no holy water, just a table and some symbols on a wall. And by the time we get to this sequence, the film has spiraled out of common sense and into what-the-f@ckery so quickly, you’ll be re-reading the DVD cover blurb just to make sure you’re watching the right film. It’s less an exorcism than an exercise in how quickly people bail when the proverbial hits the fan. It’s one of those film finales that makes you wish for Michael Bay to come in and say “but surely something has to blow up, right?”. Doh, it annoyed the hell out of me.
Instead of being scary, spooky or plain old frightening, The Last Exorcism Part II was merely annoying. Annoying in that it had so much potential, and just chucked that potential over a bridge like a sack full of puppies. Annoying that it took a great actress in Ashley Bell (I mean, she does act far better than this film deserves, and I’ve added an extra star to our rating just for her performance alone) and mired her in mediocre scripting, bizarre plotting, and second-hand creativity. Annoying that I spent more time wondering why Nell’s dead father kept showing up with a f@cking beard when he spent the entirety of the first film clean-shaven, than I did following the story. If it was possible for a film-making team to screw up a half-way interesting premise even more than the original film did, Ed Gass-Donnelly and his crew managed to do it; surprising, considering I thought the only way to go from the bottom was up. The Last Exorcism Part II is a terrible, terribly contrived, terribly uninteresting movie. One can only hope that this truly is the last.