“The Last Exorcism Part II” discards everything about its predecessor that made it stand out. What’s left is slow, sloppy and consistently un-scary.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Strip away all of the shadows and demons, and the original “The Last Exorcism,” in 2010, was about a girl in trouble, and a conman who felt compelled to help her.
Nell was raised in a family of backwoods religious fanatics, and ever since her mother died, it was becoming harder and harder for her to live a normal life. She was lonely, introverted and innocent. But when the family’s livestock started getting slaughtered, Nell’s father suspected she was responsible. He suspected she’d been possessed by the devil, and she believed him.
The movie works so well because, in a way, it feels more like a damsel-in-distress story than a horror film. The conman ends up truly wanting to protect Nell, but he’s never sure if she’s hyper-sheltered and psychotic, a victim of child abuse or what — and, for that matter, neither is she. And so, neither are we.
It’s that sense of mystery, coy storytelling and complicated characterization that’s deeply missed in the movie’s hollow, boring and cookie-cutter sequel.
Taking place immediately after the events of its predecessor, “The Last Exorcism Part II” starts with Nell moving into a transitional home for girls. She’s traumatized and doesn’t remember much, but she’s haunted by silhouettes — so, so many of them — who imply, the same as strangers keep telling her, that “He’s coming for you.”
This happens to no effect for most of the movie, until a female witch doctor comes, out of nowhere, to help. She gets on the horn, calls over friends from a secret society of anti-demon-possessors, they pour a ring of salt in a circle then attempt to exorcise Nell’s demons.
But by this point in the movie, it’s really hard to feel invested.
“Part II” has done away with the minimalist documentary style of the original and replaced it with the usual cold and clinical look and sounds of every other factory-line horror movie you’ve ever seen. It teases us with promises of demons coming. And where the plot is supposed to feel like conflict and internal struggle, it actually feels like waiting for something to happen.
There’s a great scene early on, though, when Nell walks the streets of downtown New Orleans for the first time, and she can’t hide her awe at all the bright colors and new textures, which she grazes with her fingers as she passes. Ashely Bell, as Nell, is also fantastic again, as an unimaginably innocent girl struggling with her identity.
But this “Last Exorcism” is slow and sloppy. Characters have no character. And, even at only 88 minutes, it feels long.
It may have the same name, but this “Last Exorcism” literally could have been any other horror movie.
“The Last Exorcism Part II” (PG-13, 1 hr 28 minutes)
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Released: March 1
*.5 (of five)
“The Last Exorcism Part II” is what you’d expect of a horror sequel — all of the same faces, with none of the old magic. If you didn’t make it out to opening weekend, no need to add this to your watch list.
Rotten Tomatoes 13% fresh (of 30 critics)
IMDB 4,9 (out of 912 fans)