The Last Exorcism Part II Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 03.13.2013
I guess the first was just the second-to-last exorcism...
*Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer
*Julia Garner as Gwen
*Spencer Treat Clark as Chris
*Muse Watson as Frank Merle
Story: As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.
Trivia: While the first film was presented in found footage format, this one is not.
Ask any group of people what they thought about 2010's The Last Exorcism and you're likely to get a different response from all of them. It was a divisive film, particularly when it came to the end of the movie. There are some who think the film completely went off the rails with its over-the-top finale, while others who think the ending was earned and went with it. I happen to fall in the latter category, as I was totally on board with Cotton rediscovering his faith and confronting the evil, no matter how badly it would end for him.
The first thing you'll notice in the sequel is that the ending to the first film is more or less swept under the rug. There is a fire mentioned, as is the fact that Nell was pregnant. It's not really mentioned how Abalam was stopped after it was summoned (I guess we can assume Cotton's restored faith managed to hold it back, but this is never said) and instead we're following Nell after she has somehow survived the aftermath. If you're not a fan of the end of the first film, this has to be considered a good thing. If you were curious as to how they would follow-up on it, as it turns out we'll have another movie to stretch out the consequences of summoning a demon.
The Last Exorcism was Cotton's movie, and The Last Exorcism Part II is Nell's movie. If there were ever a reason to make a sequel to that movie, it would be to give Ashley Bell a starring role after her well-rounded and human portrayal of Nell in the first film. She played her as simple due to the life she leads, but not really stupid. When not possessed, she a very likable character and if the movie was doing its job (for most, including myself, it was), this made you want Cotton to save her.
In this sequel, Ashley Bell absolutely carries the film. This is important because at times it seems like she's better than a sequel to The Last Exorcism deserves. She's incredibly good in the role as she gets a chance to become the main star. Nell is a very likable character and Ashley Bell plays her as a trauma victim attempting to get her life back together. Her character is progressing as she discovers new things and is finally getting a taste of what it's like to be normal. As she's on screen she manages to captivate the viewer.
The problem is that Bell is giving a performance that belongs in a much better movie, as almost nothing else is worth watching here. The script is particularly bad in that it doesn't really build up any of the supporting cast (leaving it to the actors to make them interesting) and it fails to establish anything other than Nell and her attempts to stay normal and avoid the demon. There is one character who does something odd at the beginning of the film and then doesn't show up again until near the final act. You may actually forget she was in the opening.
Other characters are as one-dimensional as you get, with zero motivation or development unless it involves interacting with Nell in some way. They might as well be pieces of cardboard for her to act off of. The script also features several bad lines that can't even be pulled off by the best of actors, let alone the cast we have here. While the script is not the only problem (stilted acting from the supporting cast and sometimes horrible special effects would be others) it is the biggest and most glaring flaw.
Like the first film, this has an ending that I imagine will be debated by those who see it. While I liked the way the first one ended, I can't say the same for this one. It's one of those nihilistic endings that completely goes against everything that had been established to that point just for the sake of providing a downer ending (or not a downer ending, depending on how you look at it). If an ending like this is earned, it can be effective. If it's there just for the sake of surprising your audience, then it's hollow and hurts the film. This is a case of the latter.
This isn't a movie you should see in the theater. If you're really curious as to what happened to Nell after the first film and you want to see Ashley Bell deliver another tremendous performance, then wait until it arrives on DVD and pick it up on Redbox.
The 411: The Last Exorcism Part II is a disappointing sequel to a movie that didn't really need a second chapter to begin with. While Ashley Bell manages to admirably carry the film on her acting alone, it's too good for a movie where everything else fails to deliver. Avoid this one unless you just have to see how the story plays out.