"The Last Exorcism Part II" is a title that screams, "We were not expecting to make a sequel." But here we are.
The original film, a found-footage horror flick about a disillusioned charlatan priest performing fake exorcisms on New Orleans believers, was surprisingly good until it had to start wrapping up its mystery and fumbled together some clumsy answers (something about cults and a demon named Abalam, which sounds more like a sleep aid than a monstrous hellspawn).
I guess it wasnâ€™t the last exorcism after all, as now there's a sequel, which unfortunately delivers none of cleverness but all of the cheap jump scares youâ€™d expect from a C-grade horror follow-up. Iâ€™ll give "The Last Exorcism Part II" this: At least they killed off the found footage gimmick between films, if only to be replaced by other elements equally deserving of death.
Soon after the events of the first movie, the once possessed Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is rehabilitating from her time with the devil at a home for girls in New Orleans. Sheâ€™s close to getting a normal life; sheâ€™s made a friend at the home (Julia Garner), snagged a job at a local motel and even caught the eye of an awkward co-worker (Spencer Treat Clark).
Unfortunately, she also seems to have caught the eye of some strange individuals meandering around The Big Easy, including a creepy human statue (or at least creepier than usual). It turns out the demon hasnâ€™t forgotten about Nell and has even fallen in love with our poor heroine. Yep, it seems the devil thought he and Nell had a connection back at the Sweetzerâ€™s old backwoods farm and is now stalking Nell â€“ with the help of his creepy cult pals â€“ in the hopes of convincing her that she belongs with him. Jeez Abalam, just listen to some Taylor Swift and Adele, and get over it.
Â "The Last Exorcism Part II" serves as Canadian director Ed Gass-Donnellyâ€™s first mainstream feature, and itâ€™s a startling debut. By that, I mean that Gass-Donnelly seemingly has more interest in startling his audience rather than actually scaring them. Every scare is an overdone clichĂ© or a cheap jump, including an accidental homage to the dumb dog that was the shameful highlight of last yearâ€™s "The Devil Inside."
It takes no real skill to startle an audience â€“ a quick jolt of movement accompanied by a loud banging on the soundtrack is really all it takes â€“ so itâ€™s disappointing Gass-Donnelly went the clichĂ© route with his scare tactics. Heâ€™s actually not a bad director â€“ itâ€™s a nicely, calmly shot film with some mildly creepy moments â€“ but when it comes to actually scaring or unsettling people, "The Last Exorcism Part II" falls on its screaming, demon-possessed face.
Besides the laughable title, the lone element brought over from the first film is its star actress, Ashley Bell. While she was mainly just used for her flexibility and creepy blank stares in the previous film, Bell has the spotlight now. She owns it, creating a fascinatingly fragile horror heroine.
Itâ€™s too bad the remarkably clumsy and unnatural script, written by Gass-Donnelly and Damien Chazelle, gives her minimal support. The dialogue between Nell and her friends at the girls house sounds like it was written by someone who has never heard a group of women converse before. Itâ€™s a lot of giggly gossip and cattiness with no trace of actual humanity.
Thereâ€™s a hint of a moral dilemma involving whether or not Nell will choose the devil over being a normal person (tough decision), but itâ€™s barely developed enough to qualify as interesting. The script is more concerned with scenes where an overzealous fan of exorcisms confronts Nell and learns not to bother a demonâ€™s crush. The results are more ridiculous and hilarious than tense or moody.
After the film reaches its absurd climax, complete with CGI fire and blaring rock music (parents in the â€™50s were right; rock is the music of the devil!), "The Last Exorcism Part II" loses much of the goodwill Bellâ€™s compelling performance and Gass-Donnellyâ€™s composed direction earned. I like those components, but hopefully the movie holds true to its titleâ€™s promise, and this will be the last we see of this limp wannabe horror franchise.Â
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published April 1, 2015
An embarrassing typo in the Milwaukee Film Festival's press materials has transformed the usual fall movie set piece into a nightmare of creepers and people in uncomfortable trench coats.
Published March 31, 2015
There's a movie out in theaters starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and nobody cares. This seems impossible. And then I actually saw "Serena," and ooooooh, it all makes so much sense now.
Published March 30, 2015
Flying is statistically the safest form of transportation. It's a popular sentiment, one commonly recited to restore confidence in the important industry after tragic disasters like the deadly Germanwings crash last week. For "Pilot Error" writer and film producer Roger Rapoport, however, that statement isn't as accurate as we'd like to think.
Published March 29, 2015
For a lot of Hollywood, making a kids movie translates out to making essentially a mobile: a simply distracting mix of color and sound. And that's how you get "Home," another manic Sweet Tarts-colored whizbang to be mentally tossed away like an empty popcorn bucket as soon as the film lets out. Yes, the kids will be sated. For anyone older, however, the cue to leave "Home" to go home likely won't come soon enough.
Published March 26, 2015
By most definitions, director Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's "Dune" to the big screen in the mid-'70s was a failure. The filmmaker's furiously inventive and imaginative movie never made it to the big screen, but man ... what a trip it would've been, at least certainly judging by Frank Pavich's hypnotically fascinating documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune," showing tonight at 7 p.m. at the UWM Union Theatre.
Published March 25, 2015
I'm starting to get concerned about Jack O'Connell. First there was "Starred Up," in which he plays a violent prison inmate; then he starred in the two-hour beatdown-palooza that was "Unbroken." And now there's "'71," which doesn't even get five seconds in before it's punching O'Connell in the face and dragging him through mud. If he insists on essentially self-flagellating on screen, though, at least it's in the service of a quite good movie.
Published March 25, 2015
2015 is shaping up to be a world tour of beloved classic rock stars. The Rolling Stones are expected to announce a Milwaukee stop ... at some point. Ringo Starr is heading to the Riverside in October, the same month The Who will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Also celebrating 50 years of existence: Pink Floyd, hitting the Riverside stage Thursday and Friday night. Well, kind of - in the form of tribute band Brit Floyd.
Published March 23, 2015
If "Divergent" was like "The Hunger Games" took a brick to the head, then "Insurgent" plays like "The Hunger Games" got lost in a brick hail storm. The sequel doubles down on the idiocy, incoherence and creative kleptomania the first film struggled through. Part one made it palatable; part two makes it laughable.
Published March 21, 2015
Early on in the 2014-15 season, the Milwaukee Rep staged "The Color Purple." It's a show actress Felicia P. Fields knows very well; after all, her turn as Sofia in the Broadway musical scored her a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical back in 2006. It's another familiar show, however, that brings Fields back to Milwaukee: "Low Down Dirty Blues," a celebration of classic blues at its deepest and dirtiest.
Published March 21, 2015
Vampires have gotten a bad rap over the last decade or so,but while the recent vampire trend has provided some pretty craterous, sell-out lows, it's also spawned a fair amount of impressive highs for the notorious neck-nibblers. For example: "What We Do in the Shadows," a hilarious New Zealand import that gushes goofy laughs like a comedy hemophiliac.