The Last Exorcism Part II
The Last Exorcism: Part II is genuinely scary if you ignore almost everyone in the film apart from Nell (Ashley Bell). Without a doubt one of the best actresses to have ever graced the horror genre, Bell gives us creepy, sexy, naïve and murderous in the blink of an eye, making us think that she’s the only one on screen – and most of the time wishing she was. She’s flipping fantastic, and if no-one else had been in the film, that would have been fine by me.
Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Ditching the found footage style of its predecessor, The Last Exorcism: Part II follows a few hours after it left off; a demonic Nell is found hunched in the corner of a random couple’s house (couldn’t work out why or how), where she is then taken to a hospital and sent to a home for rehabilitating girls in New Orleans. She’s helped along by an avuncular counsellor (Muse Watson) and told how to apply lipstick by a punky female (Julia Garner). But Abalam, the demon that once possessed her, isn’t finished with her yet.
Exorcism films almost always overdo it. The brilliance of The Last Exorcism was the fact that we didn’t really know who was telling the truth, or what the truth was. Adding in a dose of humour and cynicism, the film reenergised an otherwise uninspiring genre. So here’s the bad news: its sequel does little to reassure horror fans that it’s got everything under control, coughing up a choppy storyline and bland supporting characters. But the devil’s in the details, and the film steps up its game when it’s all about Nell, rather than demons.
Aside from showing almost all the jumpy bits in the trailer, The Last Exorcism: Part II still packs in a few chills. Nell is stalked by bizarre, masked characters, and a surprisingly creepy living statue during Mardi Gras, upping her and the audience’s paranoia and throwing in a sense of carnival madness (Bakhtin would have loved this). But the best scares are the ones that can’t be seen, and this is proved nicely through the spooky noises, static radio, weird cooing and growling. On top of that, it wouldn’t be an Eli Roth film without a scene leaving you more than a little uncomfortable, so in come a few (hallucinatory?) demonic sexual encounters.
Here’s the but: whereas fans of The Last Exorcism might be happy to surf through the film on the back of Bell’s talent, first-timers might not be able to hack the been-there-done-that storyline (neither could I, to be honest). You know that character who always seems to know all there is know about demons and hell and all that, because once upon a time a book foretold some spiffy prophecy? Yeah, that happens. HOW? You can’t possibly know these things. Fans of The Last Exorcism will also be disappointed to see levitating actually being taken seriously, destroying all parody set up from the previous film. Here’s a shout-out to all horror writers: stop levitating your characters. It’s not scary, it’s stupid and it’s hilarious. Stick with the subtext, it’ll get you much farther.
We’re on rocky terrain when it comes to the dialogue, particularly the awkward innuendos between Nell’s housemates, the frankly bizarre confessional outburst between Nell and her crush, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), and a random vicar who is seemingly also possessed (?). You’ll be pleased to know the ending predicts another sequel, in which case I’ll be heading towards hell myself. As it stands, the ending is almost brilliant. Heavy metal and fire; two things horror fans love the most. Yes, it leaves room for more, but let’s just call it a day, okay guys?