The Last Exorcism Part II: When one “Last” is not enough

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The Last Exorcism Part II – 2013

Director Ed Gass-Donnelly
Starring Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, Muse Watson, Louis Herthum, Tara Riggs
Screenplay by Gass-Donnelly and Damien Chezelle

It’s not supercilious, but it is a little silly.  It bares little resemblance to the first film, unless you count the lead actress (Bell) and occasional appearances by the character of her father (Herthum).  The cult is gone, and Nell remains, contorting all over hell, in flashbacks mainly.  Okay, maybe the cult is not completely gone.  There are an awfully large number of freaks with masks parading in the streets of New Orleans.  It’s difficult to distinguish that from any other day there.

Bell is really good here.  It’s her performance alone which keeps the viewer from wondering what the point of the film is.  For the first half at least, I was sure they were going somewhere with the story.  Then the helpful and beautiful black woman (Riggs) appears.  There always seems to be one of those available in New Orléans.  The point is, she puts more into figuring out what is normal and why she is not than your average teen.  She has a boy in her sights now (Clark).  We want her to win, even when winning is a destiny cleaning out motel rooms while hearing those who are still “checked in” to the next room.

Watson, who as Frank, the man running the half way house is stellar in his simplicity.  His advice is real and it is kind.  None of the other inhabitants take away from the feeling presented by Bell, even if they are not so desperate to show that they are on the way to recovering.  The team of investigators, lead by Riggs does nothing to detract from the tensity of the situation.

Why, then, does the ending take the wind out of the sails?   It feels about 15 minutes too short.  The result, even if it makes some sort of sense, is a cop out at best, and an excuse for another sequel at worst.  And why go cheap on the effects for your last shot?  The scene with the Fire Truck could not look more fake.

It’s a shame, to be sure.  I was not even thinking there would be a sequel to the original “last” film.  It was kind of implied in the title.  Bell drew me in.  When I arrived, I expected a spectacular display with a chick that really knew how to contort.  What I got was a party where the parents got home as soon as the booze came out.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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