By Shane M. Dallmann
Sometimes you just know… but you go anyway. Why? There can be different reasons, but more often than not you just need to see for yourself so nobody can say you didn’t.
You remember THE LAST EXORCISM, of course. That one scored a hit even though it was yet another go-round for the pseudo-documentary format. And it deserved to be a hit because it came up with one of the most realistic, compelling and entertaining characters to hit the genre in some years: charlatan preacher Cotton Marcus, as played by Patrick Fabian. We all knew going in that he was going to end up facing an actual demon for the first time in his life, and the mechanics of the ending of the film proved quite problematic, but just watching Cotton going about his business and explaining his techniques to the film crew made the whole thing worth sitting through.
So I had to see for myself if the nonsensically-titled THE LAST EXORCISM PART II would retain so much as a shred of what I liked so much about the first one.
The only connection between this and the original is the return of Ashley Bell as the possessed Nell Sweetzer. The documentary format is dropped in favor of a straight-up narrative sequel, though we do get something of an incoherent rehash of what happened last time (I would have liked to know more about what specifically happened right after the first movie ended, but no such luck). We didn’t actually see Cotton die last time, but we can assume he did as he’s only referred to fleetingly (and glimpsed on a computer screen).
Anyhow, Nell winds up at a home for troubled young ladies in New Orleans… she makes friends with her far-less-inhibited roommate (well, she gets lessons in makeup and rock and roll anyway… horrors!); gets a job; attracts the attention of a nice young man… and, well, weird things start happening again.
The new crew behind this movie (directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who co-wrote with Damien Chazelle) must have thought they were coming up with all sorts of strange and disturbing things that would take advantage of the local color and keep our attention throughout: of course, you get your sinister faces staring at Nell and her friends from behind Mardi Gras masks, while another possible threat comes in the form of someone painted up as a living statue…
…oh, why go on? None of it works. NONE of it. Quiet moments are punctuated by split-second shrieking nightmare flashbacks, a dog jumps at a fence to scare Nell, one of the girls staying at the home has a violent seizure (I couldn’t even tell which one it was, let alone WHY), birds commit kamikaze suicide en masse (just like in DARK SKIES), and the only way the new team can make anyone jump is by setting a stick of dynamite off directly under the microphone (so to speak). Meanwhile, the one potentially shocking (albeit predictable) moment has been obviously post-obscured for the all-important PG-13 rating.
There WAS potential for the climactic New Orleans-style exorcism (not only is Baron Samedi invited to attend–though he doesn’t–but the extremely questionable methods of the unauthorized experts could have resurrected the challenging moral themes raised by Cotton in the first film. But by the time we get there, it’s far too late. We DO get an ending, however, and there can be no doubt as to what is happening in this ending. It’s also one of the most laughably overblown fadeouts imaginable, and it’s sure to make you appreciate how much of a good thing you actually had the first time around.
But no… it’s NOT worth sitting through the rest of the film to reach. This one’s worthless.