Synopsis: Continuing where the first film left off, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found terrified and alone in rural Louisiana. Back in the relative safety of New Orleans, Nell realizes that she can’t remember entire portions of the previous months only that she is the last surviving member of her family. Just as Nell begins the difficult process of starting a new life, the evil force that once possessed her is back with other, unimaginably horrific plans that mean her last exorcism was just the beginning.
Release Date: March 1, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
When The Blair Witch Project popularized the found footage horror film in the late nineties, a sequel was inevitable. With the rightfully forgettable Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the found footage gimmick was abandoned. The Last Exorcism has followed the same pattern; the sequel, The Last Exorcism Part II has eschewed the faux-documentary style of the first film, opting for a more cinematic and traditional narrative. Unfortunately, it’s about as effective as Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
The Last Exorcism Part II picks up right where The Last Exorcism leaves off; Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell, reprising her role from The Last Exorcism) has just escaped from a satanic cult in the woods and is placed in the group home of Frank Merle (Muse Watson from I Know What You Did Last Summer). Nell’s life seems to be getting back to normal, with Merle helping her to get a job and her making friends with the other girls in the house. Soon enough, however, Nell starts hearing strange voices, seeing visions of her dead father (Louis Herthum, also back from the first movie) and thinking that she is being stalked by the members of the cult from which she escaped. It gets to the point where Nell can’t tell who she can and cannot trust – Frank Merle; her roommate, Gwen (Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s Julia Garner); the boy who likes her, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark from Gladiator and Unbreakable) – all are suspect. As her paranoid mind struggles to decide who her friends are, Nell also has to figure out how much of what is happening is real and how much is in her head.
The Last Exorcism Part II starts out promisingly enough. Writer/Director Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs) takes the audience on a suspenseful and convincing journey into the warped mind of a girl who is trying to start over after experiencing a horrible tragedy. The film runs out of steam at about the halfway point, where it seems that Gass-Donnelly and co-writer Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) work themselves into a corner, and just start making stuff up to get out of it. Plot shifts and turning points come from out of nowhere, making the film seem less like a horror movie and more like a drug trip. The narrative gets more and more disjointed as it goes on, leading to the inevitably disappointing climax. While initially full of promise, The Last Exorcism Part II ultimately falls far short of its potential.
The decision to make The Last Exorcism Part II as a straightforward movie as opposed to a found footage film is a good one; the biggest weakness in most found footage films is the lack of an organic reason for the footage to exist, and The Last Exorcism Part II doesn’t have to deal with that problem. Although not as effective as the first film, The Last Exorcism Part II should be commended for not trying to be an imitation. While the film references the first movie early and often, it does not depend on its predecessor for understanding; in fact, like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, The Last Exorcism Part II stands as well on its own as it does as a sequel – which is to say, not that well. But, The Last Exorcism does not have to be seen to understand The Last Exorcism Part II.
Easily the most effective element of The Last Exorcism Part II is the audio soundtrack. Sound editors Nelson Ferreira and Nathan Robitaille (the same team that handled the sound for Requiem for a Dream and “Transporter: The Series”) and their team go above and beyond in their efforts to make the film frightening. Their subtle use of layering and masking makes the viewer hear exactly what Nell is hearing in her head, and it’s really freaky. While The Last Exorcism Part II may not be entirely effective as a complete film, the sound design is spot-on.
The film also features a wonderful score by Michael Wandmacher (who scored the remakes of both Piranha and My Bloody Valentine). Wandermacher’s music evokes the spirits of classic horror soundtracks, sounding like it would be right at home in a film like The Exorcist, The Omen, or The Amityville Horror. His spooky motifs and suspenseful vamps keep the audience on edge, and the film wouldn’t be half as effective without their inclusion. Wandermacher’s score all but saves The Last Exorcism Part II.
For a horror film, The Last Exorcism Part II is not very scary. The parts that are frightening are either cheap, red-herring jump scares or are built up solely by the music and sound. The mistrust and paranoia that Nell feels is never communicated effectively to the audience, so they never really feel her terror. After the first few jumps, the viewer is desensitized to the shocks, and there’s nothing creepy left to get under their skin. The scares are few and far between, which is a disappointing thing for a film like The Last Exorcism Part II.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ed Gass-Donnelly
- Screenwriter(s): Damien ChazelleEd Gass-Donnelly
- Cast: Ashley Bell (Nell Sweetzer)Judd Lormand (Jared)Julia Garner (Gwen) Spencer Treat Clark (Chris)Muse Watson (Frank)
- Editor(s): Ed Gass-Donnelly
- Cinematographer: Brendan Steacy
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Michael Wandmacher
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA