DIRECTOR Ed Gass-Donnelly WRITER Damien Chazelle; Ed Gass-Donnelly; Damien Chazelle (story); Huck Botko (characters); Andrew Gurland (characters) STARS Ashley Bell; Julia Garner; Spencer Treat Clark DVD & BLU-RAY 30 September
“We weren’t thinking about a sequel,” grins executive producer Eli Roth, in a short interview on this disc that quite neatly sums up this film. “We probably wouldn’t have called it ‘Last’, but then on opening weekend it was clear everyone wanted a sequel, so we started to think about one.” Now let’s strip away the Hollywood gloss and interpret what he really meant: “We weren’t thinking about a sequel and were shocked when the original made a ton of money, so we started to throw one together to quickly cash in and make a mint.”
Cynical perhaps, but on viewing, The Last Exorcism Part II is nothing more than a carbon copy and inferior in every way. As it was in the far, far superior original, Ashley Bell’s leading performance is without question the best thing on offer in this fast and cheap hack job. In fact Bell reminds one of Sissy Spacek; it would be good to see what she could do with decent material.
The found-footage stylings of the first film have been abandoned here in favour of a more traditional telling, with Bell’s country-girl Nell placed in a foster home following her experiences at the Sweetzer farmhouse, authorities convinced she is the victim of cult abuse. She is now living in New Orleans and slowly getting her life back in order when she starts to experience strange dreams and hallucinations — the work of her abused mind, or the return of the demon creature Abalam? It’s a thin set-up but there’s not a great deal to build on; early scenes with Nell seeking answers do have some atmosphere and a couple of decent scares, with director Ed Gass-Donnelly getting good mileage out of the weird city and its inhabitants at night, but as the possessions become more real, this breaks down into a series of predictable moments, with Bell’s contortionism and vocal gymnastics the centrepiece as a series of forgettable supporting characters try to decide if she’s crazy or not. Fair question, but as this was answered quite clearly in the first instalment, it’s redundant here. And a last-gasp attempt at a third-act twist is handled so badly that it completely undermines everything built before.
Whereas the ending of the original film divided audience opinion between genius and disaster, there will be no such problem here; the climax is laughable and heads predictably over the top, and very few will yearn for a third chapter in this already tired franchise, despite the inconclusive finish. The Blu-ray image and sound are as good as you would expect in the HD era, but the extras clock in at a woeful 10 minutes, including the trailer, making this a release as cheap and thoughtless as the film it promotes.