Saturday, March 2, 2013

THE LAST EXORCISM PART II - REVIEW

The Last Exorcism Part II
March 1, 2013
88 min
United States (English)

Directed by Ed Glass-Donnelly
Written by Ed Glass-Donnelly and Damien Chazelle



"The Last Exorcism Part II" has some shining sequences but, like the original, goes places that will leave you scratching and shaking your head.

"The Last Exorcism" appeared on the horizon back in 2010. At a glance it looked like not only another run-of-the-mill horror film revolving around a priest vs. possessed girl dynamic (seriously, when are we going to see some possesed men?!), but also an attempt to find success with the found-footage format ("Blair Witch Project" and " Paranormal Activity" being the modern day equivalents of early miners who brought about the Gold Rush.) That film surprised with its performances and compelling scenario. It also helped that it was genuinely freaky until the majorly disappointing finale. 

This weekend "The Last Exorcism Part II" released (let's get all jokes/puns about the irony of its title out of the way now), was it a curse or a godsend? Unfortunately, it follows the path of the original in that there's some solid - even briefly spectacular - sequences in the film's first half before steadily losing steam and sense. 

Expect some spoilers for the previous film as well as this one in the following paragraphs, but I went out of my way to not spoil the ending for either. Should you choose the watch the series (which I'd recommend for fans of horror, each does enough right to merit your consideration) I will let their third acts dumbfound you all on their own.

"Part II" is not a found-footage film. It's traditionally follows Ashley Bell's character, Nell, immediately after the fried events of first film. We even get to see the camera laying on the forest floor, still recording. It's literally a discovered camera with "found footage." We get glimpses of the incidents therein through Nell's PTSD flashes (or devilish souvenirs?) and in one scene through video on YouTube. After a much needed stay at a psychiatric ward Nell is taken in at a home for girls. They are the ones who stumble across the footage and are appropriately weirded out by it, but honestly, if you saw someone you were living with doing some of the things she did in that footage... you would do anything to get the hell away. Whether superstitious, religious or not many characters' reactions are dimwittedly half the measure any rational person would/could make. This could probably be said about many exorcist movies, especially the granddaddy of them all: "The Exorcist" - which I finally caught up with last year and wasn't any more impressed or possessed for the wear.

Poor, poor Nell. Some girls have jealous boyfriends but she has herself the case of a jealous demon, Abalam. In the first film there were speculations on how she got pregnant, in this film we see how it happens again and how it may have happened then. It's a hauntingly beautiful sequence that Ed Glass-Donnelly (director) envisioned, Brendan Steacy (director of photography) visualized and Michael Wandmacher (composer) punctuated. It's the best sequence of the film and confidently depicted in a single shot (surprise, surprise that I would go gaga over it). An earlier scene in an undisclosed couples' home (which you can see for yourself here) and a strange while spent at and around a Madri Gras celebration (yes, the film takes advantage of its New Orleans backdrop) are additional examples of where everyone seemed onboard. I raved about Ashley Bell the first time around. It's disquieting to see a plain-looking girl who can portray sweet and innocent in one moment and then act like the Devil himself in the next. She was one of the best female performance's of 2010 and deserves recognition again this year. I hope she gets more and better work in the near future.

The sound design for "The Last Exorcism" goes overboard with its scare stings and ambiance tension. You can always pick such out in horror if you're looking for it, but it's another thing when it finds you. Last time I remember noticing so many was with the mostly unimpressive "Babysitter Wanted." I've mentioned before how some characters simply behave in way that takes you out of the story. It's something an honest reader should have pointed out on the script level. One of Nell's friends (if she has any) continually acts in a unsubtly mysterious way, this is never given an explanation or resolution. Then there's inevitable exorcism that brings nothing new to the table (with hand clamps at all). I found myself nodding off during what should have been the most hair-raising event in the entire film. What follows may surprise but is feels neither destined or well-executed. It's just plain off-putting with some exposed effects to boot. The buildup has just enough content to procure a recommendation to fans of the original, just be prepared to be ultimately crestfallen again.



★★★

CONTENT: horror violence, frightening moments and images, some language and some sexual references and content

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