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I was neither expecting nor pining for a sequel to Eli Roth-produced found-footage horror film The Last Exorcism, which I enjoyed and promptly forgot after watching back in 2010. That film's plot involved a sham exorcist preying on the fears of a rural community, and Ashley Bell's performance as the possessed Nell Sweetzer is what I remember most about the film. Awkwardly titled sequel The Last Exorcism Part II bombed with critics and at the box office earlier this year for good reason. Gone is the smart social commentary and deep-seated fear of the unknown, and Part II replaces Nell's struggle for redemption with an unconvincing return to darkness. The Last Exorcism Part II is an unnecessary, boring sequel that will frustrate fans of the original.
Picking up directly after the chaotic ending of The Last Exorcism, this film forgoes the found-footage shaky camera and instead is shot more traditionally by Director Ed Gass-Donnelly. An unnamed couple finds a catatonic Nell in their kitchen, and she is transported to a hospital, where she awakens from her stupor days later with a fragmented memory. All of Nell's family and the cult members who kept her under their heavy wings are dead, so Nell goes to live in a group home for troubled young women. She seems to make a remarkable recovery, landing a job as a hotel maid and enjoying the attentions of co-worker Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), but Nell's life begins to unravel after her roommates find footage of her previous exorcism. I found this plot point particularly annoying. The film has Nell spend 45 minutes befriending these girls only to jerk the rug out from under her and allow these "friends" to completely turn on Nell.
I think Bell is a talented actress, and she again brings an innocence and stark vulnerability to Nell. She deserves better than this undercooked sequel. You don't call a film "The Last Something" if you intend to make a sequel, and the plot of The Last Exorcism Part II feels as perfunctory as its title. The demon Abalam that haunted Nell in the original returns, shifting from the body of a young man in a New Orleans Carnival mask to those of Nell's late father (Louis Herthum), her friends, and Nell herself. Nell's personality sours and she begins losing all desire to be compassionate and decent to those around her.
Exploring the protagonist's slide toward the dark side might have been interesting had it been done more skillfully. The established story and characters weaken Part II from the get-go - there just isn't enough here to support a sequel - and the film dives into a messy exploration of faith, New Orleans culture and Nell's surrender to evil. The movie isn't about an exorcism, though a chicken almost gets possessed, and is about as dull as they come. There are no scares, no disquieting mysteries and no characters outside Nell that make any impression. Since The Last Exorcism Part II insists on doing nothing for nearly 90 minutes, it may as well have been a short film. The ending is kind of hateful, but by that time I just wanted the credits to roll.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks expectedly excellent. The New Orleans setting provides ample opportunity for bright colors and detail-filled wide shots, and the digital source is sharp and clear throughout. The opening sequence is shot with the sterile blues and greys of a morgue and is somewhat softer than the remaining picture. Close-ups and wide shots are both solid, with the former highlighting many facial details and textured props and costumes. Black levels are very good, which benefits the film's nighttime scenes, and digital manipulation is never an issue.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack supports the aural trappings of this horror movie, and the overused stinger effects at least sound impressive. Dialogue is clean and the score is deep. The subwoofer makes an impressive appearance early on and comes back on occasion during the film. Ambient and action effects make use of the surrounds, particularly during the film's chaotic climax. English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in an Elite Blu-ray case that is wrapped in an embossed, textured slipcover that matches the feel of the first film's outer packaging. Sony includes an UltraViolet digital copy, and the Blu-ray offers only an Unrated Version of the film that runs roughly a minute longer than the 88-minute theatrical version. Extras include a rapid-fire Commentary with Director Ed Gass-Donnelly and Producer Eli Roth alongside a pair useless featurettes: Nell's Story (2:37/HD) and Shooting in New Orleans (2:16/HD). The final extra, Hair Salon Scare - The Last Exorcism Part II Goes Viral (2:21/HD), is a humorous look at how the filmmakers placed a demonic-looking actress inside a beauty salon to scare patrons.
This is a sequel that few people wanted and almost no one deserves. The Last Exorcism Part II cashes in on the moderate success of found-footage thriller The Last Exorcism, but even returning producer Eli Roth failed to make this sequel compelling. Actress Ashley Bell again plays possessed Nell Sweetzer with grace and poise, but she deserves better than this pointless sequel. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.