Stars: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, Louis Herthum, Muse Watson, Erica Michelle, Sharice A. Williams | Written by Ed Gass-Donnelly, Damien Chazelle | Directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly
The Last Exorcism Part 2 is a somewhat incongruous title and the film itself bears little resemblance to the first instalment from 2010, produced like this effort by Eli Roth, a sleeper hit which made over 10 times its initial production budget in its opening weekend in the US alone. On the back of mixed to positive reviews and name recognition that all film studios like, The Last Exorcism gets a second parts which somewhat takes away from the title of the first film, but does tries to shake things up a bit, certainly more than most horror franchises do.
Unlike the first film which relied heavily on found footage, this time its only on show here in a recap of events right at the start of the film, at which time the film then becomes a conventionally shot piece. It’s a brave choice in some ways to do this, though it must be said found footage has somewhat run its course at least in this cycle of it, (though if it’s done well these films can still create quite an impact, Barry Levinson’s The Bay springing to mind). Having a conventionally shot narrative means that the film does lose a USP of some sort, though thankfully it does still have one of the original film’s most successful elements, possession victim Nell, played by Ashley Bell.
Bell’s non-CG created contortions in the first film, combined with a believable innocence which made the events happening to her have somewhat more impact than they might otherwise have, have been lessened in this film instead relying on Bell’s actual acting ability. While she does have limited range, the likeable and wide-eyed character from the first film still retains a fair amount of sympathy and is a world away from the usual leads we get in horror.
It’s a shame that despite Bell’s best work, the film around her is unfortunately not all that successful. It does have moments of interest, the opening sequence nicely changes perspective and feeds into an idea of showing how Nell is presented to others which is brought up in other moments of the film is never really truly explored. It must also be said that the final minute is a satisfyingly batty joy, the rest of the film plays out in pretty generic horror movie tropes. Situations seem to be normal but quickly take a turn for the nightmarish, Bell’s character is plagued by forces no one else can see around her with no one choosing to believe and people around her start getting off in rather generic style director Ed Gass-Donnelly bringing little to the table in terms of visual panache or creating anything all that suspenseful.
While there are elements of The Last Exorcism Part 2 which do not feel like a cash-in, Ashley Bell gives as good as she can and the switch from found footage is at least a somewhat bold choice, the film itself all feels rather pointless. If it wasn’t for the name recognition on hold here, the film itself would likely go quickly straight to video and would never be talked of. There are some moments of note here for horror fans, but there’s nothing at all to grab a wider audience.
The Last Exorcism Part 2 is released in the UK on Friday June 7th.