The Last Exorcism Part II
I’m not sure if there is any movie with a title more self-contradictory than The Last Exorcism Part II. Worse, it doesn’t even really make sense to anyone who actually remembers the previous movie, which centered on a preacher who was producing a documentary to expose exorcism as a hoax, only to run into a real, live demon; it was his last exorcism, and he isn’t even involved anymore, presumably due to his being dead. And while The Last Exorcism was a “found-footage” horror movie, this one isn’t. You’d think I’d prefer that, but it just feels like a cheap attempt to cash in on Ashley Bell’s acclaimed performance.
We start with Nell (Bell) showing up in a house in New Orleans. After some time in a hospital she is transferred to a halfway house where one middle-aged man (Muse Watson) watches over half a dozen troubled teenage girls. In a matter of months she’s more relaxed, making friends with the other girls — especially her roommate (Julia Garner) — and holding down a housekeeping job at a nearby motel. She even catches the eye of a boy (Spencer Treat Clark). But by Mardi Gras things start going weird. It had begun to seem like nothing more than a bad dream, but Nell is still possessed by the demon Abalam who, despite all appearances, is not in fact a Ram Jam lyric.
The big problem is that — other than the third-act appearance of a trio of exorcists (Tarra Riggs, David Jensen, and E. Roger Mitchell) who seem to mash up techniques from voodoo, theosophy, and modern medicine — this is literally all there is to the story. It’s just a sequence of supposedly creepy or scary things happening.
Ashley Bell was far and away the best part of The Last Exorcism, and her performance is every bit as good here. She brings and impressive physicality, not only to the moments where the possession asserts itself, but even to every motion that Nell makes. The way she walks and stands is part and parcel of the character, and Bell deserves almost nothing but praise for her work.
I say “almost” because there is one thing that Bell deserves beyond praise: better material than this. This is a bad rehash of horror tropes that is not only unmotivated and aimless, it’s downright offensive.
Remember that horror is always motivated by a real-world fear. Here, every shot screams out that young female sexuality, and even agency, is somehow threatening, dangerous, and even demonic. “Good girls” don’t have “bad” thoughts. Only the actions of a demon put these sounds and visions in Nell’s head. She tells a man on the street to stop touching her and he collapses in a seizure — obviously she shouldn’t be asserting her own control over her own body. And when she finally stops fighting these “demonic” urges, she destroys everything around her. “Be chaste and obedient”, the movie tells women, “or this could happen to you and those you love.” This is a message we need less of, not more.
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: pass.