Any time you include the word “last” in the name of a movie, it generally implies that there won’t be a sequel. Of course that rule doesn’t apply to in the world of horror films, and thankfully so. Because despite garnering mostly negative reviews, “The Last Exorcism Part II” is an uncommon horror sequel that explores a single protagonist’s attempted recovery from demonic possession with a rather effective mix of drama and suspense.
The original “Last Exorcism” was brilliant, because it showcased very thoughtful characters and narrative. In it, an fake evangelical pastor decides to let a documentary team film his last exorcism. The pastor has spent most of his career pretending to be a believer in order to pay the bills. But when his last venture into supernatural territory appears genuine, he’s forced to confront the demonic presence that’s tormenting an innocent girl named Nell.
Fast-forward to “Part 2,” Nell is alive and recovering from the trauma in a home for girls in New Orleans. She makes new friends and begins showing signs of improvement– she’s no longer having bad dreams, she’s able to go out with her friends. That is, until she begins to notice signs that the demon Abalam might not have given up on possessing her– and plan to use her to fulfill the prophecy of the end times.
Ashley Bell plays the wonderfully awkward and backwoods innocent Nell with the kind of dread that makes it easy to sympathize with her. Hollywood Reporter Frank Scheck compares Ashley Bell’s performance to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie. She has both her literal demons and her figurative ones (the family and townspeople who got her pregnant with a demon baby, then sacrificed it to a different demon). But she’s trying her best to get life back on track and move forward.
omCmon complaints of the film is that it’s too restrained– a totally merited accusation. Much of the film focuses on Nell’s attempt at recovery, with demonic characters moving around all evil-like in the background. At some points, it does feel like “Part 2” tests our patience. It’s not until the end that the movie redeems itself.
In the final act, Nell gets an “Exorcism of Emily Rose” style opportunity– a surreal confrontation with the demon who gives her a choice: stay herself among people who reject her or take his hand and accept her role as a sort of anti-Christ.
It’s a bit disappointing that the sequel was produced by an entirely different team of filmmakers. The change of tone and pace may feel jarring for many– especially the lack of documentary-style cinematography. “Part 2” is never quite as shocking as the original, nor does it explore the themes of faith and responsibility that the original delved into.
But the ending rewards viewers with one of the better conclusions to a horror movie sequels in many years, with enough closure to keep viewers satisfied but enough intrigue to keep you imagining what the world becomes after the credits roll. Thanks in part to Nell’s peerless knack of switching between charmingly child-like and devilishly perverse, “The Last Exorcism Part II” is a paranoia-driven treat for those who can handle the change in direction from the original.
The Last Exorcism Part II is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here on Amazon; and Part One here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!