out of Five
Running time: 84
The returning presence of Ashley Bell and some atmospheric direction ensure that this remains watchable, but it's only intermittently scary and ultimately adds very little to the previous film apart from making a mockery of its title and paving the way for future instalments.
What's it all about?
Directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, The Last Exorcism: Part II picks up shortly after the events of the previous film, with innocent, religious country teenager Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) being found in a feral state in a random couple's kitchen, after having somehow survived her ordeal. She is taken to a home for troubled young girls in New Orleans where she begins to rebuild her life, thanks to the kind attentions of home director Frank (Muse Watson) and her friendship with fellow inmate Gwen (Julia Garner).
However, after Nell falls for cute co-worker Chris (Spencer Treat Clark) at her motel-cleaning job, she begins to experience spooky goings-on and soon becomes convinced that the demon Abalom is after her again, a suspicion that's seemingly confirmed by a ghostly visit from her dead father (Louis Hertham), who also adds an apocalyptic flavour to proceedings and warns her that the fate of the world may be at stake.
The first film was presented as a found footage-style documentary, but Gass-Donnelly reverts to standard narrative for the sequel, allowing for suitably atmospheric assistance from both the editing and Michael Wandmacher's score. Similarly, Gass-Donnelly orchestrates a number of effectively creepy sequences, including an encounter with a street mime (terrifying enough even without the threat of a demon) and a scene involving Garner's character; he also finds a clever way of incorporating the found footage from the first film, with some of the footage finding its way onto YouTube, to be marvelled at by Nell's friends.
The fact that Nell is supposed to be in recovery for the majority of the film means that the sequel largely dispenses with Ashley Bell's remarkable contortion-based abilities, but she delivers a likeable, engaging and achingly vulnerable performance that works well. There's also strong support from Garner and Watson, though Spencer Treat Clark is rather underused and a little too blank as Chris.
The film's biggest problem is that it doesn't really add anything to the original film, except to open the door to a potential franchise, thereby making an even bigger mockery of its title (it ought to be called The Last Exorcism 2: Probably Not The Last Exorcism). Similarly, the actual exorcism sequence is poorly set up and badly rushed, meaning that it lacks both dramatic and emotional impact.
On top of that, although the ending sets up a potentially interesting third instalment, the overall effect is severely diminished through the use of some poor CGI effects.
The Last Exorcism: Part II is neither as scary nor as inventive as the first film, but it's just about worth watching thanks to a strong performance from Ashley Bell and a handful of effectively creepy moments.