There was a fairly interesting concept underpinning The Last Exorcism. A preacher who has performed countless exorcisms throughout his career admits that they were all faked, and enlists a documentary crew to follow him to his last exorcism and expose the fraudulent nature of the practice.
Even those who didn’t like the bonkers final act – although there’s an interpretation of the film that arguably repositions the ending as its most interesting section – would admit there’s at least more to the concept than you get from your average modern exorcism flick. Sadly, that can’t be said about the sequel. In fact, it’s worse than your average exorcism flick. It’s uninspired in every single way, and barely recognisable as a sequel to The Last Exorcism to begin with.
Ashley Bell returns as the first film’s demonically-possessed Nell Sweetzer, and that’s just about where the similarities end. Gone is the found-footage style. Gone is any sense of ambiguity. Gone are the scares. The first film had some fairly memorable shots of Nell’s gruesomely contorted body. They’re gone too. Bell’s performance is the single noteworthy aspect amidst the 90 minutes of tedium, playing the extremes of innocence and evil unsettlingly well whenever it’s asked of her. She’s the lead this time, so there should be more for her to get her teeth into, but given that very little happens throughout the majority of The Last Exorcism Part II, it’s hardly surprising that isn’t the case.
You’ll be hard pushed to find anything approaching scary in there either. Considering we saw Nell possessed by a demon for most of the last film, it’s hard to get too worked up by the prospect of her maybe becoming possessed in this one. There aren’t even many jumpy moments to get the heart racing either, with the only half-decent cheap shock coming from the sudden reappearance of a creepy human statue. But then again, human statues are inherently creepy! You’ve got as much of a chance of a fright on a Saturday afternoon in Covent Garden.
On top of shying away from any of the interesting aspects established by its predecessor, the film also wastes much of its own set-up. Nell’s new friends, for example, depart the story at the first point they threaten to become interesting – when they discover a video of a possessed Nell posted on the internet. The film fails to follow through on any of its threats to explore Nell’s sexuality (hinted at frequently, but it comes to nothing), and for a horror movie it seems awfully scared of pointing the camera in the direction of anything resembling violence. When the film finally reaches its neutered climax, the best we get is a bit of dodgy CGI fire and a few flashes of red. Let’s hope that this time when they say Last, they mean it.