Starring Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, and Spencer Treat Clark. Rated 14A. Now playing
2010's The Last Exorcism was a pretty decent flick as far as Hollywood horrors go. It told the tale of an apparently possessed Louisiana teen named Nell (Ashley Bell) who is used as a test subject for a documentary shoot about fake exorcisms.
While it incorporated a lot of that jittery, hand-held video-camera footage we've all gotten tired of, it was also quite suspenseful, and boasted believable performances by Bell and Patrick Fabian as the sham exorcist.
The sequel, though it starts off well, doesn't relay the same dose of terror and dread, and ultimately—no matter how many talk-show appearances hotshot producer Eli Roth makes promoting it—feels like a cop out.
It opens with flashbacks from the original, including its Blair Witch-style ending, and picks up right where it left off. In a nail-biting scene a demonic-acting Nell shows up in a couple's bed, mangles the guy's leg, and trashes the kitchen, before winding up in a New Orleans halfway house for troubled girls. "Whatever you're running from won't find you here," says the therapist at the place, who's way off base there.
Early on director-cowriter Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs) does nice work injecting the exotic Mardi Gras vibe of the Big Easy into things, peppering the score with bluesy guitar licks. And his use of standard jump shocks—a dog suddenly barking behind a fence, a radio tuning into a shrill station—is quite effective. He also proves once and for all just how seriously creepy mimes can be.
But about halfway through—around the time that Nell's housemates discover a YouTube video of her getting all Linda Blair on viewers' asses—the shocks become less compelling, like when a church gets pelted by kamikaze birds. The avian-suicide thing wasn't that scary when we saw it last week in Dark Skies.
The now fear-challenged plot leads predictably to a voodoo-style exorcism where the plan is to strap Nell to a table, summon the demon by writing its name on her belly, and then transfer it into the body of a nearby chicken, which will then be quickly slaughtered—if it doesn't go on a satanic pecking spree first.
"Don't worry," the exorcist says, "the chicken won't feel a thing."
And neither will you, by that point.