"Exorcism" more likely to bore than scare to death

Posted Online: March 07, 2013, 10:55 am
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By Michael Smith

Horror films are supposed to be scary, right?

"The Last Exorcism Part II" has a better chance of boring you to death than inducing fear.

It's a shame considering the inherent creepiness of the original picture about a priest allowing an exorcism to be filmed and all holy you-know-what breaking loose.

It was an inventive little movie with a budget of less than $2 million that went on to scare up $68 million in worldwide box-office.

That movie was made even better by newcomer Ashley Bell, as a bedeviled young teen with a remarkable naturalness to her innocence and an entirely unnatural ability to bend her body in contortionist positions without trick photography.

Bell made it easy to believe that young Nell Sweetzer might be possessed by someone, be it Satan or a demanding circus owner.

If not for Bell's presence, the cash-grab sequel would be wholly unwatchable. I again believe that this teen is deeply frightened, but it may be because Bell is reacting to having seen the film's dailies.

The end of the first film's found-footage premise saw a fire break out in the woods. It turns out that Nell is the only survivor, and she is discovered inside a couple's home, feral and afraid in an opening scene that is actually quite disturbing.

It's as though this scene was filmed later, by someone other than credited newcomer director Ed Gass-Donnelly, because this is the last time that a good scare is created - four minutes into the movie.

Alone in her Louisiana world without family or friends, Nell is now placed in a human-service home for "girls with issues." The other young women here are naturally all street-wise to serve as a contrast with Nell's virginal nature, apparently meant to deepen themes of religious faith, good vs. evil, and any number of cliches imaginable in this tired brand of storytelling.

The director, writer and producers (Eli Roth of "Hostel" fame among them) seem to have no idea how to build suspense or create believable characters beyond Nell, who seems to be finding some peace of mind in the group home until a trip with the girls to Mardi Gras brings back those old, eerie feelings.

We all knew the devil was on Bourbon Street, right?

The filmmakers don't make a high priority of having their film make sense, instead hoping that audiences will only notice the weird imagery (but largely bloodless, PG-13 imagery) and a loud score that sounds like a thunderstorm most of the time.

"The Last Exorcism Part II" is a movie that takes itself way too seriously for all of its corny phone calls (the devil is on the line ... again), its excessive "Boo!" moments (What's behind the door? What's under the covers?) and its humorless dialogue.

But there is plenty to laugh at, including the amount of time Bell spends staring into space, probably wondering what she'll do now that they've killed this franchise, and her frigid interaction with members of the opposite sex.

Then there are the flies from "The Amityville Horror," and finally the last half-hour, which goes into exorcism mode and tells us that the girls-home scenes - taking up the first hour of the movie - have been completely meaningless to the plot.

The filmmakers' attempt at building tension is to make us wait the entire film for Bell to go into bendy-body mode - only to realize that she never does.

Why would a key selling point of the first film not be revived by filmmakers in the sequel? There's only one reasonable inflexibility: The devil made them do it.


MPAA rating: PG-13 for horror violence, terror and brief language.
Length: 95 minutes.
Rating: One and a half stars.


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