MRR Review: "The Last Exorcism Part II"

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Picking up where the last film left off, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found alone and terrified in the woods of Louisiana. When she returns to the relative safety of New Orleans, she finds that she can't remember large portions of the previous months... only that she's the last surviving member of her family. As Nell begins the difficult process of starting a new life, the evil force that once possessed her is back with other, unimaginably horrific plans that make one thing clear: her last exorcism was just the beginning.
2.5

MRR Review: "The Last Exorcism Part II"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Directed by: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Genre: Horror/Thriller

The title of the 2010 film "The Last Exorcism" implies that protagonist Nell (Ashley Bell) would never have to go through the torment she experienced in the film ever again. At the beginning of "The Last Exorcism Part II," Nell is picking up the pieces of her shattered life, which implies that perhaps the last exorcism performed on her could have indeed been the last. Alas, this is just the calm before the demon storm that is about to rain down on her. Abalam, the demon who took possession of her in the first film, is back with a vengeance, and he has no intention of letting her go this time.

After surviving Abalam's possession the first time, Nell is moved to a halfway house in New Orleans, which is the perfect setting for a horror movie. She slowly begins to try and work through the constant fear that cripples her, even getting a job as a housekeeper at a local inn. She even begins a flirtation with hunky coworker Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), who seems like a nice, harmless guy. Just when she is beginning to let her guard down, she begins to have nightmares about Abalam once again. Soon she is having visions of the demon although she isn't asleep, which concerns her overprotective father Louis (Louis Herthum). Her fellow halfway-house inhabitants begin to fear her, thinking she is crazy and delusional.

Nell knows what is about to happen, so she puts a crucifix necklace on and goes to church, asking God for guidance and strength. When the visions continue, she turns to other religions in a desperate attempt to stop another possession from happening. Since she is in New Orleans, this includes a séance and meeting with a voodoo practitioner. Poor Nell is so tormented by the thought of Abalam's taking hold of her again that she is willing to believe in just about any religion in order to get rid of him. This time, she has the extra incentive of her job, stability, and Chris to motivate her. Will it be enough, or will Nell soon find herself back to square one like she was in the first film?

Far too often, low-budget flicks like this skimp on the special effects, which can sometimes make them look cheap and distracting. Thankfully, the budget of "The Last Exorcism Part II" stretched just enough to allow cowriter/director/editor Ed Gass-Donnelly to use some special effects that really do look professionally done. They add to and often enhance the film, providing additional chills for eager audience members. Every frame looks great, which is a testament to not only Gass-Donnelly's skills as the film's editor but also his cinematographer Brendan Steacy for framing some of the more tense scenes so beautifully. Add in a very creepy background score, and the result is horror movie magic for those who like movies with an extra dose of chills.

Ed Gass-Donnelly foregoes the jerky handheld camerawork of the first film in place of a more steady hand, which actually helps ratchet up the tension in the film. In quiet scenes of camera stillness, the audience gets a creepy dose of anticipation, often with the payoff of a scare or thrill. Basically, Ed Gass-Donnelly is rewarding the audience for that anticipation, showing that he clearly knows what the audience base of "The Last Exorcism Part II" wants from a film. The fact that he uses this knowledge to his advantage is good, because it is likely to get him some notice in the filmmaking community. He has long been a mainstay in the theater, but he has a bright future in movies if he continues to show that smarts he displays as a director in this film.

Low-budget films like "The Last Exorcism Part II" or even the "Saw" series keep churning out sequels because they are cheap to make and generally earn back all that money and then some. Sometimes the quality goes down, but Ed Gass-Donnelly has ensured that "The Last Exorcism" franchise has not gone down in quality. If anything, it has increased in quality by expanding the story and developing the lead character more, forcing her into new situations as she recovers. Make no mistake, however, because this is a franchise, and Abalam will be back for future installments. The ending of "The Last Exorcism Part II" leaves the door wide open for a third entry into this new series, and possibly more. Sure, this renders the "last" part of the title moot, but considering how scary this franchise has been so far, horror fans probably won't care.

Rating 2.5 out of 5