When the word started to get out about a new found footage movie called Cotton back in 2009, it immediately stuck out from the then current crop of similar horror films by being character driven movie with a legitimate reason for filming. The story of Reverend Cotton Marcus was interesting and engaging, that of a man brought up in faith who’d come to regard the whole lifestyle as a hoax, an elaborate play put on to calm the nerves of the anxious churchgoers. And he was unquestionably the star, a charming, energetic young man who knew just how to play an audience. But growing concerned with an increasing number of requests for exorcisms, Cotton decides to bring on a film crew to help him expose exorcism for the stage play it really is. Obviously, the name of the film was changed to The Last Exorcism before release and the film that bore that name did a lot of things right. A few minor quibbles aside, it was a pretty good film.
So of course someone decided that we should all be exposed to a sequel, mainly in the hopes that money could be grubbed. While many have poked fun at the idea of a film entitled The Last Exorcism getting a Part II, it’s not completely ridiculous. After all, the exorcism from the title of the original film was referring specifically to Cotton’s last exorcism. Although, the Cotton character doesn’t appear in the new film so maybe the title doesn’t make sense after all.
If only the movie were good enough to overcome its titular shortcomings.
The Last Exorcism Part II picks up right where the original left off, which sounds exciting until you realize that the filmmakers have no intention of shedding any additional light on the events displayed in the final moments of the first film. Then you just want to punch someone. Nell (Ashley Bell) has somehow ended up in New Orleans and is hospitalized after breaking into the home of a young couple. Her doctor places her in a home for traumatized girls, and Nell starts to move on. But of course the demon Abalam won’t let her go so easily. Soon enough strange things start happening — building up to the second last exorcism the trailers promised.
The film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t seem all that interested in scaring or telling a good story or really doing much of anything. The entire first two acts are limp noodles, using super-fast edited shots from the original film as Nell’s thoughts and nightmares mixed with lazy half-attempts at jump scares. It’s indicative of the laziness of the entire film and, worst of all, it’s just plain boring.
Somehow the footage from the first film has ended up on the internet, despite the second film’s opening scene showing one of the cameras laying out in a field. Of course the other girls in the house find clips of Nell doing crazy stuff on YouTube. It’s the type of plot point for which audible groans were invented.
While the film has major structural issues in the first two acts, not bothering to really establish any sort of conflict or give the audience anything to be scared by or even interested in, at least the third act comes through with some of the worst CGI in recent memory. The computer generated fire somehow looked better in the trailers than it did in the finished film. There are TV shows with better visual effects than the last 10 minutes of a film that supposedly cost someone $5 million.
The one thing that isn’t aggressively mediocre is Nell’s interesting turn in the end. Ultimately the film leaves Nell with a choice to make between two paths. One would have been rather anticlimactic and so the second is almost interesting by default, but it was one of the first interesting things to happen in the entirety of the film and therefore probably gets more of a pass than it should. The only downside is the possibility that some asshat might try to make a third one.
The Last Exorcism Part II is not a good film. It’s half-assed and slapdash with virtually no atmosphere, no scares, not much of anything really. It commits the cardinal sin for any film, not just a horror film…it’s boring. The single interesting choice at the end of the film isn’t nearly enough to save it from burning under it’s own CGI flames. Let’s just hope the powers that be have the good sense to stop here.
The Upside: Ending takes an interesting turn
The Downside: Basic and formulaic, laden with tired jump scares and random footage from the first film. Culminates in some of the worst CG fire on record.
On the Side: Co-writer Damien Chazelle also wrote the upcoming Eugenio Mira film, Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood.