Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Last Exorcism Part 2 - Demons and Possesion


Click here for a SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The Plot

The show opens with a couple in New Orleans discovering the demonic-looking Nell in their apartment. Nell is taken to a doctor. She's catatonic and barely has any memory of what happened to her. As she's given a bath, the nurse drops some plot-foreshadowing and cuts a lock of Nell's hair to keep.

Nell gets placed in a home for girls, run by Frank Merle. She quickly makes friends with the girls and gets a job working at a motel and even manages to catch the eye of a boy named Chris. Nell and the girls go to a Mardi Gras parade, where several masked and hooded figures appear to be watching Nell. She encounters a living statue who remarks "You've been missed". At one point, Nell even believes she sees her dead father, Louis.

Nell's nights start to fill with frightening dreams, strange noises, and shadowy figures. Chris takes Nell to the zoo. When they sit on a bench together Chris asks if Nell's ever had a boyfriend, but she gets defensive, although she still tells him of how she was pregnant. As they come close to kissing a Gorilla throws a tire in the background, ruining the moment. Stupid monkey.

Another evening, Chris throws rocks at Nell's window, asking her to come outside. She goes out and doesn't find him, but hears what sounds like several demonic voices speaking to her all at once. She runs back inside and discovers her father there, very much alive. He holds her and says he never should have trusted Cotton, and he pulls out his shotgun. Claiming its the only way, he aims his gun but Nell's roommate Gwen comes in and whacks Louis over the head. Her eyes turn black, and she tells Nell, "No one can have you but him". Nell is locked outside the room as Louis screams. Frank comes downstairs to investigate but finds nothing and Gwen comes back innocent and oblivious. Frank tells Nell he will have her committed to a hospital if she doesn't stop acting out.

During work the next day Chris tries to console a shaken Nell and gives Nell her first kiss. Nell does some levitating in her sleep, but wakes up the next morning to find the girls watching a youtube video of her first exorcism. She leaves and goes to a church where she starts praying. A pastor comes in and at first seems welcoming, but then grows darker saying, "he has great plans for you." Birds slam into the windows as shadowy figures surround the place. She runs out and on the street and is grabbed by Cecile, the nurse who had cut off some of Nell's hair.

Cecile tells Nell of a prophecy of demonic destruction should she invite her demon into herself. But not to worry, her mystical The Order of the Right Hand has been watching out for Nell. Cecile takes Nell to her place to get a sense of her possession. Cecile quickly realizes she needs backup. The demon pays boyfriend Chris a visit and when Nell comes to check on him, Chris tells her how he could never love Nell more than "him". He slits his throat in front of Nell and dies.

Nell goes back to Cecile's home that evening and meets two men from The Order of the Right Hand. They strap Nell down to a table and they perform a ritual to exorcise Nell and put Abalam inside a chicken. During the ritual, Nell struggles as something moves inside her and they are unable to control the demon. Nell sees a masked and hooded figure that she previously saw at the parade, which turns out to be herself standing before her. She sees more apparitions as they inject her IV with a needle. An apparition of Louis tells Nell it's a lethal dose of morphine. Abalam takes Nell's form again and tells her to accept her fate. Nell appears to flat-line and die. Suddenly, she springs up and takes the demons hand. The next thing we see is one of the men flying out the window while blood sprays up against the window. Nell leaves the house covered in blood.

Back at the home, Frank is calling around to look for Nell. He finds her sitting in his office where Nell tells him she's decided who she really is and thanks him for being so kind. Then she kills him before setting fire to the house.Nell goes outside, and via Frank's truck, she drives off into the night, leaving a trail of fiery destruction and Carrie-esque chaos behind her.



The Good, the Bad, and the Gory


The Good
The Acting
Really I should be more succinct and say The Actor. While all the cast did okay, it was Ashley Bell (Nell) who stood out. Bell was happy enough to pick up her previous role as Nell and we are happy enough that she did. I'm so sick of seeing horror movies with a female lead that acts about as well as a lingerie billboard (And that's coming from brainwashed Religious Republican). Horror is a genre of drama and mortal peril and needs female leads that can convey depth and complexity. Bell does this in spades. Nell's mild, quite manner hides the terror and self loathing inside. In order to understand her terror, we have to understand her wants and hopes. Bell is able to bring all of this to the screen while remaining completely believable. My favorite scene was the Mardie Grua Parade. We watch this poor, sheltered girl absorb the life and the happiness all around here. It was precious.

I also really like Spencer Clark as Chris. As the love interest/hope for normality to Nell, Chris is important in establishing a happiness that the demon could steal away. I love that Clark played the role almost as socially awkward as Nell. It made their affection that much more innocent and sweet. 

Ms. Bell herself


The Cinematography
Maybe it is just because I saw it on the big screen, but I really liked the way this movie looked. It reminded me of David Boyd's work for Dark Skies. All the shots were very wide and really established the setting. Not many tight, confining shots that leave the viewer suffocated. I also thought there was a great dynamic of color. Great contrasting and bold colors. I was annoyed that they re-sampled a few shots (motel cleaning) and that they began three nighttime scenes with exactly the same-framed bedroom shots. But I'm willing to overlook it.

The decision was made to diverge from the original by not shooting the movie as a found footage flick. While I do love found footage as a style, I think they made the right choice to shoot this one straight.

The Bad
The Scares
Have your friends ever shown you that youtube video? You know the one with the car driving serenely down a green hill under some soft contemporary music, then a screaming zombie jumps up covering the whole frame? Yeah, you know it and like me have the pee stained pants to show for it. Well I hate that video and hate anyone who thinks it's funny. Half the scares in The Last Exorcism 2 are just like that. A dream, or scene will be settling down, and then they blast you with some bloody image and a scream clearly meant for the hearing impaired. The whole scare lasts about .5 seconds and serves no purpose to the story. I don't watch horror to be startled, I watch it to be terrified. It ruins a movie if I have to watch the whole thing all tense, waiting for the next random scare. I grew out of that kind of entertainment after playing with my Jack-in-the-Box and haven't looked back.

In all fairness, this movie does boast some genuinely creepy moments. When Nell is outside calling for Chris and the demon replies, "We aren't Chris." That was great. 

Daddy Issues

It's not a death-blow to the film, but what was going on with Nell's Dad, Louis? At first he seems ethereal like some spirit appearing to Nell. He vanishes behind traffic, he's in her room then gone. Pretty standard ghost stuff. Then he appears to Nell and tries to blow her head off. Luckily the demon, via Nell's roommate, bashes Louis over the head. Louis then gets horribly murdered only to have all evidence of it vanish. I'm just not sure if he was alive or dead to begin with.

The Gore
The Last Exorcism 2 comes in as a PG-13. Now that's not a condemnation, lots of good horror is PG-13, but that does eliminate excessive gore, nudity, and language (Note: although no nudity, there are still some erotic scenes). Chris does slit his throat and there are a couple of seizures, but that's about it.

One thing that was seriously lacking were the physical contortions. Not only are they a hallmark of most possession movies, but were a main element of the first The Last Exoticism (I know, that sentence makes little sense). Ashley Bell was cast in part because of her experience in contortion. The contortion scene was one of the scariest in the first film. This new movie relied more on special effects and I think it suffered as a result.

Also, those were some weak-sauce CGI fires that Nell lit with her mind.



My Take on It All
I really should say, I love The Last Exorcism (part 1). It's the only possession movie I've seen to come close to The Exorcist  It was a found footage style that starts off on an intriguing,  if not humorous  topic. As the movie progress it slowly becomes creepier and scarier, but the whole time you are never sure if it is real or fake. We watch a skeptical pastor actually grow in faith and belief to confront a demonic power. In the end we don't know what happens to the pastor, or Nell, or the cultists. In the end you still don't know if it was all real or fake.

That point of ambiguity is a terrible place to start a sequel. By starting there the director had no bases or framework to build from. As a result we have sequel with none of the same elements as the original. Sure we get Nell and the demon, be we don't get any of the great elements that made the original so powerful. This movie had to establish its own plot, own setting, and own story line. And frankly, all of the new elements it created were boring.

I can't think of one scare, motif, or element in this film that I haven't seen in another possession movie. Creepy radio = White Noise, demonic priest = The Devil Inside, evil phone calls = The Mothman Prophecies, levitation = The Exorcist, birds crashing into windows = like 300 different movies. 

My main take away is that this movie failed to bring anything new to the genre when its original brought so much.


SPOILER FREE REVIEW


The Last Exorcism 2 picks up the story of Nell Sweetzer as she tries to rebuild her shattered life, but old demons die hard. This movie has some great actors, but it is hard to act your way out of a limited plot. The scares and story line aren't anything new to the horror world. Lacking the creativity and mystery of the original, this film falls upon the landfill heap of 'Horror Mediocrity . If you were a fan of the first The Last Exorcist don't bother with this film. If you are new to the horror genre, watch the original and then watch something else. I give it a pass.

Final Grade: D-
Trailer

12 comments:

  1. So glad you reviewed this movie. Really enjoyed your thorough investigation of this movie. Great that Nell and Chris had some chemistry.

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    1. Yeah, maybe it's just the socially awkward introvert in me, but I thought they were cute together.

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  2. You've done a great job with this review. It's very thorough and insightful, especially to someone who hasn't seen this movie yet. Thanks for visiting and checking out our reviews over at www.FilmGamesEtc.com

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  3. Great review, you really pointed out a lot of issues I had with this movie!

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  4. Nice job with the in depth review! Like you read in my review, I agree with all the issues you pointed out. I was hoping for better but was expecting what we got. Still, though, I can't say it was horrible...just bad.

    Thanks for commenting on my review, lets stay in touch!
    http://www.twoohsix.com/2013/03/the-last-exorcism-part-ii-movie-review.html

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  5. You were nicer on your review than mine. Yours obviously was more in depth but I was just so disappointed I didn't want to write too much on it. Good job.

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    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes I won't review a movie because it is too dumb to deserve the recognition of a review.

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  6. What a disappointing movie! The original The Last Exorcism wasn't a masterpiece but at least had something to say: this movie instead is lacking tension, fear, rythm, good lines and freshness.
    Poor Ashley Bell, she's to good for these kind of things.

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    1. Yeah, I feel bad for her. But after watching this movie I did go and put 'The Day' on my to-watch list. I hear she's great it in.

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  7. Nice review! Totally agree that Ashley Bell was the one good thing about this movie. Everything else was unwatchable.

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