The Last Time Until It’s Not

A timely review? That’s new. As the kids say though, I have feels. I went to go see The Last Exorcism part II, and found it ultimately disappointing. Most of you will be saying I shouldn’t be shocked by this, and I will return that I really wasn’t particularly, save that it was almost better than I expected. In fact I would say that the first two thirds or so of the film ‘were’ better than I expected, to the point of being legitimately good. The last third… well we’ll come around to that.

exorcism

Spoiler warnings up front. There’s really not much ‘to’ spoil, but regardless I will give you a fair shot.

The first thing that’s going to get brought up is that this is a straightforward horror movie rather than being “found footage” like the original. Honestly, that’s fine. That style worked well for the story of the first film but wouldn’t have translated well to this one. In fact the early parts of the sequel do most of the same things well that the first did, that being pacing and tension. It has more lame jump scares and even lamer fake-outs, but by and large it turns up the temperature very slowly until by the time you’re boiling you never noticed it getting hot. The absence of Patrick Fabian leaves a yawning hole in the cast, but Ashley Bell does a more than admirable job of just about carrying the film on her shoulders. It has some pretty creative eeriness to it at points (even if most of the best scenes were already shown in the trailer) and tugs on a few threads of a fairly compelling theme. It’s really a pity the last section of the movie had to happen.

In the span of a scene Exorcism turns into a completely different film. Writing, acting, and direction all seem to visibly deflate as characters come in from nowhere to deadpan convoluted exposition. The remaining scary bits all seem to be lifted from other movies and are executed so half-heartedly that they lose what little impact they might have had. Even the obligatory jump scares stopped getting me the closer we got to the end, as all the tension had been pretty much let slack. The actual exorcism scene in the climax is almost hilarious to watch. At no level do the three “exorcists” demonstrate even the barest pretense of competency. In addition to lacking the charisma of Cotton Marcus from the initial outing, no one in the group seems to possess the kind of authority and moral agency that this role honestly requires (speaking as a connoisseur of many bad exorcism movies). This would be alright except that they’re set up to be these white knights from some occult religious order and absolutely fail to deliver the goods. At the first sign of trouble they pretty much fold up and immediately go for a desperate last resort that provokes exactly the worst case scenario any sane person watching this movie would predict. At that point though we still have an overlong, over the top denouement that totally undermines the tone of the rest of the movie.

While I was definitely a fan of the first film, I honestly wasn’t thinking this one would be any good. What disappointed me then was that it brushed so close to defying even my own expectations and breaking out as a very worthy sequel before somehow inexplicably driving itself off a cliff. That said, even more than the original movie this was a showcase for Ashley Bell, who may actually be one of my new favorite actresses. It’s unfortunate that all the praise I can conjure for the first part of the movie gets overwhelmed by the laundry list of complaints that pile up in the film’s tail end. If you chose to leave the theater around the sixty minute mark and content yourself with no ending being better than a bad ending, you’ll probably have a few good things to talk about.

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