As moviegoers, we’ve been spoiled rotten this past decade. When a good movie is released that makes a pile of dough, the studios have been more than happy to invest money in a sequel, or two, or three. Unlike the days of Hollywood past, these latter-day sequels usually measure up to the original. Sure, there are still dogs out there, but long gone are the days of Jaws 2 and Rocky 2...and Jaws 3, and Jaws: The Revenge. The willingness of original stars and creative teams (i.e., them being contractually obligated) to retread familiar ground is a big part of this. Outdated notions of artistic integrity don’t stand a chance with all that potential money flying around.
We seem to be in the salad days of the franchise sequel. But that doesn’t mean the old ways don’t yet hold sway. The Last Exorcism was a nifty little found footage horror flick from 2010. Sure, found footage was an overused gimmick by the time that film was made, but it wasn’t enough to distract from an otherwise well-made film. Produced for a measly 1.8 million bucks, it went on to take in over 60 million. That type of return on investment gets a film a sequel. Unfortunately, the talent and creative energy that made the first film a success is not present in the sequel.
The Last Exorcism Part II (catchy title) sees the return of Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), who, we find out, escaped from all the weirdness that closed out the previous film. She’d been possessed by a nasty little demon in that one but now she’s free and rebuilding her life in a group home in New Orleans. Of course, as time passes, strange phenomena begin to plague her life, and she, and the audience, have to suffer through a slow, slow, SLOW build to the finale. Did I mention it was slow?
Films with pacing this somnambulistic are usually the result of a thin idea. In this case, the film’s producers seemed to get as far as saying “Part II” in their preliminary meetings before the visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads blinded them to the fact their movie needed a frickin’ story. So who is ultimately responsible for this mess, anyway? That would be director/screenwriter Ed Gass-Donnelly and screenwriter Damien Chazelle, two men who had nothing to do with the first film. Where were the original filmmakers? I’ll get back to you just as soon as producer Eli Roth returns my calls.
One saving grace for the film is that none of the cast members were overmatched by the material. Passable grades all around, and extra points for Bell in the lead, although she could have dialed back the hysteria at points. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure that wasn’t her call to make.
But no matter what, I keep coming back to the film’s lack of forward motion. If a film can’t hold a viewer’s attention, then it’s not a good film. Enough said. The Last Exorcism Part II is a worse film than Alien: Resurrection, because something actually happened in Alien: Resurrection; events actually played out on screen that a viewer could follow and...enjoy...I guess. Do yourself a favor. Go watch a good movie.