Susan Granger’s review of “The Last Exorcism: Part II” (CBS Films)
Inadvertently coinciding with the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict, there’s this timely tale demonic possession. Producer Eli Roth (“Hostel”) was quick to take advantage of the situation, telling interviewers, “Without the pope there, a lot of people feel that a gateway to evil will open up.”
In the 2010’s “The Last Exorcism,” Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), a deeply religious Bayou farm girl, was supposedly freed from the demon Abalam. Continuing where the first film left off, traumatized, terrified Nell is discovered in a rural Louisiana swamp, having escaped from the coven that helped her give birth to an unholy baby. She’s moved to Devreaux Home, a transitional halfway house in New Orleans, where she tries to put the pieces of her life back together with the help of a well-intentioned therapist Frank Merle (Muse Watson). She starts a new job as a hotel housekeeper and acquires a first-ever boyfriend, her
co-worker Chris (Spencer Treat Clark). But there’s still something ominous troubling Nell, evidenced by ominous visits from her father’s ghost. It’s malevolent Abalam, who follows her around the French Quarter wearing a Mardi Gras mask, prompting birds to dive-bomb into windows, dogs to bark, insects to swarm and voices to emerge from radio static. They’re manipulative shock scares. And there’s that telltale bit of Nell’s hair that Nurse Cicile (Tarra Riggs) secretly snipped off to squirrel away in her gris-gris bag – portending an inevitable voodoo ritual.
Written by Damien Chazelle and director/editor Ed Gass-Donnelly, who helmed an obscure gothic thriller called “Small Town Murder Songs,” it latches onto the allegation that 42% of Americans believe in occult possession by the devil, alluding to dozens of references that Jesus exorcised demons in the Gospels, and the Catholic Church maintains at least 10 official exorcists in the United States.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Last Exorcism: Part II” churns out a tortured 3, teasingly providing a setup for yet another supernatural sequel en route to its proper place on the DVD roster.