(On Cable TV, June 2015) There’s not a whole lot to say about wholly-unmemorable The Last Exorcism Part II: While the original has an unexpected small kick to it, this sequel seems determined to be as dull as possible. Thankfully gone is the found-footage motif, but also gone are the dramatic ironies of the previous film’s skeptic rediscovering faith, or any kind of thematic depth whatsoever. Ashley Bell acquits herself honorably in her role, but there’s simply not much there for her to do: Much of the film is unimaginatively executed according to horror-film formula (and not the good formula either). The moment-to-moment scares are ineffective, the film doesn’t quite know what to do with its New Orleans setting, the conclusion is one we’ve seen countless times before… In other words, The Last Exorcism Part II is exactly the kind of cheap horror sequel that give a bad name to cheap horror sequels. The film’s sole saving grace is that it’s simply dull, rather than offensive or irritating. On the other hand, it means that it’s hard to find anything to say about a film so devoid of any substance. Fortunately, it’s redundant to tell everyone to forget about The Last Exorcism Part II – it only takes a few minutes for any lasting impressions of the film to disappear on their own.
(On-demand video, March 2012) I wasn’t expecting much from this low-budget found-footage horror film: I’m getting allergic to the found-footage shtick (which always ends up the same way), my responses to Christian mythology are muted, and for some reason I had the film tagged as “not well-reviewed” in my mental database. Much to my surprise, though, the film actually works well until its last two or three minutes. The documentary-style setup is more effective than most other horror films in setting up its “what if this could be true?” premise, and Patrick Fabian is almost immediately compelling as the conflicted lead protagonist, an exorcist who has come to doubt even the basis of his faith. Naturally, he’s in for some trying events as he heads over to Louisiana to show a documentary crew the flim-flam behind exorcisms. To its credit, The Last Exorcism ratchets its thrills gradually, and keeps a certain ambiguity as to its fantastic nature. It effectively constrains its characters into fairly outlandish motivations, locking them into a situation where most of us would run and not look back. Ashley Bell is also remarkably creepy as a possessed (?) 16-year-old girl. The film doesn’t do anything startlingly new with the found-footage format, although there’s one grisly cat sequence that’s relatively clever. Where the film falls apart, however, is in the last two minutes, as it seems to shift in an entirely different gear and settle on a very disappointing conclusion that doesn’t feel very satisfying. In a less-favorable state of mind, I may have been tempted to dismiss the film based on its lousy ending. As it is, though, I’m still surprised enough by the rest of the film that I’m tempted to be lenient, and forgive two bad minutes out of 87.