Thursday 22 February 2018

Even the devil is dull in incoherent horror

Paul Whitington

Film Review: The last exorcism part II (15A, limited release, 88 minutes) 1 STAR

Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly Stars: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Muse Watson, Spencer Treat Clark

Some of you may have noticed an inherent contradiction in this film's title, but that is only one of a long list of problems assailing this lazy, sloppy, incoherent and idiotic sequel.

In Daniel Stamm's clever and pacey 2010 original, a dodgy southern preacher who practiced fake exorcisms, but was really an atheist, felt out of his depth when confronted with a real possession.

Stamm's film was shot in the 'found footage' style and relied on atmosphere rather than special effects. And very good it was too, except for a sloppy last 10 minutes in which a disciplined film collapsed into bad Hammer horror.

The victim of demonic possession in that first film was a naïve and deeply religious country girl called Nell (Ashley Bell). Only she survived the bloodbath at the end of Last Exorcism 1 and, as this film kicks off, she's released from a mental institution into the care of Frank Merle, a kindly social worker who runs a halfway house for vulnerable girls.

Not unreasonably, everyone has taken Nell's claim that she was ravished by Satan as evidence of insanity: over time, Frank persuades her that her recovery will be hastened if she accepts that the possession was a figment of her imagination.

Only trouble is, it wasn't, and Nell is just beginning to settle down and make friends when the devil shows up for a return engagement.

The Last Exorcism Part II had a budget almost three times larger than the original, and yet somehow manages to look 10 times more cut-price and shoddy.

Perhaps that's because Stamm is not involved in this sequel: his place has been taken by a journeyman called Ed Gass-Donnelly, who makes mincemeat of an already incoherent story and hardly manages to orchestrate a single decent scare.

Some B pictures are so bad they're funny, but not this one, and as poor Nell descends yet again into the torments, the other characters mainly stand around and watch. The devil does too little, too late to provide much in the way of entertainment, and poor Bell is left to suffer alone in a sea of incompetence.

Irish Independent

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