Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Last Exorcism: Part 2


God Asks, The Devil Commands

8.0 out of 10 | DVD or Rental

Rated: PG-13 Horror violence, terror, and brief language.
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes

Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Writers: Damien Chazelle, Ed Gass-Donnelly, based on characters by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland
Cast: Ashley Bell, Julia Garner, Spencer Treat Clark, David Jensen, Tarra Riggs, Louis Herthum, Muse Watson, Erica Michelle, Sharice A Williams

SYNOPSIS: As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of an exorcism performed on her at her family's farm, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.

REVIEW: Small Town Murder Songs writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly steps into the demonic space to see if he possesses the skills to carry on with the story of a farm girl named Nell who was the subject of an exorcism as a young girl, now trying to get her life back together in the wake of her adolescent trauma. Gass-Donnelly co-writes with Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench) based on the characters created by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland.

Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell, The Day) is the only survivor of a brutal cult-like ritualistic massacre in the Louisiana woods, leaving her without a father and brother and leaving behind many unanswered questions of her experience. Immediately after the event, Nell is found and taken to a hospital for treatment. Afterward she is sent to a halfway house for teenage girls looking to leave their past behind them and set out on a fresh path. The center is run by Frank Merle (Muse Watson, Meeting Evil) who looks to assist the girls in their recovery. At first, Nell seems to be getting better. She makes friends with the other girls in the house, especially her roommate Gwen (Julia Garner, The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Nell takes a job as part of the housekeeping staff in a local hotel. Her nightmares stop and after a few months, Nell seems to be ready to get her life together. When Nell starts to catch the attention of another worker at the hotel, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark, The Last House on the Left), she starts to open herself up to new experiences and sensations. Unfortunately, that is when she starts seeing strange persons loitering around and staring at her, she starts to hear voices, and she starts to see visions of her dead father Louis (Louis Herthum, The Last Exorcism) with warnings of her demise and her salvation. When Nell sees more and more signs of the demon Abalom returning to haunt her, Calder (David Jensen, Looper), Cecile (Tarra Riggs, The Help), and Jeffrey (E. Roger Mitchell, Flight), who have watched her since her stint in the hospital, try to perform one last exorcism to rid Nell of her demonic plague.

Picking up right where the first film left off, writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly and writer Damien Chazelle take The Last Exorcism to the next level. The original film was shot in a mockumentary style in the tradition of The Devil Inside and any number of ghost hunter reality shows. In the original film, Patrick Fabian's preacher Cotton Marcus, Ashley Bell's Nell Sweetzer, and Louis Herthum's father Louis Sweetzer made for a surprisingly creepy and intriguing story. The curse of the "documentary' way of camera work is like that of a first person narrative novel. If something happens to the camera, the film is essentially over. Director Daniel Stamm did a phenomenal job of creating creepy tones and a satisfying horror film. Gass-Donnelly ditches the first person hand held camera work in favor of more traditional cinematography. I miss Stamm's work, but Gass-Donnelly make use of the stellar performance of Ashley Bell.

Ashley Bell's Nell is a bundle of twitchy nervousness. Every experience is brand new and daunting, every move a tentative fearful step. Even as a naive young woman home-schooled and given religious instruction by her father, the Nell that emerges bloody and amnesiac from the woods is as fragile as an eggshell. While not shot in the 'documentary' style, the camera is focused on Nell throughout the film. With Nell as the center of the story, Ashley Bell's performance is near mesmerizing. Julia Garner is also notable as Nell's house-sister Gwen, a rebellious city girl with alabaster skin and a perpetual devious smirk on her thin blood red lips. Watson's Frank Merle is the halfway house's supervisor and father figure to the girls, hopeful for their recovery and always willing to offer sage advice. The trio of exorcists, David Jensen's Calder, Tarra Riggs' Cecile, and E. Roger Mitchell's Jeffrey, prove that not rituals can be performed easily and satisfactory.

Being shot in the traditional horror cinematic way, we are treated to the typical long shots with characters creeping around hallways and around corners in search of something to jump out and scare them (and us, the audience). The use of music is more at work in this sequel, making the scares more reliant on booming horns or drawn out and shrieking strings to set the mood. There are a couple moments of surprising frights, but The Last Exorcism: Part 2 is more successful with suspense and the dread of what may become of Nell against the unseen, but felt, forces of Abalom.

A fan of the first film, I looked forward to seeing what becomes of Nell. In that sense, the film is a success. To see the aftermath of a character set against such insurmountable odds and facing a crisis of faith against unnatural demonic forces is appealing. Ashley Bell does not disappoint! The story is not as creepy as the first film. It also does not have the strength of Fabian's Cotton Marcus interplay and dynamic with Nell and the Sweetzer family. In this sequel, Nell is all alone against her enemy, with the other characters standing as backdrop while she struggles with her identity, her faith, and her place in the world.

The Last Exorcism: Part 2 is a decent continuation of the original tale of men and woman against the atrocities of hell. If you are a fan of the genre, have faith that Nell will not disappoint. The story may not be all it could be, but Ashley Bell makes the sequel worth watching.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I enjoyed the film as well. Ashley Bell rawks.