Like Polanski’s “Repulsion,” internal trauma is externalized into hallucinatory horror.
“If he can seduce you, he’ll be free.”
Review by David Feltman
Dropping the faux-documentary conceit of its predecessor, “The Last Exorcism Part 2” continues to chart the life of Nell (Ashley Bell) post-devil worshipping cult and, sadly, drops any reference to loveable preacher/con-man Patrick Fabian. Well actually, most of the loveable and interesting aspects of the original are excised in this lackluster sequel. Bell’s amazing contortionism is never utilized, there are no interesting or sympathetic characters aside from Bell to help move the story forward and the menacing cult members do literally nothing more than stand around on street corners looking menacing.
The one interesting aspect resurrected for this new chapter is the notion of possession being a metaphor, or perhaps an outright façade, for sexual abuse. Like Polanski’s “Repulsion,” internal trauma is externalized into hallucinatory horror. Bell is tormented by phantoms of her father (Louis Herthum returning with a serious Abraham complex) and phone calls from a child that she cannot remember if she really had or not. Her first real romance is perennially shrouded by the specter of this abuse. Likewise, the plot is hinged on the idea that she must willingly give herself to her demon stalker, doubling down on the unnerving subtext. All reference to the religious trappings that gave rise to her torment are given a sinister veneer and the loss of the cinema verite style allows Brendan Steacy’s cinematography to be voyeuristic without pretense, peeking around corners and tightly framed to heighten suspense.
But any good ideas established in the story are fumbled away in the third act when the audience is introduced to a secret organization of voodoo enthusiasts fully equipped with a chicken. The film suddenly self-destructs in this moment, becoming choppy, unfocused and embarrassingly reliant on the “magical negro” stereotype to carry it to its finale. It’s always frustrating to recognize a promising kernel of an idea hopelessly choked out by so much mediocrity. Unfortunately, that kernel just isn’t enough to justify this movie. There are better ways to spend $13 and 90 minutes.