MARCH 1, 2013
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
It dawned on me today that I haven't tagged a wide theatrical release as "Crap" for over five years, and with only a month to go it'd be a shame to break that record, which is one of two things that are sparing The Last Exorcism Part II from the dishonor (I'll get to the other one in a bit). I've seen worse, but they were "you gotta see how bad this is!" type affairs, whereas I can't even think of a reason to see this movie ironically - there's absolutely nothing to it. It's lettuce without the rest of the veggies, or a pie crust with no filling - it has the FORM of a movie, but nothing that actually makes one worth your time to watch.
For starters, it utterly fails as a sequel even under normal circumstances, but especially so when you consider the infamous ending of the original`, which left its main character's fate unknown, introduced an element with no time left to explain it, and generally just left a lot of people wondering what the hell just happened. So what does the sequel do, which literally starts the second the first left off (the first new shot in the movie after some recap footage is of the camera lying on the ground - this is NOT a found footage film, in case you weren't aware yet)? It has Nell, seemingly without much memory of what happened to her, get checked out by a doctor and quickly placed in a halfway house for troubled girls, all but one of whom aren't even given the honor of being named (so you can forget about what they're doing there in the first place). The cult, Cotton, her brother, the documentary team... none of these things are even mentioned, let alone clarified. Her dad appears as a ghost a couple of times, but that's about the only thing that would require you to even have seen the original, which I'd actually recommend NOT doing if you haven't yet and planned to see this for whatever reason - the more you know about it, the more this is likely to disappoint you. Just know that Ashley Bell's character was possessed and is trying to get over it - it seems to be the only thing the new creative team (albeit with the same producers, including Eli Roth) seem to have remembered or cared about anyway.
But I'm a horror fan - I've certainly seen my share of sequels that seem to forget about their predecessors and do whatever the hell they want. Needless to say, that's far from the only thing about the movie that had me wondering if someone was playing a joke on me and the three other people in the audience this morning. Even more obnoxious than the sequel's refusal to clarify or even really CONNECT anything to the original was the fact that it seemed to ignore itself, presenting a random collection of scenes with next to zero connective tissue and a complete lack of anything one could describe as an advancing plot. I don't know if Bell is just a lousy actress or the script was just so weak (I am leaning heavily toward the latter; she was pretty great in the first film), but it's impossible to get a hold on Nell or where she's at; each scene has her completely different. She's feral in the first scene, practically comatose in the next, generally skittish for a while, then angry, then seemingly OK, then skittish again, then crazy... oh, and on occasion, well, horny. I don't want to get into a ratings debate, but I certainly have no problem suggesting to the next filmmaker that if they want to make a horror film that deals with a teenaged girl's burgeoning sexuality, they do so in an R-rated film so that the audience isn't constantly being reminded that this is the watered down, "safe" version of such material. I don't need to see Ashley Bell going at it with a crucifix, but when you're hampered by a PG-13 and thus you have to get your point across by having your heroine listen to a couple banging the headboard in an adjacent room while CGI cracks form around her face (huh?), my mind starts wandering to the many, many other movies I could be watching instead.
And so it continues; she makes a friend at her hotel job that she's either smitten by or afraid of, depending on the scene and whether or not she's still reacting to the latest confusing jump scare. Part of the problem is that the first movie had a cult, and so any intelligent audience member would be thinking "is this person a cult member posing as her friend?", but writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly doesn't seem to remember any of that, opting to never explain anyone's motives throughout the movie. Is the would-be boyfriend a good guy or not? Fuck if I know; half of his scenes seem to be hallucinations anyway. And just when I had resigned myself to this movie with "Exorcism" in its title wouldn't actually have an exorcism, an exorcist is called out of nowhere and we go through the usual nonsense, sans any buildup or reason to give a shit if he was successful or not (though I do love that they planned to transfer the soul into a chicken). This includes more visions of dubious nature (including some of herself), more lame CGI effects, and a ridiculous climax that sets up a third film no one should have any interest in seeing.
My favorite go-nowhere bit has to be the character of Seizure Girl, so named because we see her once, having a seizure. Nell wakes up, walks around her halfway house a bit, and sees the girl start to contort much like she did, only to start foaming at the mouth and convulsing. The other girls in the house run over, 911 is called, Nell's roommate Gwen gives an evil look that is never explained, and... that's it. No one mentions the girl or the incident ever again. I can only assume that the movie was originally much longer and someone had it reduced to a typical 90 minutes, as it's hardly the only example of what appears to be some reshaping (the 3 "additional editors" in the end credits are another tell-tale sign). Likewise, her boyfriend's first scene is very vague, as if there was an actual introduction beforehand, and even if they never got into the other girls at the house I'm sure that at least SOME POINT her roommate was given an actual identifying character trait beyond her funky hair. I also assume that at one point there was at least a throwaway line about her brother, who is the only character of note we knew for sure wasn't killed at the end of the last movie and would seemingly be a person of interest if they had any plans to return her to her family or investigate further as to what happened.
So what's the thing I liked? A parade sequence around the end of the first act (going in half hour increments, I mean - there's no structure to the movie or progression to the story that one would allow someone to define anything as a typical act), where Nell and her new pals walk around during a Mardi Gras-type celebration (it seems a bit too small to be the actual Mardi Gras). There's a decent little creepout moment involving a masked character watching her from across the street, and later comes the only halfway decent bit of suspense in the entire movie, where she sees one of those dudes who paint themselves silver and pretend to be a statue. She watches him for a while and when she leans down to put something in his cup, he says something eerie (OR DOES HE?), and then later seems to be following her. Of course, like everything else in the goddamn movie, it has no real payoff, but for a few moments I was actually engaged and hopeful that this slow burn would be worth the effort. Alas, it ends even worse than the first one did, with a ton of horrendous looking CGI fire and a bad hard rock song playing over the soundtrack, as if the filmmakers were mocking us for not having walked out a long time ago.
You know what this movie reminded me of? Molly Hartley. It too had an opening scene that felt tacked on, a bunch of grasping at straws and go nowhere "reveals" in place of an actual story, and a dumb ending that tried to be daring but couldn't actually be so since it was hampered by its teen-friendly rating. The only difference is, that movie wasn't screwing up a potentially interesting franchise. No wonder Lionsgate didn't bother doing the sequel (CBS films handled it this time) - they knew this wouldn't even be worth sticking on their shelf for a year before dumping it direct to video.
What say you?