When the creators of The Last Exorcism Part II swapped pseudo-verité realism for psychological realism, they made it a lot harder to take their franchise seriously, especially now that you get a good look at actress Ashley Bell, who reprises her role as Nell, the possessed victim of demonic rape. Most of Part II follows Nell’s attempts to overcome her fears of being attacked by the demon Abalam again. Throughout, Abalam’s role as the negative psychic residue of the otherwise neurotically sheltered Nell’s first hormonal stirrings (boys!) is overstated. Various well-meaning but incompetent parties offer Nell help, like her equally inexperienced boyfriend, Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), her fair-weather teenage gal pals, and the ghost of her abusive father, who keeps trying to caress Nell and then shoot her. Nobody really cares about Nell as nobody’s observant enough to notice how shaken she is by Abalam’s conspicuous visitations, like when Nell has a vision of her father being eviscerated by one of her new friends, then-possessed by the demon. The film’s supporting characters are only distracted by Nell’s behavior long enough to gawk at her. Everyone is insensitive for no good reason, depriving Nell’s hormonal problems of any psychological weight. The original film’s jump-scare chills similarly don’t work now that, minus its found footage, pseudo-documentary style, you can actually see the monsters jumping out of the shadows.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 14, 2013