Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Last Exorcism Part II

With Great Power

This sequel will go down as one of those that have gone horribly off tangent to its source material and original, which is a pity because the first film had a solid finale which left it as a cliffhanger of sorts, but this direct follow up junked every good thing about the movie in no less than 5 minutes into the film, and had everything go downhill after that. For writer-director Ed Gass-Donnelly, I'm sorry to say that while you have had good intentions and decided to foward the story without the use of the found-footage gimmick, I wonder why you didn't choose to be less derivative from classics such as Carrie and Firestarter.

The first film worked because of a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it was a compelling premise, where a jaded pastor-conman decided to spill the beans in his profession, and herein lies the actual reason that it was found-footage because of an embedded documentary crew that followed him around while he exposed the secrets in his shady trade. Then there's proper character building, where we empathized with Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), and understood why he decided to make good the wrongs in his life, and this worked into a tale of faith. Then the antagonist, spearheaded by Ashley Bell's wonderful portrayal as Nell, contained all ingredients necessary that blended horror and mystery together, plus her ability to contort herself in all angles imaginable. And who can forget that goosebumps raising finale.

Not a lot of people took to that film of course, but it worked well for me. Then came Gass-Donnelly and his idea of continuing directly where the first film left off, was quite brilliant. Naturally there isn't any reason to pursue this in found footage again, so the major decision was to come up with a straight narrative film, following Nell as she ends up in a girls' home, since she did not bear any memories on what had happened in the final few moments of the first film. And here is where everything turned south as far as the story went. We get introduced to characters who were as flimsy as they were cardboard, and a romance that was totally flat from the get go.

Yes we know that Nell is given every opportunity to assimilate back to normal society, but this was boring as hell when translated for the big screen, because there wasn't much emotions involved, and made it look very artificial, with scenes included because they just should. There were attempts to spook the audience, but even this relied on the tried and tested techniques which didn't offer anything new, especially when threats were issued usually through scratchy voices that may have come from imagination. To add further insult, there wasn't much of a "last" exorcism here, so the title was nothing more than to remotely link this film to the previous one, which had every reason to be "last", because well, that's what had happened. Here, while the exorcism performed was of a different style, it was so small a portion of screen time that it was quite negligible, especially its outcome.

What made it worthwhile was went Gass-Donnelly shifted gears to add a sense of urgency into the narrative in the final act, and things were really looking up especially when we had Nell confront her inner demons, and pick a side to root for. But then the brakes got applied again when you suddenly realize that the director had gone the direction of films such as Carrie and Firestarter, both written by Stephen King, and you wonder whether that's all that Gass-Donnelly can do, to become nothing more than a derivative of those two works. This film could have been labeled as "Nell" and perhaps it may win over some thought that it's about the misadventures of a possessed character, rather than the process to get her exorcised for good. Rewatching the first film will give you better value, and thrills.

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