Movie evil is like a bad penny. It just keeps turning up.
Too bad for poor Nell. When last we saw her in 2010, this backwoods gal was being exorcised by a charlatan of a pastor who realized, a bit too late, that he was dealing with an actual card-carrying demon.
These days, Nell seems to be doing much better. After a short, productive stay in a psyche ward, she's moved into a shelter for abused and disturbed women. She's gotten a job as a hotel maid. She even smiles on occasion. And she has reason to. After all, as horrible as her previous exorcism was, it's over now. It even said so in the title. You know, The Last Exorcism.
Alas, demons treat very little with sanctity—certainly not movie titles. So just as Nell starts to feel like herself again, her one-time evil soul mate comes back for a visit, and it's pretty obvious that he'd like to room with the girl for a while longer. Forever, in fact. He's so eager to take up residence in Nell again that he's willing to do anything to convince her it's for the best. He'll try to woo Nell by flinging birds at church windows, romance her by causing seizures. He'll talk dirty to her through radios and phones. He must figure, what girl wouldn't want to be in perpetual fear for life and sanity?
Yeah, not quite the makings of a Taylor Swift song. But then, demons don't really understand true love very well.
Nell, who knows a thing or two about the downside of abusive, demonic relationships, resists her demon stalker. Or, at least she sometimes does. And so for that, we can sometimes give her credit. Nell's dead father (who doesn't always act dead) comes back to tell her how much he loves her and how bad the demon is. He also seems to want to save the world. That's good, isn't it? He and others try to help Nell. (Alas, the help almost always is either ineffectual or counterproductive—and sometimes involves plans to murder Nell—so we can only give them partial credit.)
When Nell arrives at the shelter, she's given her treasured cross necklace and immediately moves to put it on. But Frank, the shelter's overseer, cautions against it—telling her she doesn't have to go back to her old faith.
"I don't believe in demons, Nell, but I do believe in evil," he tells her. "Not by ghosts, but by people." After a moment of thought, she pockets the necklace and later tells Frank she believes her previous experiences weren't real. When the women of the shelter are asked to write a letter to their abusers, she writes one to the demon. "Dear Abalam," she writes, "I've decided that you're not real."
But it's not long before Nell comes face-to-face with a bit of "proof"—her previous possessed contortions shown in living color on YouTube. Then she starts "seeing" and "hearing" and "experiencing" things again. So in a moment of desperation, she slaps on her cross necklace and visits a church. "Please Lord," she prays in a pew. "Please show me the way." A man—presumably the pastor—comes in the sanctuary and sits beside her, talking about how she should put away her struggles, open her heart and let "him" inside. We're intended to believe the man's talking about Jesus until birds start slamming against the windows and shadows hover outside the church. Our assumption quickly shifts to Abalam.
Nell flees the church and shortly thereafter runs into a woman who comes from the "Order of the Right Hand." The group is determined to help her, the woman claims—through the context of voodooism. The woman says she'll petition Baron Samedi (the voodoo god of the dead) and then treats Nell to a hypnotic séance-like experience. When that doesn't work, she calls in other Right Hand folks to perform another exorcism—hoping to cast the piece of the demon who's still inside Nell into a chicken, where they'll kill it.
Would it be a spoiler to tell you that it doesn't work?
And would it be an understatement to say that there's loads of demonic activity shown in The Last Exorcism Part II?
Throughout, we see occult symbols on walls and such. A man has a pentagram tattooed on his arm. We see people carrying signs proclaiming "The End Is Near." Nell's (presumably) dead father tells her that "the good Lord forgives you and you can be saved," though it becomes clear that her father means to save her by shooting her with a shotgun. Other misaligned souls who try to kill Nell say, "May God forgive me." During an exorcism, Nell's belly is scrawled with the word "Croatoa."
As mentioned, we're told that the demon is in love with Nell. But it's clearly not a chaste, romantic sort of love. Various people say that if Nell freely gives herself to the demon—often couching it in terms of Nell allowing herself to be seduced—the world will come to a rapid end.
We see Nell, apparently asleep, being forced by the unseen spirit. Something unties the top of her gown as Nell squeezes her own (still-covered) breast erotically. She then levitates with her back bent grotesquely, and the implication is that the demon rapes her. In vision or flashback, Nell is shown with another woman, licking her arm and shoulder provocatively. A possessed Nell licks the face of her female roomie. That roommate helps Nell put on lipstick in a sequence filmed to take on quasi-erotic overtones. A voice on the phone talks dirty to Nell.
While she's working as a maid, Nell hears (as do we) a couple having sex in the next room. (She's aroused, and she presses her face and body to the wall to better hear and feel what's happening.) Friends make jokes about the size of private parts and discuss their ribald adventures.
A woman has a violent seizure; she shakes and contorts violently as her mouth foams. A man suffers a similar seizure. Nell's late dad tries to kill her with a shotgun. Someone hits him on the head, traps him in a room and (we gather from the sounds we hear through a shut door) tortures him. When the door opens, the father's not there. We hear other people tortured and killed behind closed doors, too. One window is stamped with a bloody smear. Abalam sets fire to a house, and we hear the screams of those trapped inside. A man, under the influence of a demon, slits his own throat and dies; we see Nell try to stem the flow of blood with her hands.
Nell's nearly killed via IV drip. A demon throws a man out a window. Knives are suspended in the air, pointing at a would-be victim. Trees and cars burst into flame by way of demonic drive-by. In flashback, we see scary moments from Nell's last (as in, most recent before now) monstrous and violent exorcism. As mentioned, birds slam into windows. A dead rabbit is found on a lawn. Tigers fight with one another. A gorilla flings a tire.
Crude or Profane Language
One full f-word along with an incomplete one and some euphamisms for the obscenity, too. A half-dozen or so s-words and other occasional profanities, including "h‑‑‑" and "p‑‑‑." God's name is misused a half-dozen times, and Jesus' name is abused two or three. Frank's called a "douche."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Nell is injected with morphine.
Other Negative Elements
Here's the thing about scary movies: They have to be rooted in something real—or at least what we feel could be real—to work their scary "magic." Jaws works because sharks really are scary when they're in the same part of the ocean as you are. Jaws becomes much less frightening if the shark suddenly grows legs and chases the residents of Amityville down the street. Reality—even outlandish horror-style reality—demands certain rules.
In The Last Exorcism Part II, the demon Abalam is stripped of the rules that lie at the heart of his reality, absolved of his spiritual moorings. The fact that the filmmakers turn to voodoo to evict a demon named in Christian demonology is just one of the many things putting legs on this particular shark, dispelling any thought that anyone involved has an actual story to tell. A story with any sort of meaning or heft.
Because that gargantuan fish actually starts sprouting appendages before the movie even begins.
"God Asks. The Devil Commands," reads the slugline from The Last Exorcism Part II's poster.
"There is no faith without fear," we're told in the trailer.
Both statements are flimsy fallacies, of course. Indeed, they're so far off base they could be easily cleared up with a little help from a second-grade Sunday school teacher … or by a second-grade Sunday school student, for that matter. Not that you'd want your second-grade Sunday schooler looking at anything even related to this strangling string of jump scenes—augmented as it is with the kind of spiritual mumbo jumbo you might read off the back of a Halloween-themed cereal box.
That's because muddled theology and messy spirituality carry with them far bigger problems than just lame, chill-free moviemaking. One more reason among many to pray that, unlike the last go-round, this is the franchise's last exorcism.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ashley Bell as Nell; Julia Garner as Gwen; Spencer Treat Clark as Chris; David Jensen as Calder; Tarra Riggs as Cecile; Louis Herthum as Louis; Muse Watson as Frank Merle
March 1, 2013
Paul Asay Paul Asay