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'Last Exorcism' wasn't, but let's hope 'Part II' is ★

OK, so it wasn't "The Last Exorcism" after all. Here's "Part II," an 88-minute bore without the nervy, shaky-camera found-footage conceit, without the doubting exorcist's moment of truth, without the chills of demonic possession thrills that the low-budget original film served up.

"Part II" is every bit as cheap and far more generic, nothing more than a run-of-the-mill ghost story masquerading as "The Devil Made Her Do It."

Ashley Bell, as Nell, the teen lusted after by Lucifer, seems exhausted, frazzled, out of her acting league and nowhere near her teen years in this sequel. Nell has stumbled into New Orleans, hounded during Mardi Gras even as she tries to convince doctors and those in a mental health halfway house that she's not crazy.

But she's seeing her dead daddy (Louis Herthum). She's hearing voices.

Dogs bark at her passing, gorillas in the zoo act up. And every Mardi Gras reveler in a scary mask stares her down. Frank (Muse Watson), who runs a halfway house, could not be more wrong when he assures her, "Whatever you're running from won't find you here."

"Last Exorcism Part II" is a slower-than-slow thriller built around Bell, who isn't at her most subtle or empathetic here. There's fear and the burden of "If he seduces you, all hope is lost." Not that Bell gets that across. There's no urgency to the performance, or that of anybody else trying to save poor Nell from hell.

It's a film of cheap shriek scares and fizzing frights that pack no punch. The tropes of the genre — exorcists who have the tools but face long odds, bleeding walls, birds that fly into a house where Nell hides out (hey, it was aliens who caused that in "Dark Skies") — are there. But the effects are skimpy and cheesy, with that crazy contortion business the first "Last Exorcist" took to new extremes rarely used.

Filmmaker Ed Gass-Donnelly sets too much of the action in broad daylight, which isn't spooky. The dull acting doesn't hide the fact that there's not enough story to justify setting this in Voodooville, USA — New Orleans.

So one can only hope that when the say "The Last Exorcism," they mean it.

'The Last Exorcism Part II' -- 1 star
MPAA rating:
PG-13 (for horror violence, terror and brief language)
Running time: 1:28
Opened: Friday

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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