Lost in all the jokes about the very existence of a sequel to 2010’s The Last Exorcism—“The Lastest Exorcism?” etc.—is a much more simple reason it isn’t necessary: Everything that was good about the first movie is dead. The problem with most found-footage horror movies is the mundane lulls before and between the punctuating spasms of supernatural activity, but The Last Exorcism reversed the formula, surrounding a run-of-the-mill demon-possession tale with a funny, ironic character study about a sham exorcist who unwittingly stumbles into the real thing. Once the back-arching and mythological hoo-hah began in earnest, the film slid into an ending that made audiences groan, and that low point is where the story picks up with The Last Exorcism Part II, an abysmal sequel that abandons the found-footage concept, along with the pockets of wit and originality that made its predecessor salvageable.
The only real carry-over here, for reasons of mortality, is Ashley Bell, the Louisiana country girl whose corporeal form was invaded by a beastie named Abalam. In the dumbest of the film’s three dozen fake scares, she turns up disheveled and confused in a private residence, and the authorities place her in a foster home in New Orleans among other abused and abandoned teenage girls. With the support of her new friends and a job on a motel cleaning crew, Bell inches her way back to normalcy, in spite of escalating signs that Abalam is looking for a host again. She even strikes up a relationship with a shy co-worker (Spencer Treat Clark) that awakens her slumbering libido, which only makes her more receptive to the forces of evil.
The Last Exorcism Part II summons all the clichéd New Orleans atmosphere it can muster: voodoo cults, Mardi Gras floats, old-timey radios that only play crackling blues music from the ’20s and ’30s. But these are spices in the familiar gumbo of levitations, guttural voices, and ineffectual incantations that’s been ladled out in the 40 years since William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. There’s a Carrie-like element to this sheltered religious girl from the sticks trying to be a normal teenager, but Bell’s uncertainty in the lead reflects more on her limitations than her character’s. She had the right look for the Plain Jane victim in the first movie; here, she’s the victim of its success.