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'The Last Exorcism Part II' review: Much different, much worse

*1/2 (out of four)

As they say, it ain’t over until the mother of the incinerated demon baby sings.

Actually, 17-year-old Nell (Ashley Bell) barely remembers the events of 2010’s hit “The Last Exorcism,” the surprisingly creepy thriller in which the professor from “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” played a priest aiming to expose exorcisms as hooey. He obviously learned his lesson, but in “The Last Exorcism Part II”—whose self-parodying title recalls nonsense like “Final Destination 5”—Nell only vaguely recalls her conflict with a demon named Abalam, who Nell screams will “kill us all!” as she shakes in the bath.

Unfortunately, no one refers to this condition as the Abalam Shakes.

The first “Last Exorcism” made unusually effective use of the found-footage approach and actually explored the vulnerabilities of believers and the doubts of the unconvinced. With a new director and writers, “Part II” dumps the faux-doc style and revives the same shadowy figures and cheap loud noises as the previous 5,000 “Exorcist” rip-offs. Nell moves into a “transitional house” for troubled young women in New Orleans, though the girls don’t appear damaged at all and enjoy the care of a mustached father figure (Muse Watson) who occasionally turns up to say, “What the hell is going on?”

He also promises, “Whatever you’re running from won’t find you here,” a statement that’s just asking to be proven wrong.

It would be a lot more interesting to have Nell live in the wake of the first movie’s terror, rather than periodically forgetting it to giggle about a guy (Spencer Treat Clark) who likes her. Or maybe she could just not continually shake off visions of her dead father (Louis Herthum), to which she always responds, her eyes gaping wide, “Daddy …”

Among the many sins committed by the rarely unsettling and frequently ridiculous “The Last Exorcism Part II,” the worst may be the film teasing the presence of a demon chicken and then not delivering. That’s just not something you joke about.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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