Published: 00:00, 05 June 2013
| Updated: 11:46, 05 June 2013
Forty years after William Friedkin scared the bejesus out of cinema audiences with The Exorcist, Hollywood's fascination with the "spiritual warfare" of casting out evil continues in The Last Exorcism Part II.
Ed Gass-Donnelly's lumbering sequel begins directly after the climactic bloodbath of the 2010 supernatural horror, which documented the demonic possession of a sweet, naïve farm girl through the terrified eyes of a visiting film crew.
The found-footage conceit, popularised by The Blair Witch Project, has thankfully been jettisoned for this second helping of hoary hocus-pocus.
Instead, Gass-Donnelly adopts a traditional third-person approach to the beleaguered central character's battle of wills with dark forces beyond her control, spiced up with paranormal seduction reminiscent of The Entity.
The flimsy script speaks in the same tongues as countless other horror films, bombarding the heroine with omens of impending doom that foreshadow the wanton blood-letting of the final act.
Our lack of empathy for or emotional connection with any of characters precludes any suspense.
When these people die, as most of them surely must, their screams of terror fall on deaf ears.
A snappy prologue transplants Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), the sole survivor of the first film, from the Louisiana bayou to the Southern gothic surroundings of New Orleans.
She is discovered by strangers in a catatonic state, having borne witness to the slaughter of her father Louis (Louis Herthum) and the film crew.
Doctors place Nell with Frank Merle (Mute Watson), who runs a refuge for disturbed and emotionally damaged girls.
Over time, Nell bonds with her spunky roommate Gwen (Julia Garner) and secures employment as a hotel chambermaid, working alongside shy guy Chris (Spencer Treat Clark), who clearly holds a torch for her.
Nell begins to suffer disturbing visions and learns that she is being watched by a secret society known as Order Of The Right Hand, which promises to cleanse the evil that still courses through her veins.
As the young woman's mental state deteriorates, Frank fears for the safety of his other girls and attempts to convince Nell that the nightmares are not real.
"In a week, you'll look back on this with a sense of perspective," he reassures her.
"In a week, we'll probably all be dead," snaps Nell, sounding the death knell for most of the nameless supporting cast.
The Last Exorcism Part II conjures all of the spooky madness you expect and nothing more, barely tapping into the rich ghoulish history of New Orleans.
Bell adopts a rictus of fear for majority of the film, with occasional flickers of a smile during the tepid romantic subplot with Clark.
Supporting cast cling forlornly to their lifeless lines of dialogue and edge-of-seat scares are in depressingly short supply.