Dave's Rating:

2.5

GodNellSatan: The Oneness

Ween, that goofy absurdist-rock band you used to listen to in college, once made a record called GodWeenSatan: The Oneness. It had nothing to do with either God or Satan but it did have its own demon/deity mascot-thing known as The Boognish. The songs were nonsense and it was all pretty entertaining for people who were high.

Now someone has made the rough equivalent of that album in the form of a slow-burning sequel to the jumpy found-footage horror movie,The Last Exorcism. It's also kind of nonsense but, as I learned at the first public screening last night, fairly effective entertainment for its fairly-smelling-of-weed audience (more proof besides my own nose: the pre-screening entertainment by a local radio station, which also included a surprise appearance by producer Eli Roth, involved a "Who has the weirdest thing in their purse?" contest and the winner had stuffed hers full of fried chicken -- yes, really).

Nell, the demon-besieged home-schooled hick from the first film (contortion wizardess Ashley Bell) is still being chased by Abalam, a minor demon in Christian theology. Abalam has a bit of that Oneness thing going on himself as he's both sparring partners with the wacked-out, body-hating, fundamentalist version of God that Nell was raised with and also the dark, groovy, finally-learning-to-masturbate flip side of the crazy religion coin. When Nell talks to other people (always the wrong people, of course) about her struggles, they use traditional born-again sales pitch language to encourage her. They tell her stuff like, "He loves you so much. Just accept him." Except they're always talking about Abalam. So he's more than a mascot, he's both good and evil in one go and he's courting her with a view toward a blood wedding.

Enter a possible boyfriend (Spencer Treat Clark), a masked Satanic cult keeping close tabs on Nell, some possibly creepy roommates, a ham-fisted sexual awakening subtext-turned-text and, best of all, some local spiritualists who find Nell and try to help sort it all out. And since it's set in New Orleans the group's main turban-wearing lady (Tarra Riggs) brought her own chicken along, too, but for the purposes of sacrifice. When her crew jumps in the middle of God and Abalam to break up the band, well... stuff happens.

The themes of division and duality are mirrored in the direction by Ed Gass-Donnelly, just not in the way you'd hope. Shackled to a PG-13 and the expectations of young audiences who love cheap jump-scares, Gass-Donnelly's clear preference for atmospheric dread and long-take tension is routinely disrupted by jolts that turn out to mean nothing at all. It shreds what he's trying to do with tone and mood, kind of like a mischief demon out to turn something cool into nonsense. It aims for House of the Devil territory and misses the shot by this much, finally managing a last moment burst of energy that promises another sequel, one whose title will most likely contain the words lasty-last-last. If we're lucky.

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