When producer Eli Roth pondered continuing “The Last Exorcism” tale, the financial reasoning was clear (the 2010 film made $41 million from a $1.8 million budget). But what Roth needed to pin down was a way to make the second movie stand out.
In a time when ever-shrinking horror-movie budgets can justify a sequel for essentially any film, Roth explained that focusing on strong performances from the cast would separate “The Last Exorcism: Part II.”
“We really want the level of performance to be high. The expectations for acting in a scary movie have dropped so dramatically. I think it’s a shame,” he said. “When people see really good acting in a horror movie, they’re actually surprised. We wanted to maintain that. We wanted all of the performances to be terrific. We wanted it to be a real movie. I think that horror gets a bad name because a lot of the people who make it don’t care.”
At the center of the drive for strong performances is the returning star (and MTV Movie Award nominee) Ashley Bell. The young actress defied expectations in the first movie and back-bended all the way to an Independent Spirit Award. Her shocking performance in the original became another factor in creating a sequel. “Ashley Bell is such a superb actor, and we really wanted to create a vehicle that could showcase her talents, even further than the first one,” Roth said. “She just blew us away at every turn.”
So Roth needed a way to continue the story of Bell’s possessed Nell Sweetzer. The concept broke the mold of the typical possession movie.
“We love the idea of ’What if something was possessing you but instead of fighting it, you start realizing that maybe you were better off with it in you.’ I love the idea that this thing is in love with her,” Roth said. “Instead of taking over her body, it really tries to seduce her and bring her in. We had never seen that before. I think the key was that we really took our time making it.”
The most noticeable difference between the 2010 film and “The Last Exorcism: Part II,” which opens Friday (March 1), is the change in perspective. Gone is the found-footage format, a decision which Roth said came out waiting for the right time to follow up the original hit.
“We took a year in between. The first one came out in 2010. This one comes out in 2013,” Roth told MTV News. “Instead of rushing to get another movie out exactly a year after the last one, let’s really take our time and get the story right because if we’re going to continue, we’re going to have to have a real strong reason to.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Last Exorcism: Part II.”