Ashley Bell returns for more supernatural shenanigans in The Last Exorcism Part II, opening in theaters today. ShockTillYouDrop.com spoke with the actress about the sequel, the evolution of her character Nell and more.
Continuing where the first film left off, teenage Nell Sweetzer is found dirty and terrified in the woods having just escaped a demon ritual in which a cult helped her give birth to a demon baby. Confused and scared, Nell is examined by doctors but she doesn’t remember much about the previous few months except that as a result of everything, her family is now dead. She is moved into Davreaux – a girls’ halfway house in New Orleans, where she will try to put her life back together with the help of the therapist, Frank Merle. She even begins to date a boy named Chris and starts a job at a local hotel. But something doesn’t feel right to Nell. She is being sought after by the demon who possessed her in the first film. It wants Nell, but in a different way than before…
Shock Till You Drop: So, where is Nell at in this film? Where is she at in her life?
Ashley Bell: This picks up right where the last one ended. She’s shattered, doesn’t remember anything and is completely broken. Stepping back into my into my Doc Martens, so speak. In all of the missing pieces, that’s where the doubt comes in and the scares and manipulation comes in. That’s where the Devil creeps back into Nell.
Shock: How do you keep the character fresh? Is there still a sense of discovery?
Bell: Oh, gosh, everything is discovery for Nell. There’s a child-like quality to her and she sees everything as if it’s for the first time. In this film, she’s thrown into Mardi Gras and New Orleans and she has to choose between good and evil. In this film, the Devil sets up very carefully for Nell a series of firsts. She’s allowed to try make-up, have friends, meet a boy, hear music and then the Devil takes one after the other away. Introducing a boyfriend to Nell, this is like Nell’s love affair with the Devil. We don’t know where he’s going to surface to her and how he’s going to play her.
Shock: Will we ever find out what happened to Cotton?
Bell: I can’t spoil anything! If you saw what happened in Hostel, that’s what will happen to me if I say.
Shock: This isn’t a found footage film this time. Do you agree with the sequel taking the traditional narrative approach and did that change the process for you?
Bell: I thought the idea was brilliant to go back in that direction and that was all Eli Roth and Strike Entertainment. I think what was really cool is that we filmed it under the radar. When everybody heard a sequel coming, they thought it was found footage. I think the trailer and poster and mind-blowing and to surprise everybody that it was jumping styles was great.
Shock: How would you describe Ed Gass-Donnelly’s approach to the film?
Bell: He has a very strong vision. He brought that into this film. It was very important for him to have it set in New Orleans and have it painted as a beautiful backdrop. This eerie, glossy, slow-burn backdrop. I just think it glows. There are different exorcisms, hints at a New Orleans influence with voodoo exorcisms, at the risk of giving too much away, it gives it a whole new feel.
Shock: How are the scares different this time around?
Bell: I saw this a few weeks ago and found myself jumping. I found myself jumping when I was doing ADR. There are scares, but they’re fun scares. In the same vein as the first one, this is PG-13, but it’s a fun horror film. And what I love about it is that it makes the audience vulnerable like the first film. You don’t know where the scares are going to come from or where the Devil is going to manifest next. There’s very much an evolution here. And the end is a huge shock, it has a shocking twist at the end and I think the audience is going to be very surprised.