We adored the innocent girl Nell and her twisted spine that contorted whenever her sweet little soul was possessed by an evil being from hell. And while The Last Exorcism might have been the end to Cotton Marcus and his film crew, Eli Roth has new plans for Nell in his sequel. We caught up with with the newly liberated Nell, played by Ashley Bell and tried to uncover what a good Christian girl was doing in the heart of Mardi Gras, and how you can ever really be 100% clean after devil's claimed you.
How will this movie explore the roots of Abalam?
Ashley Bell: This is a continuation of the last film; it picks up where the last film ends. It's a new story. In it we see Nell, that sheltered, vulnerable character from the first movie — if you remember, she didn't even know what an iPod was — and here we see her thrown in the middle of Mardi Gras, thrown in the middle of New Orleans. Temptation everywhere, and you kind of see her exploring that. She kind of has to choose between good and evil. The devil seeks Nell through this journey, and he carefully puts before her forbidden things like makeup and music and a boyfriend. And then he very methodically takes them away, one by one by one. And tortures her, and questions her, and makes her doubt herself. Makes her doubt her beliefs. That's where the scares come in, that's where the surprise elements come in. She has to choose between good and evil.
Is this the same demon?
It's always the devil. There's never a last exorcism for the devil. The last film might have been the last exorcism for Cotton Marcu,s but evil has truly no boundaries. So yes, we are still exploring the devil. Nell thinks she's haunted by Abalam, but you'll have to wait and see.
Although the first movie was filmed as a faux documentary, the sequel is a narrative. What was the difference between filing the two?
It was really cool to jump styles with this film. The first one was documentary style and the sequel is more of a narrative. That's all the brilliance of Eli Roth, he's such a genius of the horror genre. When the concept came up to do a part two, he knew how to make something different. Something that's really never been seen before in an exorcism movie. He has the ability scary instantly into something that's truly terrifying. It was cool to shoot it in this genre. There's a HUGE twist in the end that he's able to pull off.
How did the change in filming change your character?
It doesn't much for me. What was always important, as an actresses, was to be as true to the character as possible. I so loved playing Nell for the first film, so I loved stepping back into her Doc Martins, so to speak, for this film. What was cool about the first film, because of the director Daniel Stamma, we had a very creative, open, collaborative set. And on the night before the first exorcism he asked me if there was anything I wanted to try, and I showed him the backbend. I said "I can do this, is that helpful," he told me to stay there, changed a few things but I had no idea that the backbend would become such an iconic image for the film. So in going to this movie it was very important to still do all my own stunts. There's a stunt you can see a little bit of in the trailer, and it's all me. And I have the stress fracture to prove it.
The first movie relied heavily on your moves paired with bone-snapping sounds. How much of the sequel relies on FX work? How much of it is just you in a room again?
Everything with me, physically, is me. With everything else, you're going to have to see it. There's so many great moments I don't want to give anything away. I don't want to give away a scare.
You mentioned that Doc Martins. Does Nell have those red shoes again in this movie?
She does have the Doc Martins, yes. There's no Nell without those Doc Martins. There's no Nell and there's no devil without those Doc Martins. They show up in this film in a really cool way. I'm excited to see what people will think.
Who are the returning characters?
There are some returning characters. Louis Herthum returns, he plays my Dad in the film. But I can't tell you any more spoilers.
How important is Nell's relationships with these new characters that we don't know?
They're very important. You have a character that's going through post-traumatic stress from what happened to her. She's kind of clinging to a new reality. And the big question is, is this new reality real?
In the first movie, Cotton was the hero. Who is the hero in the sequel?
I think that's what I love about Nell. The strength she has, and the grit and determination that she has. She's a survivor. She pushes to maintain a shred of hope even with everything that's happening around her. She's pushed in this film. She's pushed and she's tempted to have that hope waver.
One of the great things about fake documentary movies is you feel like it's real, so the audience buys the idea that it's "real" from the beginning. Was there a lot of pressure to make this film as equally authentic as the first one?
The first film is leaked through the second film on YouTube. The footage is found, and put on YouTube and it goes viral. Nell's demons are out on the Internet. All of her dirty laundry is exposed. It's humiliating. And that plays in with incorporating the first film and keeps it authentic.