Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) review

Exorcist II: The Heretic posterDirector: John Borman

Starring: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, James Earl Jones

FATHER LAMONT – “I’ve flown this route before.”
HELICOPTER PILOT – “Oh yes?”
FATHER LAMONT – “Yes. It was on the wings of a demon.”

I’ve said plenty of times before that The Exorcist (and its subsequent Director’s Cut) is one of the greatest movies ever made. It’s terrifying, it’s spectacular, it’s faith-challenging and it’s supremely acted. In a way then Exorcist II: The Heretic is even more impressive, because it takes one of the finest films ever and follows it up with a sequel so brain-achingly bad it’s without doubt the biggest drop in quality in film sequel history.

Set four years after the events in Georgetown, 18-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair again) is now living in New York with her mum’s friend Sharon (Kitty Winn, also returning from the first film) while her mum is off making another movie. Regan claims she doesn’t remember any of the events of the first film, but she’s being monitored by a psychiatrist anyway. The psychiatrist, Dr Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) reckons Regan’s suppressing those memories and she wants to try hypnosis to free them.

Exorcist II: The Heretic
This facial expression sums up Exorcist II better than any mere words can

Meanwhile, a priest called Father Lamont has been assigned by the Church to investigate the death of Father Merrin at the end of the first film, so he visits Regan to try to get answers. So far, so normal. But this is still only the first ten minutes or so. Then it gets bad.

It’s said that when Exorcist II had its premiere, the audience were fine with it until the “synchroniser” was introduced. At this point the audience burst into hysterical laughter and the film could never win back their respect. It’s little wonder why – it’s the exact moment all the accolades and reputation earned by The Exorcist are flushed down the toilet and the series turns into hokey sci-fi mumbo jumbo.

Exorcist II: The Heretic
“Oh hello, I’m James Earl Jones. I’m a respected actor? This? Oh, this is just my locust costume”

You see, the “synchroniser” is a device Dr Tuskin owns for hypnosis. It’s a set of two headbands with diodes attached to them, each connected to a flashing light that emits a tone. When Regan and Father Lamont both wear these headbands and use their minds to make the tones sound the same, Father Lamont can read Regan’s mind and be a part of her dreams. Seriously.

Not weird enough yet? Then how about this – while using the synchroniser with Regan, Father Lamont’s mind is transported to 1930s Africa, where he learns of a boy called Kokumo who has the power to fight an evil demon called Pazuzu. Lamont realises that Regan was possessed by Pazuzu in the first film (not the Devil, then), and that he has to go to Africa to try to find the now adult Kokumo (James Earl Jones, dressed up in a giant locust costume – yes, really) to get advice on how to defeat it. Remember, this is the sequel to The Exorcist, one of the most revered and respected horror films ever.

Exorcist II: The Heretic
“Hello Richard Burton. I thought you were supposed to be a respected actor too.” “Shut the fuck up, Linda”

The whole thing is just an insult to the original film. The first Exorcist was a chilling battle between the devil and a priest questioning his faith, with an innocent little girl used as the arena. It took place in a quiet unassuming street, adding a sense of realism that made the otherworldly goings-on that more powerful and disturbing. Then the sequel comes along with mind-reading headbands, African demons and James Earl Jones dressed up like a giant locust, and everything is pissed against a wall.

In the past ten years I’ve tried maybe ten or so times to watch Exorcist II, and have fallen asleep every time. This is no word of a lie. Only recently was I able to watch the whole film in one go, and now I have I can clearly say being unconscious was a far more entertaining experience. The first Exorcist was a challenging film that made its audience question their faith in religion. The sequel made them question their faith in Hollywood.

Oh, and check out the trailer below for the worst soundtrack in motion picture history.

WHERE CAN I SEE IT?
Looking for a laugh? Fair enough. You can get Exorcist II on DVD here but I’d recommend you get the Exorcist: The Complete Anthology DVD boxset instead because at least then you’ll get some brilliant films along with it. It isn’t available on Blu-ray, or on Netflix or LoveFilm streaming, but maybe that should tell you something.

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