The worst of the sequels and prequels (the film itself falls into both categories) but also, despite its reputation, the only one to show a profit on its theatrical release, Exorcist II: Electric Boogaloo - sorry, The Heretic - is one of those films you can make a case for being not THAT bad. Just not a very convincing one. It's a hugely ambitious film with over-reaching ideas married to a typically bad Rospo Pallenberg script filled with lumbering construction and crudely on-the-nose direlogue that typifies everything that's so painfully wrong about John Boorman at his self-indulgent worst. Originally intended as a more conventional sequel to be directed by Rosemary's Baby editor Sam O'Steen, with only Linda Blair, Von Sydow, Kitty Winn and make-up man Dick Smith returning from the original (though Lee J. Cobb was scheduled to return before dying), the studio instead decided to hire a more experienced name director who made no secret of his hatred for the original, giving him almost complete creative control and taking the material on a huge leap into the esoteric from which it never recovered.
The hook of a priest investigating the original exorcism to save Father Merrin's reputation amid rumors of heresy was retained from William Goodhart's heavily rewritten script (amazingly he lobbied for, and won, sole writing credit), but instead of projectile vomiting and genital self-mutilation-by-crucifix it opts for a more metaphysical plot. Where the character of Merrin in the novel was inspired by the controversial Catholic philosopher and palaeontologist Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the script embraced his theories of a spiritual and mental evolution that would ultimately lead to man developing a universal consciousness and becoming one with God. This being a metaphysical thriller, the film's premise is that the Devil is sending the demon Pazuzu to seek out and possess healers (or "good locusts") to prevent that happening while the inherently corrupt Catholic Church is too busy rationalizing evil to acknowledge its existence, let alone fight it. Unfortunately, any potential that premise might have had is drowned in a sea of inanity in a film bad enough for even Jon Voight to drop out of after reading the script (Boorman's favored replacement, Christopher Walken, was vetoed by Warners' studio management, whose intense dislike of the actor would finally pay dividends when they dropped out of Heaven's Gate when Michael Cimino refused to replace him!).
What's often so bizarre about the result is that every horrendous misstep it takes has a perfectly valid idea behind it that SOUNDED perfectly reasonable when Boorman explained it but which became laughable the moment it hit the screen. Where Friedkin set out to achieve reality, Boorman set out to distort it, filming the majority of the exteriors on soundstages (even the house on Prospect Street was recreated at Burbank) that make no real attempt to hide the fact that they're just plywood and hardboard to give it an air of unreality. Sets were designed to resemble the central nervous system and all blues and greens were banished from the film. The intention was to create a dreamlike texture and add a subtext of impending ecological disaster, but the result is a perfect illustration of the void between film theory and reality. The overwhelming impression of this bizarre spiritual odyssey into the director's psyche is car crash cinema at its most WTF. As Richard Burton says - or rather spits as if on the brink of an asthmatic attack - it's horrible, utterly horrible... and fascinating.
It's hard to pick the most absurd moment in a film increasingly filled with them, be it James Earl Jones' witch doctor dressed as a giant locust `spitting a leopard,' the king of the evil spirits of the air being portrayed as what looks like a really big moth, a crass jumpcut from a burning South American faith healer to Linda Blair rehearsing her tap dancing (according to Boorman intended to symbolize her spirit taking flight: no, really) or a mind-linking synchronized hypnosis device that's just a headband, lightbulb and detonator box contraption that Ed Wood might be proud of. Even the look of the film is horrendously dated (with its `now' fashions and swarms of locusts descending on Washington, it would make an ideal double-bill with The Swarm). And oh, that dialogue: "I've flown this route before. It was on the wings of a demon," "If Pazuzu comes for you I will spit a leopard," "You've got to fight that demon that's inside her! It's preventing her from reaching full spiritual power!" "I was face to face with the Evil that's inside her. Your machine has proved scientifically that there's an ancient demon locked within her!" and the immortal "I was possessed by a demon. Oh, but it's okay, he's gone now!" Even by Rospo (Vercingetorix/Druids) Pallenberg's standards, this is wonderfully woeful drivel that proves him to be screenwriting's answer to Merton of the Movies (the fictional inept dramatic overactor who inadvertently became a comedy sensation).
The performances veer from the theatrical to the lost-the-will-to-live bad. Throwing away the credibility he had regained with Equus on Broadway for a big payday, you can tell with little effort which scenes were shot when Richard Burton was hung over, sober or drunk (just look at the way he empties that communion chalice); a somnambulistic Louise Fletcher gives a particularly pained performance as a psychiatrist, looking for all the world like she'd rather be back in the cuckoo's nest as she can see her career slipping away one line at a time; Kitty Winn looks like she hasn't a clue what she's doing there but she'll try to find a character in there somewhere if it kills her; Max Von Sydow has obviously seen the writing on the wall and is just reading the lines while he thinks of what he'll buy with the check; while Linda Blair, spending much of the film looking for all the world like a chipper cartoon hamster, tap-dancing like a union boss in cement shoes and with a completely unconvincing double playing her possessed self, waits until the grand finale to hit rock bottom when she depicts the seductive nature of evil by, er, wrinkling her nose a la Bewitched and looking like a cute likkle bunny wabbit. Only Ned Beatty comes out of it with something approaching his dignity intact, but then he's only in it for a couple of minutes and clearly thinks the whole thing's too mad to take seriously. You can also spot the ill-fated Dana Plato as an autistic child and an even younger Joey Lauren Adams making her debut as Louise Fletcher's daughter along the way.
It's not all bad. Some of the in-camera special effects and early steadicam work are interesting, with a particularly attractive glass matte shot of a golden city, and Ennio Morricone's occasionally disco-driven score that alternates with more lyrical and plain bizarre cues is enjoyable even if it does sound like it would be more at home in a Dario Argento giallo. Now Dario Argento's Exorcist II - in 1977, THAT could have really been something!
Curiously the DVD of the original theatrical version comes with an alternate opening from the maybe-we-can-fix-it? re-edited version that dropped 15 minutes of footage and most of Paul Henreid's part but not the infamous truncated alternate ending with Burton dying.
Okay, I won't even try to defend this film....it's horrible. I see plenty of positive reviews posted here, and my 4 star review will be right there alongside them....but let me explain.
When I was kid, specifically a pre-teen/early teen in the 1980's, we didn't have cable, we lived in the boonies, I think the closest town of any size was about 25 miles away, so all we had was standard broadcast TV...until someone came up with this thing called "Super TV". It was like cable that you could get from an antenna, except it only had 3 channels too. They weren't named channels like HBO or Cinemax, they were just movie channels. And all three would basically play the same 10-15 movies every month, just starting at various times. (Hey, this was cutting edge technology in 1981/1982). So just after we signed up and began getting Super TV, what is the first film I tune in to see...."Exorcist II: The Heretic". Having never seen the first one, I had no idea what was going on, but it was an "R" rated movie...that I could watch at home!! That was HUGE! And as a 12 year old boy, I immediately fell in love with Linda Blair.
Today, yes, the movie is simply awful, but I still find myself drawn to this film. I love how seriously Richard Burton takes everything, I love how the soundtrack sounds like it's possessed by Yoko Ono at times, I love the phony African sets that look like they are taking place on the old "Star Trek" TV show soundstage, the locust cam, the bizarre children's clinic with it's glass walls and kids pushing around giant plush lug nuts. The amazing mirrored apartment in New York city with the world's most un-safe balcony. And best of all that goofy strobe light metronome, headband thing.
This film is a total mess, but it's one I like to re-visit occasionally. Not only were poor decisions made while making this film, it's almost as if they made the worst possible decision available with every frame of film shot, yet you can still see that at it's core, the film makers were really trying to make a good film, but end up with this colossal failure.
on January 7, 1999
Yes, big problems with this film are really evident. It's badly miscast, not well-written, and the acting is often hammy and way over-the-top. But give it a chance. The set-design, fx, music and cinematography are extraordinary. It's a visionary film that is highly ambitious in its investigation into the nature of evil. For that it's worth looking at with a different eye. If you go into it expecting something like the original film then you'll rightfully be disappointed, possibly angered by it.
There's a reason why Martin Scorsese admires this film quite a bit.
See it not as a comparison to the orginal but as a film that stands on its own.
I can sum up what's bad about this movie in one word, 'synchronizer.' If not for the fabrication of this silly, non-existent machine I don't believe this movie would be as badly berated as it has been since its '77 release. Demons, the Devil we can accept, but an instrument that allows a person to see the images and visions in the mind of another, RIDICULOUS! Yes, Richard Burton does ham it up quite a bit and it would have also been better without Louise Fletcher reworking her Nurse Ratched role from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but somethings you just have to live with.
However once you get past the negatives you are left with a wonderfully directed, visually and musically haunting film that will remain within the inner resesses of your dreaming mind for quite sometime. Director John Boorman (Emerald Forest) smoothly and expertly moves to and fro between two interconnected worlds, the physical and the spiritual, resulting in the illusion of a heightened sense of awareness in the viewer. It's almost as though we have become privy to the thoughts and images within the mind of the demon Pazuzu. In spite of what many critics have to say, there is depth and thought behind the storyline, only much of it's implied and left up to the viewer to discern on their own.
Flawed as it is, this film points out a very important fact concerning the spiritual dimension and the subject of demonic possession. Deliverance doesn't necessarily bring an end to confrontation, in most cases it's only the beginning. Demons are known for their persistence. This film deals with this subject matter superbly and in some cases quite insightfully. It certainly isn't as good as the original but it covers new and important ground in the ongoing storyline. That along with the visuals make "Exorcist II - The Heretic" a worthy sequel.
on September 2, 2014
Just finished a fresh revisit of Exorcist II...Here's my take: We have a story that connects us with Merrin's early career in Africa (just as Paul Schrader's prequel, Exorcist: Dominion (2005) would do nearly 30 years later).
Thematically, the film pits modern, enlightened science against the concept of ancient evil. It tells us that evil is attracted to innocence, hence Regan's possession and the possession of those other innocents in Africa, whom Merrin sought to free from Pazuzu, the baddie behind all our troubles.
This back-and-forth with the dark continent gives us interesting juxtapositions between Africa and the modern world with pretty visuals, telepathic zooming across desert landscapes, locust swarms, and other bits of eye candy (mirrors appear EVERYWHERE in this movie), yielding a dreamlike quality. The overall effect is an intentional rejection of the spare, gritty, economy of the first film. In its place, we get a slick, artsy, polished, sometimes dazzling faux-epic, yet all very bloated, all languidly told.
The film doles out its information at a snail's pace, with little to say. And it's all so serious and self-important that it renders itself unintentionally silly. We're treated to repetitions of words like Pazuzu and Kokumu, over and over, to the point that it all begins to sound like a Dr. Seuss book. Kokumo, Kokumo, Kokumo, and stuff about happy-go-lucky grasshoppers who don't brush wings with the bad locusts.
The finale is spectacular in that it looks expensive, but it's a lot of sound and fury signifying little. In these last scenes, our heroes dash back to Georgetown to rescue Regan, overcoming clunky, tacked-on travel complications reminiscent of Trains, Planes, and Automobiles. We finally arrive back at Regan's room in Georgetown for the final showdown, where Richard Burton rips the heart out of bad Linda Blair to free good Linda Blair. Roll credits.
This feels like a film made by the suits at Warner. A horse by committee is a camel, and this is a shining example of that principle. Still, this is a learning opportunity...we may compare and contrast the singular, pure vision of the original with an over-designed studio monstrosity. Good vs. Evil, indeed.
on March 24, 2014
Linda Blair is beautiful (and young) here, and she is reason enough to find the film a ravishing visual movie. Yet there are other beautiful moments too--the African landscapes, the fantasy set pieces, the flight over the mountains on the wings of a locust--but overall the look is all that we can talk about here. I doubt that William Goodhart's source material was kept in its original state, and I think that the overall architecture of the story suffers due to this bit of dabbling in the pool of author's rights by studio henchmen. But, Richard Burton has never been more lethargic, and Louise Fletcher appears to be doing another Nurse Ratched (in emotionless caricaturing), with the sole intention of keeping that other movie alive in the minds of viewers. Is this a successful horror film? This depends upon what you think about the original--a disturbing, unique piece of art (controversial, but durable), but perhaps not anywhere near horror country (in truth). If you've come to this movie for more blasphemy, more blood, and more shocks, turn around and march the other way! This is by no means your typical horror entry--and I think the "R" rating was way too excessive. There are flashbacks to the original film's exorcism scene (well, sort of--it's a different actress, in a horrible new make-up job that makes you long for Linda/Eileen again) and a creepy sequence of an African exorcism scene (featuring Von Sydow again as Merrin), but really the absolute creepiest moment (to me) is the beginning, which features a suspected witch who burns up in a fire and evaporates before your very eyes(!)--but after that, you will be hard pressed to locate any graphic shocks elsewhere. Pauline Kael was very complimentary to this film in her review, but I think to overpraise it is a fallacy too. I enjoy it for its nostalgic value, but it is slow, uneven, and dramatically dodgy--but, again, there's always Linda!
As for the DVD, this is a bare bones affair. Why no commentary track? Did a film sequel in history ever need one as much as this title? I think not! Also, a trailer is added, by why no vintage 'making of' documentary? I know that there had to be one since this is a sequel to one of the most controversial and popular films of all time. But it isn't to be found. The picture and sound design are good in transfer, but overall I think the picture could have been even sharper--but I have not seen the BluRay, if there even is one yet (?). This was a good fantasy film idea, but the execution is a bit rough, but nonetheless more enjoyable than most films (in places). B+
on August 6, 2010
Anyone who appreciates a bit of philosophy/theology, or renderings of remote Ethiopian clifftop monasteries, or the splendor of flight through exotic landscapes, or a piercing moment of realization, or the battle between good and evil, or an unbridled imagination, or the acting of the great Richard Burton and the charming Linda Blair, will certainly also appreciate Exorcist II: The Heretic. Evil targets the innocent (gleeful at their ruin) and urges society's slide toward debauchery (Sodom and Gomorrah): Who can resist the frenzy of the swarm? Soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.
on August 30, 2001
The Exorcist is a masterpiece of horror and a winner of two academy awards (for best director and best adapted screenplay). This sequel won an award too. It was voted as the second worst film of all time at the Golden Turkey Conventions. Why is this? I love this movie! It wisely keeps the storyline of the first going (unlike William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist 3, which completely departed from the original story). It also has three returning cast members from the first. It has Kitty Winn returning as Sharon Spencer, Max Von Sydow as Father Lancester Merrin, and, of course, Linda Blair as Reagan MacNiel.
The plot takes place in many different areas around the globe, including Africa, India, Georgetown, and New York. The beggining scene involves a young woman who is being possesed and needs an exorcist. Father Phillip Lamont (Richard Burton), a good friend of the late Father Merrin, attempts to exorcise the woman, but she commits suicide using a bunch of candles. We then get to see how Reagan MacNiel (Linda Blair) is getting on with her life. She is now doing dance compititions nearly every day, and sees a psychiatrist (Louise Fletcher) as well. Reagan remembers her possesion, but refuses to talk about it with anyone, and they all assume that she doesn't remember (even at the end of the first one, Chris MacNiel, her mother, said she didn't remember, but I think she was faking). Father Lamont is instructed by the Cardinal (Paul Henried) to investigate the death of Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow). Lamont goes to the hospital where Reagan stays, and questions her doctor, asking if she remembers anything. The doctor dosen't want to ask Reagan, because she's afraid that it will trigger a shock, and Reagan will attempt suicide. However, they use a special mind machine to dive into her head and see. What they do see is a man (James Earl Jones) fighting a tiger. Lamont finds out that that man is Cacooma, who was once possesed by Pazuzu, and exercised by Father Merrin. Desperately, Lamont attempts to track down the man and question him.....
Exorcist 2 The Heretic is a brilliant movie. Why it is so hated by review criticts is beyon me. It has an interesting style, brilliant camera movements, and gorgeous music (Reagan's theme is beautiful). The movie seems to have a bit more of a plot than the first (although the first is terrific), and a better story going for it. Linda Blair is great as 18 year old Reagan, and Fletcher is good as the no-nonsense doctor, but Richard Burton's performance is a little bit cheesey ("I saw it- it was horrible, utterly horrible") but he's still fun to watch. Although Von Sydow dyed in the first film, he's here in flashbacks, and footage of the exorcism in Africa. This one isn't really scary, although I don't think the intention was to be scary. Also, the 118 minute version is MUCH better than the 110 minute version. The 118 minute one goes deeper into the charecter's developement, and includes a different ending. I do not know why this movie hasn't gone onto DVD yet, but this VHS is bad. The color is drained, and the picture is mudgy. But, it's the only version available, so LIVE WITH IT!!!!
If you enjoyed Exorcist 2 The Heretic, I would also recommend The Exorcist, Damien Omen 2, Jaws 2, and Halloween 2.
Exorcist 2 The Heretic is Rated R For Some Violence, Brief Language, Brief Gore, and Small Nudity.
PS If you found my review helpfull, please vote for me!!!!!
Brett Michael Roberts
on December 4, 2007
There are thousands of awful movies and many of them are sequels. Thus, saying Exorcist II is possibly among the VERY worst needs more explanation than the plaudits justifiably heaped on the original.
Where could we begin: how about waste of acting talent? Ned Beatty, a superb character actor, is on-screen for about 3 minutes. James earl Jones, once of the most engaging actors ever, is reduced to playing a very silly shaman's role. The eloquent Richard Burton must have really been boozing through this one; his delivery alternates between mechanical, wooden, disinterested and impassioned when it shouldn't be.
If bad acting can't kill a film, a silly, mixed-up plotline can. Take Regan, the girl from the Exorcist. Formerly cured, she's now a few years older and tormented again by evil, but yet holding the key to humanity's survival in an evil world. To unlock this, Burton (playing yet another priest who has lost his faith) goes all new-age, heretical, defiant of authority and lost in a maelstrom of pop psychology.
If the 1980's fake technology and psycho-babble haven't killed off everyone watching, the really cheesy effects probably will. Clay cliffs, cheap, crappy neurological inducers, and bad bugs abound. Then, there's the 'synchronizer'--kind of like a Vulcan mind-meld with old Sylvania flash bulbs.
Any hardy souls that live through all the above will only have to endure offensive stereotypes about pan-Africa, cheap sets, and an unsatisfying ending.
If Chucky the evil mannequin morphed into Chuck E. Cheese and made haunted pizzas, it would STILL be better than this clunker. Give it a miss, a wide one.
on November 16, 2003
I have viewed "Exorcist 2" on several occasions just to see the reason as to why it's constantly referred to as the worst sequel ever made. Although I certainly agree with the film's inferiority to the classic original, I don't agree with the exaggerated bashing.
First things first, I think that one of the reasons so many people walked out of this film during it's theatrical run was due largely to the film's lack of shock sequences. I suspect the audience that had been repulsed by the original's "in-your-face" shock sequences; the head spinnings, the now classic "pea soup" throw up, the sexual assualt of Regan using a holy relic, the cuss words etc, were extremely disappointed when the sequel offered none of the above. Not even an occasional cuss word. A lot of theatre patrons must have felt cheated, unsatisfied and angry.
With that said, there is a lot in this film that simply does not work.
My biggest problem with "Exorcist 2" is in the make-up effects. The original had frightening make-up that transformed the innocent beauty of Linda Blair into a hideous creature from hell. Her face was scarred, mutilated, sweaty, slimy, with colourless eyes and chapped lips. Truly terrifying. The make-up in the sequel is good in some close ups of Kokumo (especially the scene where he is covered in locusts) but under close inspection, it is far too clean, too neat to be scary.
Another factor is the weak voice effects. The demon in "Exorcist 2" simply sounds like a bitter old woman that does not sound like the original monster at all. In comparison, the vocal effects in the original film was numbingly scary (Thanks Mercedes!). Her hideous voice was amplified and spoke English, Latin, a bit of French and in backwords English. At times, her voice was overdubbed to give us the impression that Regan was possessed by a legion of demons. The effect was as chilling as the nasty visuals. The sequel fails to deliver on that level and the demon in this film, even though it was capable of much havoc as evidenced by the climax, isn't as threatening. Maybe it's because in all of the possession scenes, the victim has a constant smile as if posing for a picture at Glamour Shots. Boorman took away the demons scare logic. An almost unforgivable crime. Another one of my complaints is that the possessed Regan did not even look like her. All of the make-up couldn't conceal the fact that the possessed Regan was not Linda Blair.
Linda Blair has commented that the script in its earlier incarnations was very good but was rewritten several times and the visually splendid mess it is today is the end result. I do not know if this is true but in my humble opinion, one of the biggest problems with the script was the constant use of the demon's name "Pazuzu". If I remember correctly, the demon was briefly named in the original novel but not in Friedkin's film (although a Pazuzu statue is seen in certain shots despite the possessed Regan claiming she is the "Devil" to Father Karras) and I liked it better this way. Not knowing the demon or think that this 12 year old could have been possessed by Lucifer himself is a frightening thought and adds an element of mystery.
But one of the biggest flaws in this film is the use of this silly machine, the "synchronizer". This idea should have been discarded from the get-go. All of that mumbo-jumbo about a hokey machine that is able to hypnotizes 2 individuals and one is able to see the other person's dreams while wearing cheesy, plastic, glowing head-bands, is simply too over the top unbelievable and unbearable. The original film made possession believable by keeping its feet placed firmly on the ground. In many scenes of Friedkin's glorious vision of Blatty's excellent book, it actually looks like you're watching documented footage of an exorcism. It made the very unbelievable subject matter of possession believable. "Exorcist 2" went straight to fantasy land by using a machine that as far as I'm concerned doesn't even exist. Big mistake.
All of that said, there is a lot in this film that makes it a worthy view. For starters, the special effects and cinematography are excellent. Even those who despise the film have commented on the visually stunning set pieces- The sweeping views of the exotic African landscapes; the surreal images of the locusts swarming an impoverished African Village (the "bronzed" dream-like tone of those African scenes is riviting); doves flying over Regan's Penthouse balcony and there is one brief scene that is noteworthy, towards the end, during Regan and Father Lamont`s final visions, where you see Merrin pick himself off the ground inside Regan's former bedroom, only to find himself inside the church in Ethiopia with Pazuzu screaming in the back-ground. That scene is extremely well done and looks like it was lifted right out of one of my own nightmares.
The cast is decent overall with performances ranging from good to unbelievably bad. Louise Fletcher and Kitty Winn turn in good performances. Linda Blair did not have that much to do other than look pretty but her blossoming beauty stands out. Surprisingly the one bad performance comes from veteran actor, the late Richard Burton who practically sleepwalks throughout the entire movie.
Ennio Morricone's score is also quite creative. His "Regan's Theme" is especially beautiful while "Ecstasy and Magic" has a certain charm despite sounding a bit outdated. This funky tune however can only be found in the theatrical trailer in the special features, not in the actual film, unless you are viewing the re-edited version which is not available on DVD. I also liked the idea behind Regan's possession- she's some kind of godsend, a healer who Satan wants destroyed. An intriguing side story that tries to explain the reason behind her earlier possession and if handled better would have worked. Unfortunately the whole scenario is executed poorly and we end up being annoyed instead of moved.
There are 2 versions of "Exorcist 2". There's the original theatrical version presented on this DVD and a version Boorman released after the films critical attack. The version they always showed on TV here in Toronto was the latter and it's the version I'm used to. I personally think it's a definite improvement over the theatrical release. The alternate opening is included on this DVD but the alternate ending is not which is disappointing because the second ending is far better. Although no less confusing, it's edited to an extent that it flows better and all of the bogus dialogue after the collapse of Regan's former residence is gone.
What I found ridiculous about the original finale is that you have a house collapse into nothingness, you have a fatal car crash, a woman on fire, a swarm of a million locusts, yet no one on the block seems to notice. The street is absolutely empty. Come on people, not even a " Bertha, what the heck is going on next door??? or "Why did I just see a million angry grasshoppers fly by our window?" Nada. I know several objective voices have tried to explain this irrational ending, citing that all parties were "in sync" during this final confrontation but this explanation does nothing to diminish the silliness of it all and one shouldn't expect the audience to suspend disbelief for that long a period. At least the director's final cut ended with Regan's "locust" dance so we don't get a chance to ask all of these relevant questions.
"Exorcist 2" is definitely not for original "Exorcist" loyalists because you will only religiously dislike it. However, if viewed objectively and solely as entertainment, you might find plenty to like. It offers dazzling visuals, breathtaking scenery and some surreal imagery. Not perfect, but definitely not the worst movie ever made. I wouldn't even call it the worst sequel ever made. "Jaws: The Revenge" anyone?
The edited Director's Cut (not yet on DVD) - 2.5 out of 5
The original theatrical version (on DVD) - 2 out of 5