Thursday, May 15, 2008

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Some movies have a reputation that precedes them, a reputation that has marked them as being “bad” movies. Most everyone you talk to about these movies tells you they are awful…The Exorcist II: The Heretic is one such movie that is loathed by most horror fans and critics (oftentimes called “the worst sequel ever made”), but I was curious to see if it was really as horrible as everyone claimed.

The verdict?

Yes, it is as bad as everyone claims!

It cinches its title as one of the worst sequels ever made with a ridiculously unbelievable script, horrible dialogue, bad acting and taking itself way too seriously. The result is a self-important but tiresomely dull movie.

Four years after a demon was exorcised from Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), Father Lamont (Richard Burton) is put to task by the Catholic Church to get to the bottom of Father Merrin’s (Max von Sydow) death during the exorcism.

Meanwhile, Regan has grown into a chipper chubby-cheeked teen with no recollection of the exorcism, or at least that is what she claims. Her psychologist, Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher, who looks uncannily like Ellen Burstyn), thinks those memories are locked deep within her and wants to get to them. She introduces Regan to synchronized hypnosis (a process that involves little more than a tabletop machine with flashing lights that’s connected to electrodes), which will allow her to see into Regan’s subconscious (gee, sounds like a whole lotta unbelievable crap to me!).

Father Lamont comes to visit Regan and gets put in “synch” with her mind. He can see what happened that night and that the demon Pazuzu is still dwelling inside Regan. He then travels to Africa to hunt down Kokumo (James Earl Jones), the only known survivor (besides Regan) of an exorcism at the holy hands of Father Merrin. Add mumbo-jumbo about “good” and “bad” locusts, psychic connections that span continents and a big locust explosion at the finale and you’ve got an idea about the absurdity of the plot.

It’s sad, really, because director John Boorman, who wanted to create something wholly different than the first Exorcist, succeeded, but at the horrible cost of making a pompous, meandering and boring film. Visually, the film has its moments, with eye-catching aerial shots of red, rocky cliffs, plains and fields in Africa and the swarms of locusts, but those small moments do little to alleviate the pain of watching the remaining 95% of the movie.

The acting is cringe-worthy, with Linda Blair coming off as horribly annoying and the other actors faring no better. Of course, the source material, written by William Goodhart, could be the root of all the trouble. The dialogue (“When the wings have brushed you… is there no hope once the wings have brushed you?”) is atrocious and the situations and circumstances are just ludicrous. Not even the score, by the great Ennio Morricone (whom I usually love), is any good. It’s tribal sounds and demon-screeching just serve to grate nerves, very much like the rest of the movie.

This film had a grand scope when it first started, setting out to investigate exorcisms the world over from Africa to South America and beyond, but somehow its grand story became muddled and bogged down, both from the mythology laid down by the first film but also from its own preposterous storyline that became weighted with far too many questions it sought to answer. Between Father Lamont’s visits to the tribes in Africa and his “synching” with Regan’s mind, things become pretty unbelievable pretty quickly. And don’t get me started on the dream sequences!

Years of warnings from viewers and critics alike didn’t deter me from seeing this stink-bomb of a film, but hopefully it will save you the trouble. Unless, of course, you’re masochistic and enjoy being put through pain…then, by all means I would highly recommend Exorcist II: The Heretic!

Available from Amazon!

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