Monday, October 12, 2015

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) *1/2

I have visions of studio executives sitting around and thinking any film with Exorcist II in the title would make money (they were right).  After all, the sheer audacity of topping the original would get people in the theater.

With a brilliant director like John Boorman at the helm, the man who made Point Blank and Deliverance, one can imagine a cinematic masterpiece existing in an alternate universe.  While there are some memorable visuals in The Heretic, they inspire laughter instead of terror.

Starring Richard Burton and Linda Blair (unfortunately reprising her role as Regan). I can only describe their performances as catatonic.  Burton shows no emotion for the entire movie and reads every line in the same mechanical tone.  Blair matches Burton for lack of enthusiasm; their scenes together are awkward and ridiculous

As for the plot. . . We reunite with Regan a few years after her exorcism of which she has no memory, although she is still being monitored at a psychiatric institute under the care of the dull Dr. Tuskin (Louise Fletcher). Meanwhile Father Lamont (Burton) is assigned by church authorities to investigate the circumstances of Father Merrin's death during the original exorcism, Von Sydow appears looking confused in the flashbacks.

Under hypnosis and the use of a "synchronizer" Lamont comes into contact with Pazuzu, an ancient demon.  The somnolent priest heads to Africa and discovers the origins of Pazuzu and realizes Regan is still in danger.  Don't miss a trippy performance from James Earl Jones as a shaman/locust/ scientist.

According to Linda Blair and others the original script was good and I can see the potential of a compelling movie somewhere in the mess they produced. Maybe a 70s New Age investigation of spirituality, connecting modern religion to its pagan origins as a compelling and ambitious story?

Burton seems to be in his own world, when asked if he longs for the company of women he says "Yes!" Then a sudden cut to another scene!  

A pointless cabaret sequence looks like a weird outtake from The Muppet Show.. Scenes in Africa look like they were filmed on a Star Trek sound stage. .  And the locusts . . . Those things are a nuisance!

If the first film sent audiences back to church, the sequel is best followed by a few drinks.

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