Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
By: Julian on November 26, 2009  | 
Warner Bros Entertainment (USA), Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai Subtitles. 118 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: John Boorman
Starring: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, James Earl Jones
Screenplay: William Goodhart
Country: USA
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Exorcist II: The Heretic takes place three years after the events of The Exorcist. Linda Blair reprises the role of Regan McNeil, who's now seventeen years of age and is being monitored at a psychiatric clinic. She is being treated by Dr Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher, fresh off her Oscar-winning turn as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), who believes that although Regan maintains she cannot remember any events related to her possession by the Assyrian demon Pazuzu and the exorcism that followed, the young girl still has repressed memories that could be vastly damaging when they are triggered. Dr Tuskin's psychology and medical treatment is trying to get to the bottom of it.

Meanwhile Father Philip Lamont (Richard Burton) is investigating the death of Father Merrin, who died while exorcising Regan. He's on orders from a progressive Catholic Church that wishes to dispel any dogma that Satan is a manifestable entity and investigate any posthumous heresy charges that could be brought against Father Merrin. Lamont's investigations bring him to Regan and he and Dr Tuskin attempt to revive Regan's memories through the use of hypnotism and a device that enables Regan and Lamont to "synchronise brainwaves" (audience cue to tune out is given at precisely this moment). The "brainwave synchroniser" does its thing and Regan's repressed memories of her exorcism are beamed across for Lamont to see.

Throw in some dreck about Regan having psychic powers, Lamont making a pilgrimage to the home of the Pazuzu, and an imminent locust plague we know Regan has to put a stop to (from that fateful Georgetown residence) and you have a thoroughly muddled and totally inane horror sequel to one of the genre's most important entries. There's a lot of talent on offer here – Fletcher should've been riding a crest of sublimeness following her terrific turn in Cuckoo's Nest but she's lazily typecast in this. Richard Burton was undoubtedly coping by swimming in booze (according to Linda Blair, he was jovial onset and insanely inebriated off, and his drinking intensified as the shoot went on) and the legendary John Boorman made the transition from Deliverance to this with only Zardoz as a less-than-satisfying intermission.

It seems that Exorcist II's main curse is its scope (I'll get to its stupidity later on). Setting the movie in Africa for a blockbuster like Exorcist: The Beginning was perfectly acceptable, and having a 10-minute preamble in Pazuzu country in The Exorcist fit seamlessly. But to have an entire act in Exorcist II devoted to Father Lamont's search for the genesis of Pazuzu was just too far-reaching. From the outset, the main idea being dealt with in this film was Regan's psychological state of mind post-exorcism. It was a fine premise until we were given psychic transmitters and a trip to the Dark Continent for the clergy to make some enquiries about a suspected demon running rampant. Boorman tries for something different but it's so out of place it verges on the laughable.

As far as stupidity goes, Exorcist II has some real doozeys – the screenplay, written by William Goodhart, John Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg (though only Goodhart is credited), has some seriously cretinous moments. The dialogue is poor and not even Burton is able to pull off some histrionically delivered chestnuts like "I've flown this route before... on the wings of a demon!", and "You've got to fight that demon that's inside her! It's preventing her from reaching full spiritual power!" And locust POV should never be used, ever.

But yet another unremittingly scathing review of Exorcist II would really be flogging a dead horse – it was laughed out of its premiere, Boorman withdrew it twice from its theatrical run to do some editorial tinkering and it was critically panned on initial release and retrospectively, currently holding a 3.5 out of 10 rating, the sort usually bestowed upon the most lacklustre of Uwe Boll's efforts, on that omnipotent final arbiter of film criticism, the IMDb. But the end product that is Exorcist II might be down to botched conception – William Goodhart's script was rewritten by Boorman and Pallenberg after the director rejected it outright and it continued to undergo such heavy edits during filming that Linda Blair claimed what was originally a good script "ended up nothing like the same movie". Jon Voight reportedly dropped out owing to shoddy scripting after agreeing to play Father Lamont (Voight was one of many actors considered; Christopher Walken, David Carradine and Jack Nicholson failed to get past negotiation stages).

Producer Richard Lederer also admits that Exorcist II was designed to be essentially a cash-in, a redux that would come in at around $3 million (though Warner Bros ended up pumping $17.5 million into it), clear up any of the original's ambiguities and bring in as much demonic goodness as possible, with the icing on the cake being to include alternate cuts from the original movie. It sounded like an astoundingly poor attempt at filming a sequel to a very highly-received film.

There's very little to recommend in Exorcist II. Put against the first, and even the Renny Harlin film, it's completely embarrassing; too long winded, pretentious and ridiculous to be anything other than a total failure. Completists would have to watch it, but it's only via residual goodwill that this didn't end the careers of Boorman, Burton and Fletcher.
Exorcist II is presented in 1.78:1, with 16:9 enhancement. The colours are muted, and there's grain, but it's about as good as you'd expect from a thirty-year-old movie like this one. Six-time Oscar nominee William (Rosemary's Baby, Tombstone) Fraker's cinematography is nothing special and the sequences during which he could have really shown us something great (Lamont in Africa) were amateurishly executed.
One English 1.0 Dolby track. It's fine but there are some sync problems here and there. The score was done by Ennio Morricone and it's pretty uninspired stuff. That's no sleight against the man himself, though – with almost five hundred films under his belt over five decades, even the best of us sleep on the job occasionally. And besides, all the talent in Exorcist II seemed to be on the nod anyway.
Extra Features
Nothing of significance – theatrical trailers and a deleted scene. The R4 discs are ports of this one, so if you're really looking for the flick, you might as well go local. That said, Exorcist II isn't available individually, instead appearing in a two-fer with the first instalment that can be sourced for under $15, and an earlier packaging of the first three for around $30.
The Verdict
It can surely be expected that a sequel to a film like The Exorcist would be inferior but Boorman's effort is a terrible horror film by any standards.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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