“I’d do anything to help Regan — anything!”
A Catholic priest (Richard Burton) sent to investigate the death of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) after his exorcism of the demon Pazuzu from young Regan (Linda Blair) finds teenage Regan being treated by a psychiatrist (Louise Fletcher) and cared for by her former nanny (Kitty Winn). Can Father Lamont (Burton) somehow connect Regan’s experiences with those of a possessed African boy (Joey Green) who has now grown into a scientist (James Earl Jones) fighting swarms of evil locusts?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Horror Films
- John Boorman Films
- Louise Fletcher Films
- Max von Sydow Films
- Ned Beatty Films
- Priests and Ministers
- Richard Burton Films
This infamously awful sequel to William Friedkin’s blockbuster hit The Exorcist (1973) was directed by John Boorman, who brings an entirely different sensibility to the proceedings. As James Kendrick notes in his review for Q Network:
“Although Boorman should be commended for attempting originality in an arena that is usually marked by simple regurgitation of old ideas, in his zeal to impress, he created one of the most bloated, preposterous, and unintentionally silly films of the 1970s.”
The performances by esteemed actors Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, and James Earl Jones are passable at best:
… while Blair’s portrayal of adolescent Regan is laughably inadequate.
The actors aren’t helped by a screenplay that shifts away from the original film’s solid emphasis on Catholic guilt and demon possession towards a much more amorphous conceptualization of spirituality across various spheres and continents.
Meanwhile, the dialogue is uniformly awful; it’s challenging to pick out the most egregious stinkers, but here are just a few:
Regan: Come! Fly the teeth of the wind! Share my wings!
Young Autistic Girl: What’s the matter with you?
Regan: I was possessed by a demon. Oh, it’s okay — he’s gone!
Father Lamont: It was horrible, utterly horrible… and fascinating!
Dr. Tuskin [Fletcher]: It’s hard to live alone. Don’t you ever need a woman, Father?
With that said, this big-budget flick looks beautiful, and features some memorable imagery; it’s too bad the storyline fails it so badly.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine cinematography
- Some memorable imagery
No; skip this one unless you’re curious. Listed as a Camp Classic in the back of Peary’ book.
2 thoughts on “Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)”
⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
An interesting story:
1977: Father Lamont (Richard Burton) is a priest who follows the teachings of Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) who believes that Pazuzu possesses those who are on the verge of becoming psychic in an attempt to disrupt a process of evolution whereby humanity will be guided by these ultimate purveyors of good and become a geshalt. Lamont is sent to New York to investigate the death of Merrin. He finds that Regan (Linda Blair) may still be possessed by Pazuzu and that she is working with Doctor (Louise Fletcher) to analyze her problems out of her system using an advanced form of psychic hypnosis.
A fascinating, if infuriating film.
The idea that there is an all-pervading good in the universe seems to be the opposite of the first film’s theme and offsets this by (once again) setting up the protagonist as being a priest whose faith is sliding. In the first film Karras loses faith from dealing with too many sick minds and the death of his mother; in this one Lamont because of too many failed exorcisms fighting demons.
The idea that Pazuzu manifests itself as a swarm of locusts that can only be controlled by “The Good Locust”, an individual who counteracts the frenzy felt by the insects (a metaphor for the breed of psychic human who fights the demon on an astral plane) is intriguing and a much more complex view of good and evil than that given in the first film.
Unfortunately, the script is melodramatic and obviously the work of too many chefs; the final edit of the film (even the preferred 118 minute version) seems to be lacking much explanation for Lamont’s loss of faith (“I’m not worthy” he tells Paul Henreid’s Cardinal) and some greater depth of characterisation is drastically needed. This leads to the other major problem and that is of Burton’s performance; he’s far too melodramatic, which may have been his reaction to the bodge of script. Everyone else acquits themselves well, giving even performances but with him being the lead it damages the film. Boorman’s direction is also uneven, being mostly decent but some scenes are not well handled (the curing of the autistic child). The film could have done with more location work; there’s too many scenes that needlessly use back projection. These coupled with extensive opticals give the film a soft, slightly hazy look.
It’s easy to see why several people over the years have championed this film (Martin Scorsese, Kim Newman, Pauline Kael, Peter Nichols, the reviewer in The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror) as it is genuinely ambitious, intelligent, is well photographed (William Fraker) and has a great score (Ennio Morricone). However, overall it’s a lesser entry in the franchise.
Not must-see. Its worst crime is being bad while (in spite of how Peary categorizes it) having no real camp value. You’re strictly on your own with this one. As per my 4/21/20 post in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):
“I am Pazuzu!”
‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’: If John Boorman’s schizophrenic sequel (which I’ve just rewatched for the first time since its release) proves nothing else, it’s that William Friedkin knew quite well (and then some) what he was doing with the original. Boorman put me in mind of Stanley Kubrick: both men made good films but – as was also true of ‘The Shining’ – neither director understood the horror genre. (Friedkin did.) As a result, both Boorman and Kubrick played around with the idea of horror without understanding what made it work. (~though I’ll give Kubrick his due; ‘The Shining’ has a couple of effective sequences.) …’Exorcist II’ starts off… well, believably anyway… as Father Lamont (Richard Burton) is given the task of investigating what really happened to Father Merrin (Max von Sydow). But then, of course, Lamont crosses the path of ‘cured’ Regan (Linda Blair) who, of course, isn’t cured… all of which leads to a thoroughly incoherent second half. (It really does start to go bonkers about midway… or somewhere around the time Regan becomes possessed during her inexplicable amateur tap dance number… I don’t really recall exactly.) Psychiatrist Louise Fletcher gets to repeatedly defend science and guardian Kitty Winn gets to be royally unhinged. But the film’s real calling card is what is no doubt the best locust photography ever – if you’re into that. It’s genuinely creepy. …If all else is lost, entertainment-wise, you (and those with you) can always get smashed playing ‘The Pazuzu Drinking Game’!