Monday, October 28, 2013

EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977)


That is how we all feel about this.

SYNOPSIS: Four years after Regan had an unpleasant experience with a demon, the Catholics recruit Father Lamont (Richard Burton, YOU DUMMY) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the case and Father Merrin's death.  Regan is being treated by hypnosis enthusiast Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher, playing a woman named Gene).  Sharon (Kitty Winn) has also returned for this sequel, as has Max Von Sydow in flashback form.  Together, they must confront the demon Pazuzu, who rules the evil of the air or something, and their only help is an African named Kokumo, who was previously possessed by Pazuzu.

WHAT WORKED:
I'm not mortally offended that EXORCIST II went in a different direction thematically.  I'd rather see that than the original plan for the sequel, which was basically to redo EXORCIST on a poverty line budget.  And some of the ideas here, if underdeveloped, are pretty intriguing, especially the film's main conceit that evil attacks the exceptionally good.  

Some of the images are memorable and well-constructed.  I really dug the Ennio Morricone score, which is pretty distant from the keyboard-based sonics of the original.  Morricone opts for more sweeping orchestral sounds, which sometimes makes this recall MONDO CANE or some other Italian film you'd rather be watching.  

A lot of this is indefensible, but occasionally we get crossover into enjoyable camp ground.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Too many bells and whistles added to the basic plot.  I appreciate that the filmmakers didn't just lazily toss out the same old green vomit and head-twists, but we get suffused with all kinds of gimmicky BS and it's just smothering.  ESP, synchronized hypnosis via strobe light, locust behavioral triggers, and so on.  I find that John Boorman movies tend to have a little too much plot and that seems to be the case here.


There are multiple instances where people should have known that scenes would end up being laughed at (and allegedly spark riots).  How many people had to be involved to make something like the below happen?  Did none of them have the courage to say, "Listen, guys, this is beyond horrible, we should stop or try another tactic"?

Did the same assholes give the thumbs-up to James Earl Jones's locust costume?  Because, how and why.


Some of the sets look shoddy and cheap, especially during the Africa scenes that are obviously some Hollywood backlot.  The filming is very tight here, too, to conceal the flaws, so parts of this feel claustrophobic and smothering.


Effects and makeup aren't much better.  Thankfully, we get minimal demonic Regan, but what we see looks pretty bad.  Linda Blair refused to go for demon makeup for II, but I don't know that her presence would have made a difference given the Big Lots-level artistry on display.


Linda did consent to appear as glammy, penetrable high school hussy Pazuzu/Regan, who is the film's final boss and has a heart-ripping fight scene with Richard Burton on a bed that sinks into the floor, like in THE MONEY PIT.


Cosmetic flaws can always be overlooked.  But what's most offensive about EX II is that it forsakes the single-minded drive that made the first film such an intense experience.  Most of this feels scattered and baffled, probably owing to the multiple rewrites during the shoot (never a good sign).  Like touring the scene of a beautiful car's crash, sometimes you can see remnants of what must have been admirable invention and effective design, but mostly this is just a chaotic disaster.

RATING: 3

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