Monday, June 17, 2013

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) - A Review


In 1973 the most terrifying film of all time descended upon the masses. A movie so disgusting and vile that people had heart attacks, fainted, passed out and vomited in the theater while watching. That film was The Exorcist, starring the sweet young Linda Blaire as Regan, a girl who is possessed by the demon Pazuzu after playing with a Ouija board. The Catholic Church commended it, saying that it's accurate portrayal of demonic possession could be used as a weapon in God's arsenal in the fight against evil. Now, The Exorcist is one of the most iconic horror films of all time and continues to terrify people the world over. 

In 1977, a sequel was commissioned to be directed by John Boorman, and written by William Goodhart. The sequel, however, was doomed from the start due to constant rewrites, the blatant rejection to return by William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty, as well as some cast members from the first film. Read on to see my thoughts on the sequel to scariest film of all time, The Exorcist II: The Heretic. 



Title: The Exorcist II: The Heretic
Director(s): John Boorman
Writer(s): William Goodhart, John Boorman, Rospo Pallenberg
Producer(s): John Boorman and Richard Lederer
Starring: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Mac von Sydow, James Earl Jones, Paul Henreid, Kitty Winn

 SPOILER ALERT:

It's been four years since Regan (now 16 years old) has battled Pazuzu and has since been relocated to New York City where she lives with her guardian Sharon to be monitored by a psychiatrist, Dr. Gene Tuskin, while her mother is away on location. 

Philip Lamont, a priest who struggles with keeping his faith, has been assigned to investigate the death of Father Merrin who died at the hands of Pazuzu while trying to exorcise Regan four years previously. Father Lamont travels to New York City and finds Dr. Tuskin, where it is discovered that Regan has no collective memory of the events of that time, only that "she was sick and had a lot of nightmares". While undergoing an experimental form of therapy that enables two different individuals to be linked psychologically under the state of hypnosis, Father Lamont discovers that not only does Pazuzu still reside inside of Regan, but Father Merrin has reached out to him with the orders to protect Regan at all costs, as she is a very special case. 


What follows is a journey into Father Merrin's past, Regan's past and Pazuzu's past in an attempt to rid Regan of the impurities of Pazuzu and save her soul for good. 

END SPOILER

Well, no one ever expects the sequel to be as good as the original. It is very rare when a film's sequel surpasses that of the first entry, i.e. Terminator 2, Aliens, but it is also rare when a sequel falls so very short of it's predecessor. It is apparent before you even watch this film that it is going to be a blatant cash grab to make a few more dollars off of the success of the first entry in the franchise, but the story itself is quite drab and a bit too much of a stretch for me to fully commit to what this film was trying to get out of me. 


As previously mentioned, this film was doomed from the start as the creative minds behind the success of the first film wanted nothing to do with a sequel. Both William Friedkin (Director of The Exorcist) and William Peter Blatty (Writer of the novel/screenplay) declined any form of participation in this film, as well as Ellen Burstyn flat refusing to return to reprise the role of Chris MacNeil. The reins were instead given to John Boorman to direct and William Goodhart to write, although Boorman brought in Rospo Pallenburg and together they largely rewrote the majority of the script. Blair was quoted as saying that it was a great script before the slew of rewrites flowed in.

Now, the film wasn't completely terrible. I found myself entertained by the premise, at no point did I feel the need to shut it off and find something else to watch and I once again enjoyed the sweet innocence of Blair reprising her role as Regan. As the film progressed though, the suspension of disbelief proved harder and harder to maintain as the film developed a bit of a Poltergeist vibe. This was clearly marketed for the crowds of young teenagers for simple jump scares and suspense. Not exactly my cup of tea. 

Let's get on to the P's and C's.

PROS:
1. Linda Blair. I'll give it to Linda Blair, she is Regan and she always will be. Not at any point did her performance seem contrived in any way, or like she was portraying herself. It seemed very natural, very sweet and very much what I would have expected Regan to grow up as.

CONS:
1. Storyline. It's hard to even pin point certain things about this film that, in my opinion, led to it's ultimate flop in theaters. The storyline was stretched in so many different directions that it just became a mess. It wasn't hard to follow, it was just so far outside the realm and world of the first film that it was made border-line impossible to enjoy. In the first film we are given a very simple story with a very simple set-up. A young girl is horribly possessed by a legion of demons, and a priest comes into her home to vanquish her of these demons. Easy, peasy, done. However, The Heretic expects to go down this road where we are to believe that Regan is still possessed, she has known it the entire time and she actually seems pretty cool with it. There doesn't even seem to be fear in her eyes when she finally admits that. 
2. The Blatant Cash-grab. I really don't think that there was anyway for this film to be successful. There is no way to follow up a film like the original, and more importantly, there is no need to follow that up. The fact that the original creative team, one original star's refusal to return and the others refusal to reprise her infamous make-up should be blatant signs that this film was doomed before they even started filming.

Now. Would I recommend this film? I'm not sure. It won't hurt to watch it and it definitely won't hurt to pretend like it never happened. I honestly cannot think of a single highlight in this film to warrant a recommendation, but then again as previously mentioned, if you want something to watch that you've never seen before toss it on. It's entertaining, at the very least.

OFFICIAL RATING: 3/10

-Rg Lovecraft

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