I’ve been seeing so many good movies lately that I’ve been scraping dangerously close to having a positive outlook on life. Knowing in my heart of hearts that my contentment is the first sign of the apocalypse, I decided to do us all a favor and sabotage myself before it starts raining frogs. What better film to throw my winning streak off the rails than the most hated sequel ever to come down the pike? I’m talking of course about JOHN BOORMAN’s loopy audience displeaser EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. If this renowned stinker couldn’t shoot down my happy balloon what could?
The first and only time I had ever seen this movie I was a preteen KIM WILDE enthusiast at my cousin’s house and it was on their fancy pay cable channel. I was very into seeing it and very into it scaring the crap out of me. What I was not into was what actually ended up happing because I’m pretty sure I ended up with my face in a shag carpet fast asleep with a melted grape popsicle in my hand. How could a possession movie not scare a kid who was terrified of the red devil figure on the Underwood Deviled Ham can? (The answer to that question turns out to be very simple, just add tap dancing sequences, a hypnotic strobe light and a plethora of locusts).
Whatever the problem is with EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC it’s certainly not the cinematography, more often than not, this is a gorgeous looking film. Maybe not in a way that is particularly appropriate for an EXORCIST sequel, but arresting nonetheless. Visual effects artist ALBERT WHITLOCK shows his deft abilities on several occasions (a simple shot of an airplane in flight is stunning) so no complaints there. The soundtrack too, care of master ENNIO MORRICONE is well above par. So as the kids say, “Where’s the beef?” Well, it just so happens that everything else going on in this movie is absolutely flip your LIDSVILLE crazy. Some of its ideas are interesting (the concept of the more “good” you are, the more “evil” you attract at least explains why my lunch money was stolen throughout grade school), yet unless the goal was to drive the audience insane or into fits of laughter, it’s still a mystery how this apple fell so damn far from the tree.
Putting aside that the entire approach to the story is a bit of a snub to the original film’s fans and the fact that much of the dialogue, though thoughtful towards the metaphysical, doesn’t quite resemble human speech, let us now talk about the acting. What a cast huh? RICHARD BURTON, LOUISE FLETCHER, MAX VON SYDOW, JAMES EARL JONES and returning champ LINDA BLAIR, could you ask for anything more (I mean, besides ELLEN BURSTYN)?
Here is where the movie becomes either the worst atrocity you have ever seen or the most riveting display ever committed to film and it all depends on how drunk you are. I for one am convinced that bombastic BURTON at one point looked directly at the camera to tell the audience that what they were experiencing was “fascinating,” did I imagine that? Was that some kind of desperate plea to keep people in their seats? On the other end of the acting spectrum is LOUISE FLETCHER who can usually turn me to stone with a single cobra gaze but is inexplicably wishy-washy throughout this movie even while getting totally felt up by a demon. Then there is JAMES EARL JONES, well… give him a break he had to wear a locust hat. As far as our Miss BLAIR, well she fluctuates between a grinning Moonie any reasonable person would avoid at an airport and a frat house roofie victim. Only SYDOW escapes with dignity in tact and he’s playing the dead guy.
So needless to say as wretched as this movie is known to be, it in fact did not ruin my night! It was still a little boring in places, but as an adult I couldn’t wait to see what kind of craziness was around the corner. For better or for worse, BOORMAN certainly did his own thing. It was probably more of his ZARDOZ thing than his DELIVERANCE thing but at least you get the idea that somebody was behind the wheel (even as they are crashing into your flower bed). Is it a worthy successor to the EXORCIST? Oh, not by the longest stretch you could possibly imagine, but it is an oddity unto itself and as bizarre as they come. I don’t think it’s fair to call it the worst movie ever made, but I think it’s probably still O.K. to refer to it as the most disappointing sequel of all time (sorry GEORGE LUCAS). Maybe BURTON’s assessment was accurate after all, “fascinating” just about covers it. I would have preferred “scary” or “comprehensible” but I can’t be too harsh on any movie that sports a young, slightly buck toothed DANA PLATO.
NOTE: Can anything prepare a person for one of the most insane movies ever made? How about the most completely off the wall trailer ever made? Careful, it’s addictive!
And perhaps even more addictive is this little number…