Movie Name: The Exorcist II: The Heretic
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date(s): July 17, 1977
MPAA Rating: R
Anybody who’s anybody has at least heard of The Exorcist. I’ve seen it several times myself. When I heard about a sequel to this awesome movie, I was all over it. Max von Sydow and Linda Blair returned for it however, so I was curious to see how this could happen. Boy, howdy (see what I did there) was I in for some crap!
The Exorcist II: The Heretic starts out with Fr. Philip Lamont (Richard Burton) attempting to perform an exorcism on young Hispanic girl. The exorcism fails miserably and she immolates herself to the horror of Fr. Lamont and the gathered villagers. As he struggles with his faith following this disaster, he is tasked with investigating the late Fr. Lankester Merrin for possibly becoming a Satanist in his final moments battling Pazuzu. He travels to America to interview Regan MacNeil and manages to dredge up some painful memories and retrace Fr. Merrin’s path in order to investigate his teachings.
The story is far from the convincing horror presented by The Exorcist. That movie was based around stripping away all scientific reason and leaving you only with the nearly inexorable fact that the possession was a true supernatural event. This one tries to reinsert science and religion. I mean, come on, a dream machine that links people together to share memories and dreams? The creep factor was from not knowing whether Merrin was killed by the demon or his heart condition. There’s a section of this movie that squeals and actually ruins that moment.
Richard Burton as Fr. Lamont is an extremely weak substitute for Jason Miller as the doubting Fr. Karras. Fr. Karras’ doubt was more natural and believable. Fr. Lamont simply runs around unsure of what he’s finding. Merrin’s hypothesis that there are special people with powers and the fact that Regan was one of them really s**ts on the premise of the original. The fact that Regan was a regular kid randomly targeted made the movie much scarier. This is The Exorcist, not X-Men.
There are a couple of major actors who are wasted in this movie. James Earl Jones appears as a young African scientist helped by Fr. Merrin when they were both younger. This exorcism would go on to be the basis for the prequel movies Exorcist: The Beginning or Dominion: A Prequel to the Exorcist. Louise Thatcher plays the psychologist Dr. Tuskin who is trying to help Regan deal with her psychological problems from the repressed memories of the exorcism. The original makeup and voice from the original Exorcist don’t appear during a scene when Lamont and Regan are supposed to be seeing Pazuzu in the form of young possessed Regan. The scene is truly ridiculous. The saddest thing is Max von Sydow’s return as a younger Merrin trying to show the exorcism of the African boy and the Merrin death scene. All I can say is wow…
The Exorcist II: The Heretic is a HUGE or dare I say GINORMOUS let down after the success of the first movie. Everything that had made the first movie great was systematically dismantled and made moot. The acting sucked balls, and I would expect better from the likes of James Earl Jones, Max von Sydow, Louise Fletcher, and Richard Burton. Shame on you John Boorman…shame on you for I call shenanigans!