“Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977)

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By Jerome Reuter

A few months ago, I published a list of the top 5 worst horror sequels. Not surprisingly, Exorcist II was at the top of my list. It’s not only one of the worst sequels, it’s one of the worst horror films ever made. It attempts to continue the story of the first one, and failing miserably. The film suffers from several flaws, and has absolutely no merit.

Exorcist II is set a few years after the events in the first film. Linda Blair reprises her role of Regan. Also, Max Von Sydow returns in a few sequences as Father Merrin, which is the first major downfall of this endeavor. One of the things that made The Exorcist so intriguing, was Regan’s vulnerability. She was a young child, still in the age of naivety, which made her possession much more disturbing. Here, she’s a teenager, being examined by a doctor to find out the cause of her possession. The doctor herself, played by Louise Fletcher does the best with the material she’s given, which isn’t a lot. Instead of psycho therapy, we’re introduced to s strange hypnosis device. This in itself isn’t a bad angle, but it really robs from the atmosphere the first one had.

Which brings me to my next point, the complete lack of atmosphere. The first film was genuinely terrifying, and kept the terror in a confined space. Here, they attempt to expand the story to other locations, and it doesn’t work. We learn the name of the demon, a entity named Pazuzu. With a title like that, who in their right mind could take this film seriously? On these travels, were taken to Africa to meet a witch doctor named Kukomo, played by James Earl Jones. Once again, a good actor in a bad movie. Still, he does the best with the material he’s given. Attempting to expand the story to these exotic locales, just doesn’t work. It completely strips away everything that made the first film so great. It’s really quite easy to see what this film is attempting to accomplish. It attempts to provide a backstory to the events in the first film. However, it’s not something that I feel should have been touched upon. I’ve stated numerous times that real horror is what you don’t see. A large part of the first films mystique, was not knowing the origins of the possession. This also led to much of what made the first one so memorable.

Here, everything presented is downright laughable. All of the seriousness the first one had, was thrown completely out of the window. Not surprisingly, both director William Friedkin, and author Peter Blatty wanted absolutely nothing to do with a sequel. This film isn’t a valid continuation of a mythology, it’s just an attempt to capitalize on the success of the first one. Even the effects have no realism, none whatsoever. Much of this was due to Blair’s insistence that she not use the heavy make up from the original.

Which brings me to the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. Richard Burton’s performance as Father Lamont. I’m convinced that Burton was well aware of just how bad this was going to be. Repeatedly drunk on set, this is the low point of his career. Every moment he’s on screen, you get the impression he doesn’t care at all. In every horror film Donald Pleasence was in, he acted like a professional. In this film however, it’s obvious Burton just wants a paycheck. Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller both took their roles seriously. This was just one more element, that made the first entry as good as it was.

I can only assume Burton had a large bar tab to pay off.

Although Exorcist III would end up a decent installment, the damage had been done. This effort will always go down in history as one of the worst  horror films ever made, a product that doesn’t deliver, and doesn’t entertain at all. The original was perfect, and you’ll never see another one like it. In recent years, several exorcism films have flooded the market, none of which hit their intended mark. If anything is certain, this film proves that sequels aren’t always a good idea.

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2 thoughts on ““Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977)

  1. I haven’t seen this sequel since I was younger. I remember being let down after having just seen the first film. The third one truly scared me though. Two scenes in particular come to mind. BTW, saw this article this weekend about exploitation movie posters and thought I’d share:http://io9.com/a-deeper-look-at-some-of-the-most-stunning-exploitation-1727248047?commerce_insets_disclosure=off&utm_expid=66866090-48.Ej9760cOTJCPS_Bq4mjoww.1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

    Liked by 1 person

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