Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
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Also, put in a broader context, this film manages to capture a part of intellectual ambiance of the late seventies, introducing ideas and concepts that were then considered pseudo-scientific and fanciful, only to become legitimate subject matter of serious research, two decades later. The collapse of humanity into one group mind (obvious references to de Chardin's notion of noosphere, drawn by father Lamont), the parallels between insect (locust) and human society regarding the spread of destructive/violent behavior (check mass psychology, research on swarm intelligence, the popularity of Steven Johnson's 'Emergence' etc.)
So, for those of you expecting horror movie chills and thrills - you should skip this one. But for those of you interested in how quirky scientific ideas inspire pop-culture pieces like 'The Heretic' - it is highly recommended.
Lamont is assigned by the Cardinal to investigate the death of Father Merrin, who had been killed four years prior in the course of exorcising the demon Pazuzu from Regan MacNeil. Regan, although now seemingly normal and staying with guardian Sharon Spencer in New York, continues to be monitored at a psychiatric institute by Dr. Gene Tuskin. Regan claims she remembers nothing about her plight in Washington, D.C., but Tuskin believes her memories are only buried or repressed. Father Lamont visits the institute but his attempts to question Regan about the circumstances of Father Merrin's death are rebuffed by Dr. Tuskin. In an attempt to plumb her memories of the exorcism, specifically the circumstances in which Merrin died, Dr. Tuskin hypnotizes the girl, to whom she is linked by a "synchronizer", a biofeedback device used by two people to synchronize their brainwaves. We see what really happened to Merrin and the times that he did face the demon prior to Regan.
Exorcist 2 certainly is a bad movie, however, I must give some credit as it's a really interesting story. It's just made with the wrong people and was directed by a man who hated the first film. I think that's why it's a bad movie in some sense, it seemed to disrespect the original. Also them repeating the demon's name "Pazuzu" was just annoying and makes the demon sound less frightening. One of the things I loved about the original is that the demon that possessed Regan was kept a secret and left up to interpretation, she says she's the devil but Kerris brings up the point where that's like saying you're Napoleon Bonaparte. Then Merrin brought up that the demon is a liar, so we could deny that she's the devil himself. But giving the name Pazuzu just didn't work, well at least when you say it more than a dozen times. James Earl Jones and the locust costume was just way too funny and the funny thing is this movie was released the same year as Star Wars, wouldn't it be hilarious if he got off the set and went to do the voice work as Darth Vader in that costume?! Exorcist 2 is not the worst movie of all time, it had tremendous potential with the story, but due to the people that were working on it, it just was doomed to not hold a candle to the original. I would say that this movie is a skip, if you want to see this movie I recommend just taking acid and watching the first film.
If you can accept the fact that this is a completely different movie than the original, you might find that it's a pretty good movie on its own. Fantastic acting from Burton, a wonderful score, and some truly gorgeous visuals, especially the climactic scene in the house, make it one of the most underrated movies of all time. Even if some scenes leave you falling over with laughter.
Most of the people who like "Exorcist II" tend not to have liked "Exorcist I" much, and vice versa. Blatty himself said in one interview that it didn't work because the director was a Protestant, and in another interview that it was because he wasn't a believer. To me the second film shows more spiritual feeling than the first, but no interest at all in the Church, and maybe in some minds that equates to unreligiousness.
The first "Exorcist" purported to be about possession, but most of its imagery was of a young girl being raped: by her mother's party guests, by doctors, by priests, by a crucifix. "Exorcist II" actually is about possession, among other things, and culminates in the interesting idea (excised after release but later restored on video and DVD) that people who have been possessed and purged of evil can go forth to heal all the others who are similarly afflicted. I happen to think that's an inspiring idea for a story.
But then I like mystical thrillers, and apparently most filmgoers don't--or didn't then. The first "Exorcist" was not one; this is. The images in the first film, when they don't involve repulsive bodily detail, have no metaphysical resonance; they're relentlessly physical, often sexual, and when the demon itself appears, it's in the form of the actual, literal statue. By contrast the images in "Exorcist II" have deliberate metaphysical implications. I doubt that they were worked out thoroughly; it's more as if Boorman were playing with them, in the same way he lets the light play through the stylized sets and behind the actors. The scenes of possession capture the sense of historical accounts of the phenomenon more than those in the first film, which is too much distracted by physical threat and sexual aberration.
Like "Exorcist II" or no, take it seriously or no, I was and am puzzled why more people were unable to enjoy its appeal to the eye and the ear (the music was pretty too), let alone to the imagination. I think perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to enjoy it: that they had to deride it and be seen to deride it because what it said, or the way in which it was said, was something that they had just learned to reject or that contradicted something they had just learned to believe.
It must be admitted that the film is unsatisfactory dramatically. The fantastic incidents of the first film, besides being reduced to the most prosaic physical terms, were fitted within a sequence of conventional, punchy, easily playable scenes; one cared about Ellen Burstyn's problems in a movieish way, and through her Linda Blair's. In the sequel Blair doesn't have the scenes to play, and her inexperience as an actress keeps one from feeling involved with her; Burton is better, but his dialogue doesn't communicate the spiritual dilemma he's undergoing. The excitements of the narrative tend rather to distract from this also. But I found them fun in their own right, and the film as well, apart from the occasional gratuitous shock for shock's sake: fun for the mind and the fancy.
The scientific part was actually quite interesting to me, and the metaphor was excellent foreshadowing. Linda Blair has grown since the first exorcist, and was very good as an actress.
While not as scary as the original, this movie was filled with mystery and suspense. I recommend this movie to most fans.
The acting is quite good throughout - it's Richard Burton, Lousie Fletcher, Max Von Sydow, and James Earl Jones after all. The cinematography and direction are superb - but it is intentionally of a certain 70's expressionistic flair that most moviegoers aren't familiar with nor would they like it. The locust-cam may seem silly to some people, but I found it quite effective, not to mention friggin' cool. The mind-melding scene was amazing, and I had to play the scene over a couple times to figure out how Boorman was able to film it at all. It's quite an impressive camera trick that he pulls off; the effect of which, sadly, can easily be missed if the film is being watched on an average-sized television.
I won't tell much about the plot, because speaking about the plot would only confuse most and spoil the fun for the few who will find this film to be brilliant. If you're looking for a horror movie, don't look to this film at all. It barely qualifies as a horror movie in any way. It's more of a theatrical-scifi-spiritual-epic journey with some horror elements driving the plot. It makes me think of David Bowie for some reason which I can't clearly pin down. But really it's not containable in any genre or understandable through brief description. If you're interested watch the preview online, which does make it look a little more action-packed than it really is - but I say that believing it to be one of the best trailers ever made. It will give you a brief taste of the movie, although it was clearly made to trick the average moviegoer into seeing something that he or she wasn't prepared for, and mostly didn't want.
Not Boorman's finest film, but it vies for position among them. It is one of the weirder movies to come out of the seventies, and I realize all that that implies. I thought it was fantastic. It is under-appreciated - movies like this couldn't get made these days. Most folks will unfortunately hate it.
Let's hope the DVD release will bring new converts to this amazing work.
When Blatty declined to write Warner Bros.' sequel, John Boorman and his creative associate Rospo Pallenberg developed an original script from a treatment by playwright William Goodhart, the credited screenwriter. Boorman accepted the project as a means to artistically express metaphysical ideas in which he was absorbed. The link to Teilhard De Chardin provided an ideal venue. The story of Father Lamont's spiritual odyssey is specifically a meditation on the Grail Quest theme, derived from Celtic mysticism and Arthurian legend, which underlie a thematically-related sequence in Boorman's early work: DELIVERANCE, ZARDOZ, EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, Excalibur and THE EMERALD FOREST, comprising an important cinematic exploration of the Quest as Initiatory path.
In EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, the late Father Merrin's reputation has fallen into disrepute and Father Lamont (Richard Burton), suffering a crisis of faith, is ordered by the Cardinal to investigate "the circumstances surrounding the death of Father Merrin" and the legitimacy of the exorcism before Merrin's papers (his life's work) can be released.
The title character of THE EXORCIST was that of Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow); this role then passed to the younger priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller). Just so, the heretic in EXORCIST II is initially Merrin until, through young Regan (Linda Blair), Father Lamont makes contact with the mind of Merrin and in that psychic joining shares his vision. Thus Lamont's descent into (and beyond) heresy is an initiatory quest which deepens as he goes against the Church's orders and ultimately calls upon the demon for guidance to the "evil heart" of the mystery.
In the scene at the Natural History Museum, the attentively listening viewer will discover (in the full 117-minute version) that Father Lamont tells Regan about Teilhard de Chardin and briefly explains the World Mind theory. The science-fictional device called the Synchronizer allows the World Mind concept to be expressed in cinematic images. (Among the many differences between this film and THE HERETIC is that the original's emphasis is strongly verbal whereas THE HERETIC expresses its complex ideas almost entirely in visual and symbolic terms.) A distinction is drawn between the peace and unity of the World Mind and the insanity ("evil") and corruption of its opposite, the ego: a state of separation from consciousness which mimics the One-Mindedness of God or the Universe. In THE HERETIC, this imitation or false Christ is symbolized by Pazuzu, the Babylonian genie and locust god--one of many "heathen" idols demonized in the Judeo-Christian tradition. (The demon was named in Blatty's novel but not in the original film.) Its activity of separation masked as joining is symbolized by the locust swarm which forms a single-mindlessness ("a Locust Mind, if you will") in mockery of Whole (Holy) Consciousness (Spirit). The resulting psychic fragmentation is reflected in the mirror images which permeate the film. Regan represents an evolutionary step toward the "Omega Point", the healing of the separation; a forerunner of Kubrick's Star Child.
John Boorman's film doesn't spell itself out for the viewer any more than does Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and there is no Arthur C. Clarke novel to "explain it all for us". Boorman intends THE HERETIC to stimulate intelligent and imaginative thought and speculation. Where Kubrick and Clarke's ideas (initially met with great perplexity) have long been sanctioned as worthy of consideration, Boorman's somehow flew over the heads of a viewer-ship which, threatened by the film's non-dualistic subversion of the original's simplistic "good vs. evil" formula, has for thirty years ridiculed a misunderstood artwork. The original mass audience which condemned the film on first release was fresh from making the relatively ghastly Italian EXORCIST imitation Beyond the Door a huge box office success because it gave them what they wanted and only what they wanted: puke, puke and more puke. And so like the swarming locusts, the mundane Philistine mentality endlessly repeats the hypnotic chant: "worst sequel, worst sequel, worst..." There is no actual "Director's Cut" of EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. The 117-minute Theatrical Version is John Boorman's official cut.
During the disastrous initial release, Warner Bros. hastily issued instructions to theaters to remove specified sections of the film which had drawn audience hostility, without consulting the director. Under extreme pressure, Boorman subsequently prepared a third, more carefully edited version for the international release. The re-editing rendered a difficult and highly symbolic film incomprehensible to the horror-show expectations of the audience. The most significant deletion was the discussion of Teilhard de Chardin's World Mind theory, the central focus of the film.
This bastardized version debuted on cable in the United States and for a decade the film was available exclusively in this distorted form. The full-length version, unseen since the early weeks of the initial release, was restored in the late 1980's for home video and is currently available on DVD. Mercifully, the Butcher's Cut has been permanently withdrawn.
Given his experience with the film, it is unlikely that Boorman would involve himself in a new Director's Cut edition. Given the mindless disrespect shown the film, he seems to have washed his hands of it and its detractors.
This film is just fine for me. After all, it was made, technically, just as well, if not better, than the first, and it's a good example of how to use pseudo-science for fun and experiment in fantasy. It also has many symbolic references to the human mind, some visible, others not so much. The only downfalls are a few moments that, if edited, would take away some snicker feelings the viewer might get. I won't lie, some of the voicing of the demon is awful, but it's not the worst. It's just a different take on it. Why America is not so accepting of this film is anyone's guess. Maybe director John Boorman was right. Perhaps is WAS to good for most people...
Directed by John Boorman (Deliverance, Excalibur, Zardoz) made an strange, messy, horror film with some (unfortunely) unintentional laughs. Blair does her best, she looks cute in most of the movie but she isn't an leading actress. The late Burton looks foolish at times with his unintentionally bad dialogue. Only Fletcher gives an memorable performance as an sympathetic doctor. This was an major box office disappointment, it was released in 1977. Which Boorman tried to re-cut the picture but it didn't help.
DVD has an fine anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and an decent Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono Sound. DVD includes an Alternate Opening Sequence, an Teaser Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer and Cast & Crew information. "The Exorcist 2:The Heretic" is a wild mess, it makes you wonder what Boorman and Screenwriter:William Goodhart original intentions were. Although this movie does an cult following. The biggest fan of "The Exorcist 2:The Heretic" is actually Oscar-Winning filmmaker:Martin Scorsese! This movie is best enjoyed with an open mind. The special effects does brings this movie to life at times but it is overdone by seeing Locusts on-screen, large or small. Which the feature looks pointless at times. (*** ½/*****).
But apart from its difficult understanding, its estrangement from the genre of the first movie and its slow development, "The Heretic" is still a NOTEWORTHY MOVIE, especially if not compared to the first one. This film is valuable in itself. Personally I appreciate the risk and originality to create a new work of art. Because, above all, this movie has a remarkable art direction that helps to maintain the interest, and to lighten its dense story. The African landscapes, with simply sensational background music and an impressive use of the footage create a dreamlike feeling very accomplished. The music also stands out in other scenes of great visual impact, such as that in which Regan looks thoughtfully at its roof in an attic in New York, with a strongly beautiful score, "Regan's Theme" a melancholic and somewhat angelic theme, suggesting this girl, formerly victim of a demon, is a special human being. It's really worthy of mention this John Boorman's ability to convey certain feelings and emotions with a simple but very effective right mix of music and image. And while many dialogs have the certain innocence of that years (the 1970s), I think that almost the whole cast ensemble match their respective characters. Draws particular attention the angelic beauty of Linda Blair, who in this movie gets rid of the unpleasant character of the previous film to offer a girl that no longer possessed (although at the risk of being again) appears (as stated before) as a kind of messiah, an envoy to do the good.
I think it is a worthy and remarkable film. I'm surprised the terrible criticism raised, especially when today almost no Hollywood film has content. Maybe with a more understandable script, a little less of footage, and a few more scares, the film had managed to won the public's support. I admit it is a dense film, you can like it, you can dislike it. But no one is indifferent to it. I can't understand how the reviewers, who always support anything that away from the easy way, don't like this movie (despite its failures). It's easier to understand its relative flop at the box office (It grossed over $30 million dollars at that time, thereby it was profitable, although not as expected) because is very difficult to market it for being difficult to place it in a specific genre. But in short, I keep going thinking the same. It is one of the most underrated movies ever and I encourage a new revision. The film deserves to be watched twice at last, and unbiased. You may find, among the entire jumble, a potential masterpiece that was never a masterpiece but shows its aims to be that.
If seeing any crap movie from Hollywood now, those that offer a lot of FX and no content, do you really think that "The Exorcist II" is a bad film? It may be not easy to watch, but I think its strengths are too numerous to be considered a crap.
The best: - The amazing soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Stunning! - The cinematography and the visuals - The whole cast ensemble. Linda Blair: an angel. - Its originality and risk - The story
The worst - Lack of scares (in my opinion it is not a failure, but compared to the first film its seems to be too light) - The difficulty to understand some things, due to its dense and a little complicated script - The ending, forced and not too conclusive
Overall: it needs a further review and another chance. I can't understand the so much hatred to this enjoyable and personal movie.