I don’t know who sat down and watched The Exorcist and said “That was fun! Let’s have some more of that” but they should probably burn in Hell. I’ve always found it surprising that there are enough exorcism movies to form an entire subgenre. What else can an exorcism movie be but someone in a bed screaming and making scary faces?
According to The Exorcist II: The Heretic it can be many other things, as long as none of those things are good. Even after watching this film I’m still not sure what it’s about or why it was made. Wait, what am I talking about? I know why it was made: M-O-N-E-Y, which in a way is the scariest thing of all #truth.
The Exorcist II: The Heretic picks up four years after the events of the first film. We follow Father Phillip Lamont (Richard Burton), performing exorcisms in South America. Lamont is called by the Cardinal to investigate the death of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) after the exorcism of Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair). Wait, wait, wait, why did they wait four years to investigate this? Apparently, there are now posthumous heresy charges against Father Merrin’s writings about the Devil. I don’t understand, he’s dead, who cares? Supposedly, the church is trying to erase the incident from the record and prove there’s no devil for the convenience of putting the plot into motion.
Meanwhile, a teenage Reagan MacNeil is living in New York with her guardian because apparently, this movie couldn’t afford to bring back Ellen Burstyn. I’m not sure what Reagan is doing in New York because all she spends her time doing is going to sessions at a psychiatric hospital with her therapist, Dr. Tuskin (Louise Fletcher). Reagan appears to be fine and says she only goes to these sessions to make her mom feel better. I’m not sure why that should matter considering her mom isn’t anywhere to be found in this film.
There doesn’t seem to be any reason to explore what happened to Reagan in the past considering she seems normal now but Tuskin decides they need to delve deep into her mind. Lamont conveniently shows up and also wants more information so Reagan is hooked up to a device that can synchronize the brainwaves between two people called a “Synchronizer”. What the fuck is this, Lawnmower Man? You’re telling me there is a device in this movie that lets you read someone’s mind? I can’t believe they are using an invention that could reshape mankind just to mess with some kid. I can tell this is isn’t getting any better.
Delving into Reagan’s psyche it is discovered that an entity still dwells within Reagan. I’m not sure why any of this matters as she’s fine, she was totally fine. But because they dick around Reagan starts having these bizarre visions of African villagers fighting locusts. Other visions Reagan has includes one with a young African boy possessed by Pazuzu (the same demon that may still dwell within Reagan) and another where James Earl Jones in some kind of African animal-skin garb yells at the camera with his voice replaced by a roaring leopard.
I don’t know what the fuck is going on now. After having the visions Reagan starts sleepwalking (almost killing herself by jumping off a building) and the evil entity within her begins to take control. Lamont tries to learn more about the origin of Pazuzu by visiting some doctor played by James Earl Jones in Africa, but he mostly teaches him about bugs.
The film’s climactic scene is a religious battle between Lamont and a demon version of Reagan that has split apart from the normal version. Locusts flood the room and good Reagan fights them off by swinging her arms like an African boy with a slingshot from one of her visions. The locusts start dying and disappearing even though Reagan doesn’t have a weapon. Lamont does all his “The Power of Christ compels you!” babble and the movie ends.
I appreciate that this film wanted to separate itself from its predecessor but what it became was something so weird and convoluted that it purely exists in its own dimension of suck. It doesn’t surprise me that the film’s director John Boorman (Deliverance, Zardoz) wasn’t even a fan of the first film. Boorman’s Exorcist is just a bunch of half-brained, film school existentialism with some religious mumbo jumbo peppered in.
I’ll give the movie points for its performances, Ennio Morricone score, and production value but that’s it. No Exorcist fan should have to sit through this nonsensical slog. On a brighter note, The Exorcist III, written directed by Exorcist originator William Peter Blatty opened to a better response upon its release in 1990. Plus, that installment had George C. Scott. I wish this version had George C. Scott. He wouldn’t put up with all this film’s hippy dippy bullshit.