Richard Burton was quite the bad-ass. A womaniser, pisshead, and shit-stirrer, Burton starred in some top notch films and leant his voice to the narration of The War of the Worlds. He also bedded Elizabeth Taylor back when she was reasonable looking and before she lost the plot. Finally, Burton’s crowning achievement: he drank himself to death! Seven years after he starred in the sequel to The Exorcist. Having watched the film last night, I’m surprised it took him that long.
Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977) picks up the story of Regan McNeill four years after her encounter with demonic possession. Now living in New York she is receiving therapy from a psychiatrist for nightmares she’s experiencing. She is reluctant to talk of her experiences back in Washington, even with her therapist, who is convinced that she is still traumatised from the ordeal.
Meanwhile, Fr. Lamont (played, if you can believe it, by Richard Burton) is struggling with his faith after an exorcism he performs goes wrong and the possessed girl he was trying to save kills herself. Lamont is a student of the teachings Of Fr. Merrin, the priest who led the original exorcism of Regan and who died as a result. Merrin is under investigation by the Vatican as some of his teachings are considered by some to be heresy. Lamont travels to New York to meet with Regan and her therapist to gain some insight into what happened to her.
Regan is undergoing an experimental hypnosis treatment that allows for a therapist and patient to share the same hypnotic state of consciousness, effectively allowing the therapist to see the patient’s memories. Regan’s shrink has quite the turn when she comes face to face with what’s been bothering her and nearly dies.
Lamont decides that he wants a go in Regan’s head, and while under the hypnosis he is shown a vision of a younger Fr. Merrin out doing missionary work in Africa including performing an exorcism on a young tribal lad. The vision is presented to him by the demon who had possessed Regan and who is drawn to people with psychic healing abilities. Lamont figures out that the boy in the vision had developed the power to fight the demon, so he seeks him out to get a few tips as it’s apparent that Regan has begun to develop powers of her own that will only serve to draw the demon back.
I consider myself to be a reasonably smart bloke and, despite not paying a lick of attention in any of the schools I attended, I did manage to drag together the component parts of a half-decent education, so it’s no small thing when I say I haven’t a fucking clue what was going on in Exorcist 2. I have a rough idea what was meant to be happening, in that it was definitely a film I was watching, so there was supposed to be a story, and actors, and things like that, but I’ll be damned if I could make it out while it was happening.
There are so many baffling things in Exorcist 2 that it’s hard to pin the blame on any one person, but I’m going to point at John Boorman as being the cocksucker with whom the buck ultimately stops. Boorman, father of Charley Boorman of Long Way Round fame, directed some serious movies in his time including Deliverance and Excalibur which makes it hard to understand what could have gone so very wrong with Exorcist 2.
The story doesn’t make an ounce of sense and in every way imaginable is fucking appalling. Considering the original material they had to work with there’s really no excuse for how off-track the sequel went. There is nothing approaching the dread that was created in the original film and at no point could you ever be scared of anything on screen, in fact quite the opposite, you’ll laugh out loud.
When Richard Burton turned up as Fr. Lamont I was hopeful that Exorcist 2 might turn out to be alright but, wow, how wrong was I. Even if you could get past the idea of the hypnosis machine there’s no way you could forgive the re-shot scenes of Regan’s possession from the first film, especially as the actress Linda Blair refused to wear the make-up necessary for those scenes, so a different actress was used! That’s right; two different actresses played Regan in the same fucking film!
The point about Linda Blair and the make-up effects is interesting as in 1990 she appeared in the spoof Repossessed as a woman who’d been possessed by the devil as a child, and in that movie Blair plastered the demon make-up on. I suppose she needed the work in 1990 and wasn’t going to be as fussy. Frankly I think Blair should have worn the make-up in Exorcist 2 as the roundy-faced cow could have used all the help she could have gotten.
The cast is the big surprise of Exorcist 2 as they’re all of a fairly high calibre. Burton was an amazing actor before he kicked the bucket; Louise Fletcher had won an Oscar two years before Exorcist 2 for her role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; and James Earl Jones was Darth Vader, but Boorman somehow managed to get the absolute worst performances out of them (except Burton, who couldn’t help but rock as the Priest even with the woeful dialogue they gave him).
Exorcist 2 is such a crushing disappointment to any fan of The Exorcist that there’s nothing more to be said except “do not watch this film – it’s fucking shit!”
Two Thumbs Firmly Down for Exorcist 2: The Heretic
Link what she’s done…