When I first watched The Exorcist it didn’t hit me as a very scary film. I didn’t hide under my sheets scared by demons trying to get inside me. It was too far fetched, even for my adolescent brain. Frankly, my lack of faith may have something to do with it not inducing fear in me.
Recently that I had the opportunity to view The Exorcist III. The effects were great, the plot was awesome, it was a delightful surprise for me. A Surprise which lead me to watch the franchise mostly, for the first time. Part one is a truly a special and unique film. Part two, Exorcist II: The Heretic, caused me to question what people kept telling me, that it was a fantastic series. The Exorcist III was amazing, a feast for the eyes and mind. The two prequels? …Bah! What’s the point of talking about it if we weren’t given a solid backstory. You can’t give fans two different Mythos and ask us to choose. Life nor film should work that way.
Back to the sequel, it was terrible.
With John Boorman being quoted as saying “It all comes down to audience expectations. The film that I made, I saw as a kind of riposte to the ugliness and darkness of The Exorcist – I wanted a film about journeys that was positive, about good, essentially. And I think that audiences, in hindsight, were right. I denied them what they wanted and they were pissed off about it – quite rightly, I knew I wasn’t giving them what they wanted and it was a really foolish choice. The film itself, I think, is an interesting one – there’s some good work in it – but when they came to me with it I told John Calley,, who was running Warner Bros. then, that I didn’t want it. “Look,” I said, “I have daughters, I don’t want to make a film about torturing a child,” which is how I saw the original film. But then I read a three-page treatment for a sequel written by a man named William Goodhart and I was really intrigued by it because it was about goodness. I saw it then as a chance to film a riposte to the first picture. But it had one of the most disastrous openings ever – there were riots! And we recut the actual prints in the theatres, about six a day, but it didn’t help of course and I couldn’t bear to talk about it, or look at it, for years” it’s a little shocking he was hired to direct. If he thought the 1973 film was about torturing a young girl than, he didn’t open his eyes to the nuances and metaphors that are in every scene if not, every shot. I’m almost certain with a different director and a stable script this wouldn’t have been quite the flunker it was.
Really, any movie trying to follow-up William Friedkins’ genus was bound to fail. It has been reported many times, on the night of the premier for Exorcist III: The Heretic that the audience laughed, and, that the first burst of joy came from the belly of William Peter Blatty. Be it legend or the truth, it’s plausible.
I can’t imagine who upsetting this must have been to the cast and crew. Later, Linda Blair tried to back pedal saying “It was a really good script at first. Then after everybody signed on they rewrote it five times and it ended up nothing like the same movie“ and, flat out crapping on the film “it was one of the big disappointments of my career“
Actor Max von Sydow had to be convinced to reprise his role, Ellen Burstyn absolutely refused, Linda Blair agreed on the condition she did not have to dawn the possession make-up again. Which seems odd since she did so during the film Reposessed (what would have been a superior sequel then The Heretic). With these refusals, uncertainties and demands, I am dumbfounded as to why the film was even made.
The Heretic left the genre. One would suspect a sequel to a movie which affected so people on any number of levels to be terrifying.However, what was released was a Drama/Science Fiction/Thriller. Do not expect a horror film. Regan was over pasteurized. She tap-danced, she was nice to everyone, she didn’t seem to have any normal teen feelings or issues at all. She didn’t swear and when Pazuzu was out, there was no hyper-sexual-rants, as in the first feature. The violence was little to none.
The only overtly violent scene I can recall is when Father Philip Lamont (Richard Burton) had to walk across a pond with spikes coming out of the top to talk to Koumo (James Earl Jones who did not shine in this role). It was actually well done and, turned out quite disturbing. It would have been best have added in a few (many) more bits like that. Perhaps, at the very least, The Heretic would be re-watchable.
Horror fans tend to not take kindly to directors who are too liberal with the original mythos of beloved films. Add to them yes, destroy what we know and we will turn on you. I hear this every day in my group and elsewhere online, keep what we know and build from there.
Don’t try to pull one over on us with another Halloween III: Season of the Witch, or Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. If you like, give these characters their own franchises, stop F’ing with what we know (usually far too much) about.
In The Heretic, Regan has the power to heal the sick, giving reason to her possession by Pazuzu. The demon (now) inhabits the bodies of Healers (those close to God) and attempts to stop them in their tracks. Which, until the battle with Regan, Pazuzu appears to have been quite successful at. Other minor differences take place throughout the film.These feel as mistakes created from Boorman‘s ignorance of the first film. Such as, Father Merrin (Sydow) death taking place in a different area of Regan’s room. Things like that make my teeth grind. If you know the franchise well, you will find many mishaps like that throughout the sequel. The more I think about it, I question if Boorman watched the film all the way through.
A machine titled “The Synchronizer” was introduced in The Heretic.The audience is asked to believe that by using the Synchronizer (a light and some electrodes) which allows Regan to regress to the past memory of her exorcism and her Therapist Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) can visually see whatever is going on inside the mind of Regan. Will you be socked if I tell you it doesn’t work correctly? No matter the effort, my brain couldn’t dumb itself down to accept this. However, instrumental it was to the plot, it was a stupid idea.
Despite a pretty great cast, the storyline was too weak and could have used some healing itself. Let’s face it, Linda Blair isn’t a fantastic actress. She has had one solid film under her belt. A movie made without her knowledge of what it was about. Blair‘s being so young and naïve of the topic was probably positive in the case of The Exorcist. She wasn’t trying to express evil, she was doing what she instructed to. Come The Heretic, she is old enough to ascertain the plot, her effort in acting soiled the film (and her career). Perhaps recasting Regan would have been beneficial, however, the movie would still have flopped written the way it was.
Admittedly, I enjoyed the metaphysical good locust ride. Peering in to the past and leaving clues for Father Philip Lamont follow and overcome evil. For me, that was the best part of the film. It didn’t have any actors in it, merely a locust flying ferociously around Africa. It was fun and the effects were pretty damn good for 1977.
Would I watch Exorcist: The Heretic again? No. Not unless there was lots of booze. It wasn’t a good film. Barely entertaining and the climax was, well, disappointing. I wouldn’t call this film for a second date.
The trailer is 10 % better than the film. I say watch that and then head straight for part three.