Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977) – Revisited
I recently had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing John Boorman’s EXORCIST 2 at the British Film Institute. I was surprised that the chaps at the BFI would show such a movie; this is a film which has been almost universally slammed by critics and fans over the years. (Martin Scorsese being the controversial exception).
I have to say, I have never liked the movie. Previous viewings had taken me on a frustrating journey fraught with diabolical melodrama (Burton is cringing) and torpedoed by an indescribably ridiculous script. So, is EXORCIST 2 as bad as I remember?
A mature look at Boorman’s film cannot fail to recognise the ambition and startling cinematography. In addition, Ennio Morricone’s score is varied and uplifting, although the best piece “Magic and Ecstasy” was edited out of most prints and appears – heavily – in the theatrical trailer alone. But, despite an appreciation of style and Boorman’s attempts to explore themes left well alone by the original, EXORCIST 2 remains a pretty dreadful movie. Unfortunately, my past observations were reinforced rather than diluted on this latest viewing. In fact, the sheer scale of EXORCIST 2’s failure as a horror movie is quite appalling. Alternatively, and more justly, EXORCIST 2 should be viewed as a fantasy-type movie. This film is not about the terrors of demonic possession in an ordinary girl, it’s about why Regan – and others – were chosen by the demon in the first place. Once you realise that, you kind of feel sorry for Boorman rather than seething angrily at the mess on the screen.
Nevertheless, the best intentions of creating a grandiose mythos of good against evil are drowned out by the film’s glaring errors in other departments.
The bottom line is that EXORCIST 2 is well-meaning but incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. It has to be seen to be believed and for precisely this reason, THE HERETIC is likely to remain as maddeningly fascinating as it is desperately disappointing.