The Exorcist II: The Heretic 1977 ***

John Boorman still retains a mystique as one of the great British directors; films like Point Black, Deliverance, or even later work like The General are true classics. Even his Excalibur project now finds itself rehabilitated though referencing by Zack Snyder amongst others. But he was also capable of valuing the idea above the commercial, and that unfettered creative impulse led to such strange work as Zardoz and  The Exorcist II: The Heretic, a truly bizarre film that’s satisfactory neither as a Boorman film or as a sequel to William Friedkin’s horror sensation. Linda Blair returns as an older Regan, and Richard Burton turns up as a priest, but the emphasis moves from religion to science, and telekinesis is a fresh theme that sits uneasily in the mix. Plagues of locusts, James Earl Jones dressed as a giant insect, some weird dream sequences, Africa, there’s a slew of ingredients here but none of them gel, and the real horror must have been amongst Warner executives who watched this potential tent-pole money-spinner crash and burn. That said, The Exorcist II made a decent whack of cash before word got out; it’s a film that, like Zardoz, requires several attempts to mine something worthwhile from before the most earnest critic eventually succumbs to mirth and despair. It takes real talent to make a truly awful movie; viewing Exorcist II is like viewing the ruins of a temple to an unknown god, a brain-boggling, dreamlike, mystifying experience.


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    • He’s not the only one. I’ve met a few fans. Perhaps film-making in 1977 could have gone in the direction of metaphysics, but it went down the road of more conventional horror instead. Still, ambition deserves some applause.

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