Film Review: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Also known as: Exorcist II, The Heretic (working titles)
Release Date: June 17th, 1977
Directed by: John Boorman
Written by: William Goodhart
Based on: characters from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Paul Henreid, James Earl Jones, Ned Beatty, Dana Plato (uncredited)

Warner Bros., 117 Minutes, 102 Minutes (VHS cut)

Review:

“Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air, help me to find Kokumo!” – Father Lamont

It has been a really long time since I’ve seen this film but since I’ve reviewed the first and third films in the series, I figured that revisiting this one was long overdue.

I put it off for ages because it’s the only one out of the three that’s not very good. However, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it.

Honestly, this is a really strange movie that feels like a product of its time, as it uses some modern (for the time) science-based ideas to try and solve the mystery of Reagan’s previous demonic possession and the effects it had and still has on her. It’s kind of hard to explain but there are some neat retro-techie sequences in the film that probably play much better now than they did in 1977.

Additionally, I like that this doesn’t simply try to retread the material and narrative framework of the previous, classic film. Instead, it takes a new and fresh approach. While that can only be as good as the writing and the execution, it still made this an interesting and unusual film that was very different than what was the norm for religious based horror movies of its time.

The film is also loaded with talented actors from the returning Linda Blair, to Louise Fletcher, Richard Burton, Max von Sydow and smaller roles for Ned Beatty and James Earl Jones.

I also really enjoyed the score by Ennio Morricone, which probably deserves more credit than it’s gotten over the years, as the music is overshadowed by the public disdain for the film.

On top of that, I really liked the finale of the film, which saw the good people in the story return to the spot where Reagan was previously possessed. They want to confront and conquer this evil, once and for all, and what we get is a really neat sequence with solid effects and great sets.

The problem with the movie is that it is a very disjointed clusterfuck that drags along at a snail’s pace in some sequences. I think that the better parts of the film offset its general drabness but it’s a bad movie as far as the story and pacing go.

Also, the plot is so far outside of the box, it’s hard to envision this as a sequel to the original, even as it unfolds in front of you, featuring the same young actress playing the same character.

In the end, I get why people hate this movie. Looking at it as its own body of work, it’s palatable. It has some really cool moments but you have to drag yourself through the uneventful portions of the film to reach the more satisfying ones.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: I guess the first and third films but they’re both much, much better.

Film Review: The Exorcist III (1990)

Also known as: Exorcist III: Legion, The Exorcist: 1990 (working titles), Legion (alternative title), William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III (complete title)
Release Date: August 17th, 1990
Directed by: William Peter Blatty
Written by: William Peter Blatty
Based on: Legion by William Peter Blatty
Music by: Barry De Vorzon
Cast: George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, Brad Dourif, Harry Carey Jr., Tyra Ferrell, Samuel L. Jackson, C. Everett Koop, Larry King, Patrick Ewing, Fabio, Colleen Dewhurst (voice)

Morgan Creek Entertainment, 110 Minutes, 105 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You again. You’ve interrupted me. Well… come in, Father Morning. Enter, knight. This time you’re going to lose.” – Patient X

I used to think that my take on The Exorcist III was a weird one, as I always found it to be scarier and creepier than the original. In fact, the original film, even as a kid, didn’t really scare me like it apparently scared the absolute shit out of everyone else.

For whatever reason, this one just scared the fucking bejesus out of me.

In recent years, however, I’ve come to discover that many people feel the same way I do about it, as it sort of hit them in their psyche in a similar way. Maybe that’s a generational thing and this one just seems to resonate more with Generation-X where the first film resonated much more with the Baby Boomers.

Now I do think that the 1973 original is a better motion picture, overall, but that’s mainly due to the narrative flaws of this picture, which probably stemmed from the issues between the director and the studio.

To start, the original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty was hired to direct this third film. He was tasked with adapting his novel Legion. The studio wanted him to rework it into their Exorcist film canon, which means that one should just ignore the insane second movie.

Anyway, the story was reworked and Blatty wanted to just make a Legion movie that stood on its own but the two parties worked out a happy compromise, which was this picture. Granted, it probably wasn’t too happy in the end, as it’s not really what either party wanted and it failed to produce the financial results they were hoping for. However, it’s definitely made back its money over the years, as it became sort of a cult favorite once it was on video.

I think that all the production shenanigans are why the narrative is so shaky and a bit all over the place. Regardless of that, however, it isn’t that difficult to follow and the acting by George C. Scott and Brad Dourif is incredible. In fact, this is probably the greatest performance of Dourif’s storied career despite it not being critically recognized as much as his performances in Mississippi Burning and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

While the film’s pace may be a bit slow, the pacing works well where it counts. I have to give immense props to Blatty for creating one of the greatest jump scare scenes in motion picture history because even though I’ve seen it a half dozen times and know it’s coming, it is still damn effective and gives me chills for days after watching the film.

Also, all the other creepy shit still works and this is a film that has aged really well, as it had to rely on practical effects, as opposed to CGI bullshit that takes you out of the picture. The scene with the possessed nurse on the ceiling just couldn’t work in the same way with modern film technology.

The Exorcist III is not a masterpiece but it is a film that maybe could have been if the director was able to just make the film he intended. While flawed, the high points of the film certainly make up for the low ones and the creepiness of it will linger with you for awhile after you’ve seen it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the first Exorcist movie, as well as The Changeling.

Film Review: The Exorcist (1973)

Release Date: December 26th, 1973
Directed by: William Friedkin
Written by: William Peter Blatty
Based on: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, Linda Blair

Hoya Productions, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime.” – Demon

Few motion pictures have a profound effect on American culture en masse. The Exorcist is one of those pictures and even though I was born five years after it was released, it was the one film that I heard people describe with actual terror in their voice. I was warned about it at an early age, most of the people in my family couldn’t even talk about, it was like the Voldemort of motion pictures in my heavily Christian household.

However, once I did see it, and at a very young age, it went the route most things do for me that people warn me away from or over hype, it didn’t overwhelm me with its terror or greatness.

Still, it is a damn fine motion picture in many ways. But as far as its effect on me, it wasn’t as bad as what I had built up in my mind. But it is bone chilling and terrifying, especially looking at it within the context of the era it came out in.

When I was talking to my mum recently, I pointed out that horror films, in less than ten years, went from Vincent Price movies, which are family friendly at this point, to movies like The ExorcistTexas Chain Saw Massacre and Last House on the Left. To me, it seemed like an extreme jump. Sure, there were gory exploitation films popping up in the ’60s but most people were unaware of those unless they lived near a grindhouse theater in a large city. It just feels that the harder, darker tonal shift in the ’70s, which this film was a part of, had a lot to do with the state of American culture at the time between the Vietnam War, the Nixon crap, the tensions over civil rights, multiple assassinations of prominent figures and so much more.

This is one of those films that I assume everyone over 18 has seen but it is also 45 years old now and these young kids today don’t give a shit about the classics or have the attention span for them. I don’t think that this is a film that will work for younger people because they’ve seen more fucked up movies than this and this story is a slow build towards an insane climax where film’s today have to deliver some sort of scare or special effects extravaganza every five minutes.

The Exorcist is perfectly paced, however. Some may feel it is too slow or that it could have been cut down but the emotional and terror build is so well executed that altering it would probably dilute the effect of the last thirty minutes.

One of my favorite scenes, which is still chilling and effective, is when the priest has the demon (in Regan’s body) tied to the bed and they have a conversation. This exchange is more terrifying than any of the demon’s physical antics.

This picture has impeccable cinematography, lighting and music. Everything used to shape the tone and atmosphere was perfect. The direction was good, the acting was solid and everything just came together really well.

The only thing that would have made this better for me was more backstory on the demon and more clarity as to why it chose Regan. I understand that it was some sort of revenge plot to mess with the priest but the motivations could have been clearer and the backstory could have been fleshed out more. Also, I wanted to know more about the demon. But then again, all of this also could have added too much to the simple story the film tried to tell and it could have easily gotten too convoluted.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The Exorcist sequels and prequels, The Ninth ConfigurationRosemary’s BabyThe Omen film series.