Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), directed by John Boorman.

Or: Regan Has Two Bodies.

Probably one of the most hated film sequels, partly on its own merits and partly because the original was so well liked. It gets 3.6 at the IMDB. I'd never seen the whole thing before.

It's pluses: Boorman has a lot of imagination. Richard Burton appears as the new priest; Max von Sydow and Linda Blair return. Ennio Morricone score.

Flickers of a good story try to emerge: the notion that the demon is playing a long game and operates independently of time and space. That the scientific apparatus and investigation into Fr Merrin's death are cunning traps. That Regan remembers her possession and is fighting an unseen battle against the demon.

These hints can't overcome all the problems. It's slow and boring, with none of the deep tone of spiritual menace and loathsomeness of the original. They try to substitute insectoid horror but it's not the same. The plot barely hangs together and the action finale makes no sense. They are forever messing with the mind-meld apparatus and introduce an element of cuteness which is fatal to this type of story.

Talking out the plot is bad in both books and in film. And there is something extra cheap-looking about most 1970s horror. I don't know what it is: lighting, color, film, sets? (See early Cronenberg) Dubbing also makes the film seem cheap when the voices and footsteps come from some dead studio space.

I don't know if it was meant to be funny, but the heretic priest taking the adolescent girl to a shabby hotel for their "experiments" gave me a chuckle.

With James Earl Jones. Paul Henreid's last film.