Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)


A crackpot horror that only gets weirder the more you will it to normalise. Just think that this was probably considered one of Warner’s prestige pictures of 1977 and try not to go crosseyed. You can see the logic behind them hiring Boorman but they clearly underestimated how wild he was willing to go. A lot of it comes down to the script, of-course, but this feels like a Boorman freak-out through and through.

The fact they turned Linda Blair’s Regan into a bit of a sexpot is certainly confusing but Blair does puts in a strong, bewitching performance that, along with Sydow’s minor encore, goes a long way to bridge the gap between this and the iconic original film. There is a massive shift from Friedkin’s tone to Boorman’s. The dread-riddled psychological apocalypse – all testing of faith and dark, cold interiors – blows up into a bombastic telekinetic head trip here.

This is much more of a special effects picture. Boorman’s love of extravagant production design is on full display. The futuristic deaf institute, for instance, wouldn’t look out of place in Zardoz. By the end the film has morphed into shrieking cacophony of exploding glass, lightning flashes and a wind machine cranked all the way to eleven. There’s a cool structural conceit that plays like one long, slow pilgrimage back to the iconography of the first film as the characters gradually return to that house and that bedroom in Georgetown. How they get there, I can barely remember.

The plot is load of old nonsense. Something about a good locust and a bad locust? Blah blah blah. Oh look James Earl Jones! Nurse Ratched! Seriously, this reaches Argento-levels of silliness and incomprehensibility, but like most Argento movies, you find yourself enjoying it because it is so utterly batshit and striking. The whole thing is augmented by a terrific Ennio Morricone score too which certainly helps the whole thing go down smoother. Whatever the hell Boorman was smoking with that studio cash, I want some.

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