Saturday, October 16, 2010

ICONIC: Exorcist 2: The Heretic

You wanna get crazy? You wanna get real crazy? You wanna get real fucking crazy? Then Exorcist 2: The Heretic is here for you. It takes more than it gives, but what it does give is so abundant and thought provoking, that you will be mulling it over for years to come. It takes a very special type of movie to break you down viewing upon viewing, but the more times you watch it, the more you discover the secrets of this film. They are hidden deep in the catacombs of continuity problems and the trenches of plot hole after plot hole, but sometimes the shock of not knowing what is about to happen to you is so enticing, that you can let yourself go. With a virgin viewing of Exorcist 2: The Heretic, you descend into a world of mass market madness and lost focus. And with an invisible spirit stick in her hand, our leader lifts her hand in triumph and swings the stick around and around, beckoning all adventurers to her lair. There is only one person who can navigate us through this film and her name is Regan MacNeil, otherwise known as Linda Blair the great.


At the time of its filming, the ill-fated sequel was the most expensive movie produced by Warners Brothers. They went all out. Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair had both been pursued to do a sequel, but both kept turning down offers, because the scripts were so bad. Finally, Linda approved of a script, but Ellen did not. An omen? A glaring one I think. But since I am always on Linda's side, I say why not? Linda was still a teen and had nothing to lose, Ellen on the other hand needed to move on...
Sadly, the script that Linda signed on for, ended up being re-worked constantly and the film got mocked and the audience tossed trash at it's big premiere. Yanking the movie from movie houses to rework it, the filmmakers re-cut it and tooted up some of the special effects and re-released it, but the damage had already been done. There was no saving it now and once again audiences turned on it. It went down as one of the biggest horror bombs ever, but strangely enough would become the biggest money maker of all The Exorcist sequels. Luckily, for BadMovieArt it became a movie that would grow more powerful as it aged and would become a time capsule of the latter 70's, when acclaimed film directors would start making their big Hollywood bombs and slowly each of them would fall aside to the glitz and merchandise tie-ins of the Blockbuster.

John Boorman arrived on the Hollywood scene when he directed the nail biting and beautifully filmed DELIVERANCE. Balancing the line between art and commercialization is always hard, but Boorman created a masterpiece of the what it means to be a real man and the depths of the soul a man will go to when he needs to preserve his masculinity. He was on board to direct the film version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but when it got cancelled, he moved to his weird Sean Connery in a diaper movie ZARDOZ. A complex space adventure though littered with quality actors, failed to get a good response and he moved on to EXRORCIST 2.
After that movie escaped his hands, he took a couple of years off and came back blazing with the boring, but pre-teen boy favorite EXCALIBUR. Moving away from the Hollywood system and the big budget, he went back to his roots and made the compelling EMERALD FOREST and the understated HOPE AND GLORY. His talents really shine when he has more control over his projects and one of his latter films, BEYOND RANGOON, has got to be the most intimate of his films. Sometimes you have to go to the far side of hell and back to realize just where your talents lay. And I wish every one's personal hell was as much fun as EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC.


The screenwriter, William Goodhart, forgo adapting William Peter Blatty's actual novel sequel( which later would be filmed as Exorcist 3) and set out to create something completely original. He drew his inspiration for the teachings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His source material has popped up in A SCANNER DARKLY and THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN films and it all sorta revolves around God and nature combining and getting to a higher ground. In a nutshell of course. But knowing that tidbit, makes EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC a little more comprehensible. A little. And when Boorman and the producers failed to recognize the brilliance of Goodhart's script, they brought in a couple of Boorman minions to "toot" it up a bit. Aka more gore and scares.

The always unbelievable Ennio Morricone delivers a film score that will drive you to the brink of reality and back. The score feels more like an actual character in the film than just some background music. It is used to seduce you, hypnotize you and scare the shit out of you. It is a force. Not as grand and legendary as "Tubular Bells" from the first Exorcist, but still a fantastic effort. Ennio, you ROCK!

So five years have passed and lil' Regan MacNeil is a budding teen on the verge of womanhood. Linda Blair looks beautiful. '77 was prime Linda Blair time and she gives good face and has a huge rack! She tries to remain very serious, but her joy of being young and being a movie star show through the cracks. She is having way too much fun. Regan is trying to pull it together though. She has left the demons behind and has been going through intense therapy and also has a supporting role in the school play where she gets to TAP!! Yes, ladies and gays, she has a fucking tap number. They tease us a little at first, with a little soft shoe, but the movie focuses on it a little too much so you know it will be a minor plot device. Or a major one, depending on who you ask. So everything is going not great, but manageable, sorta...

Regan mother, Chris MacNeil, is on location filming a movie. Hopefully the sequel to her, "WAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE" college campus drama that she was working on in the first Exorcist. Regan is left with Sharon, her mom's assistant in a penthouse made of glass in the middle of New York. Because it is always a good idea to let a once disturbed person live in a high rise condo where the outside decks do not have railings. Sharon is wreck. She can't seem to get a grasp on anything. She is either running around freaking out or standing in silence with tears welling up in her eyes. A wreck. A throw away in the first film, her character becomes a major supporting role in the sequel. She even gets to find lots of clues!

Since Burstyn could not be bothered with the film, we get the poor man's version, Louise Fletcher. She plays Regan's therapist at a highly experimental and super duper bizarre children's hospital. Seriously, the minute you see the inside of this place, you know that nothing good can come from it. The place is full of glasses offices and an assortment of creepy child actors leaning on the glasses looking sad and actual mentally handicapped kids roaming around. It's weird. There is one classic scene of a very serious conversation between Blair and Fletcher and all you can focus on are the kids on the other side of the glass rolling a HUGE ass foam tire around and around. At least the kids seem to be having fun on the set. I swear a couple of them keep looking at the camera. There is some mumbo jumbo about a synchronizing mind machine, that if you stare a blinking light, you will go way under and into the deepest darkest parts of your mind. Fletcher is trying to make Regan remember what happened during that horrible time in Georgetown, but she just can't seem to get inside. Regan utters the first of many memorable lines when she stares blankly at Fletcher and says, "You can't handle what's in my head!" HOLLA!!!


We are a good 45-50 minutes into the movie and Louise Fletcher seems to just give up. Call it method acting or call it sick of doing the movie, but Fletcher turns into a stone statue and never returns. Also, what the hell is actually going? One minute we are having to listen to Linda Blair say to Dana Plato, "I was possessed, but I'm better now," then thrust into an amazing version of SOARIN' over Africa. The viewer feels like they are trapped in a mind fuck tug of war, not knowing if they are going to be able to stand their ground or slip into the muddy puddle of all that is Exorcist 2. I say, let the rope go and just spread open your arms and go face first in the mess. It is much easier and more fun.

So there is a lot going on in this movie. Blinking lights, Sharon freak outs, A bug flying across the African landscape and then we get him! Richard Burton shows up as a drunk priest who connects with Regan in a way no one else can. Why? Cuz they both has been paid visits by the devil. They call him Pazuzu and he kicks ass. Ole Paz is the demon of the southwest wind who causes famine and brings about locust to ruin everything. In the first Exorcist we get this version of Pazuzu:



In the sequel Pazuzu shows back up in a Father Burton flashback. It seems that he saw a vision of Paz when doing a mind meld with Regan and it all came back to him and WE get to go on the journey through time with him. You remember that little hint of a tap routine, well the wait is OVER! Linda straps on her tux and taps and goes for it. She steals the whole thing from all the other students, but suddenly gets confused with all that devil stuff going on and tumbles off the stage. It is just as good as it sounds. Regan whispers, "Call me by my dream name," and we are off. Jousting into a completely different movie, we find ourselves with Father Burton as he is scaling a mountain with extras helping from left to right. He climbs all the way up and discovers a forbidden temple of lust and general unholiness. This involves lots of dancing and creepy white out eyes. That is where he meets his version of Pazuzu and I must say, this version is much CUTER!!


And I think this is the point when everything went out the window. I would love to have a time machine and go to the opening weekend of this movie and watch the audience react. When did they actually lose their shit and turn on the movie? There are so many moments that will break you, but you gotta be strong, cuz Linda is about to get re-re-re-repossessed and John Boorman is going to bust all the sets, so beautifully crafted, bits. The entire cast ends up at the old George Town brownstone where the original possession happened. There are tons of flashbacks, but instead of using footage from the first movie, they opted to re-create some scenes, but without Linda in the make-up. She claimed it fucked up her skin. Most likely true. Father Burton battles Pazuzu and the Sharon has ANOTHER freak out and burst into flames. GOOD SCENE. The house starts to crumble and break apart, but Linda channels the ancient tribal woman who can calm the locust (yes, this is what is going on) and using an invisible spirit stick to make all right in the world. It is FUCKING AWESOME.

And it's over. The end. You spent almost two hours in the trenches of BadMovieArt and either you emerge a new and better person or just a shell of what you use to be. Linda is your guide. Take her hand. Trust her and you will find the purest of joy and you get to see her roll her eyes in the back of her head.

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