There was not even one second in between first being asked to come up with the least scariest movie of all time and “Exorcist ll, The Heretic” popping into my head. What a disappointment this sequel was and still is, to the most scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist.
Of course it was up against impossible odds to be as good and as terrifying as the original Exorcist, but this film wound up with nothing going for it. For starters, the producers were unable to get many of the key characters to return for this sequel, and the one that they could coax into coming back, Linda Blair, refused to don any demon makeup. They had no Mercedes McCambridge providing unbelievably horrific demon sounds, and they had no cutting edge director like William Friedkin. Also, both the MacNeil house in Georgetown and the infamous steps adjacent to the house from the first film had to be replicated. The filmmakers were refused permission by the home owner and Washington city officials to re-shoot at those locations, as if even they knew the film was destined for turkey status.
Most importantly, as it pertains to this article, what we have here is a follow up to a film with so many frightening images and sounds, without any of its own. Its like a sequel to Rocky without a climactic boxing match. There were some attempts at recapturing the original films magic but they all fell flat. The image of Reagan as the demon, where a body double for Linda Blair was used, was all too brief. The makeup and voice was a far cry from Dick Smith and Mercedes McCamberidge; the latter was actually still in litigation with Warner Brothers for not receiving proper screen credit for the first film.
Director John Boorman has been heavily quoted regarding this film. What can he say really? He turned down the opportunity to direct the first film because he was “repulsed by the script” and four years later was “intrigued with the idea of directing a sequel”. Boormans film deals with thematic elements of spirituality, ESP, science vs religion and introduces theological theories by Teilhard de Chardin from his book “The Phenomenon of Man”. Sounds complex and thought provoking, which was easier I’m sure than recreating the realistic and awe inspiring horrifying special effects from the original film that most fans wanted to see more of.
“The Exorcist ll” was just not at all scary. This would become evident as, opposed to stories and reports of fainting and illness at screenings of the original Exorcist. “Exorcist ll, The Heretic” was met by laughter and heckling from most audiences. Humor and audience participation is not uncommon with some of the more campy and low budget horror films; in fact its a large part of the appeal of those films. Comedy is not what “Exorcist ll” was going for, It was hardly low budget either costing $14 million to make.
Rent the original Exorcist this Halloween, or even the third installment at least it’s got Jason Miller and George C. Scott.
And just for the record, when a list was compiled for The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, “Exorcist II: The Heretic” came in at number two second to only Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 from Outer Space”.