Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Director: John Boorman
Starring: Linda Blair, James Earl Jones, Richard Burton

"I was possessed by a demon. Oh, it's okay. He's gone!"

It takes a special type to review so many bad movies. You start to question things – you start to really look at yourself and how you spend your time. Sometimes you feel like giving up. ‘This is stupid,’ you’ll say, wistfully looking at your work and deciding that you’ll stop doing it, that you’ll quit and start doing more productive things with your time. Like feeding homeless people, or helping autistic children. Yes, you’ll say…this is the way to a better, more productive life. But the demon is always there. Do you feel it yet? It’s nagging at you. Kind of…small at first; a little itch in the back of your mind. And the rage builds up, and then you find yourself there again, in the midst of it all, sitting through another product of humanity’s misery and lunacy.

Huh? Oh, right; I’m still doing a review. This one was hard to swallow, people. It’s just…yergh, what a bad one this was. If you remember the original Exorcist movie from ’73; well, it was a masterwork, with a sick, festering demeanor that really elevated it above anything else at the time. But even if you disagree with that statement, I think we can all come to the conclusion that the sequel, released a mere 4 years later, is an abomination upon man and beast alike. Yes, folks, this is Exorcist II: The Heretic, widely reviled as one of the worst films ever made in the history of filmmaking. This movie is so bad that most people don’t even want to acknowledge its existence, instead preferring to jump to the third Exorcist movie instead. It’s so bad it caused riots at the theater when it was first released. So, the question on everyone's mind: is it really that bad? Yes. Yes it is.

We kick off our magical ass-raping adventure with a black screen that displays the title while some cats are apparently being murdered in the background, as the horrible yowling noise that continues on throughout the credits suggests. As a side note, the soundtrack for this movie was done by the same guys who did Once Upon a Time in America and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Isn’t that sad? Then we see a priest trying to exorcise a girl in South America as a crowd protests. She gets set on fire somehow, lets out a really fake scream and then...we cut to a scene of people rehearsing a stage performance? What?

That’s a pretty messy transition there, guys. But don’t worry! If you didn’t like that, there’s only a MILLION MORE HORRIBLE TRANSITIONS like it to come! We’ve got two hours of movie and you can bet your shorts they’ll exploit this horrendous directing to the fullest!

Among the performers is Regan, the girl from the first movie, played again by Linda Blair. Yeah. She’s grown up a lot in the last few years. And the movie won’t let you forget that, either, as every scene she’s in seems to show off her perky breasts like trophies, because I guess that’s all her vapid, stupid character has going for her. Not that I have a problem with this, though – probably one of the only redeeming factors in this movie. Might as well just make two hours of Linda Blair stripping. I know her character is only 16 here, but…you’d still end up with a more integral, intelligent movie than we have here.

Yes, apparently she’s still under the care of a psychiatrist to make sure the memories of her demonic possession don’t resurface, I guess. She also has a caretaker named Sharon, played by Kitty Winn, who reprises another role from the original film. I’d go into more detail here but really there’s no substance – the scenes are so short they’re gone before you can even process them; what, is the movie on speed? And were they…instructed to act like they do here? I call it acting but really I don’t know what they were doing. They’re so wooden and so completely devoid of any kind of feeling that it’s like I’m watching the robots from the Jetsons emoting in a horror film. Take a guess if you think I ever wanted to see the robots from the Jetsons acting in a horror movie. Just guess.

If you picked ‘yes,’ then go lobotomize yourself with the blunt end of a hammer. There’s no hope for you.

So we see the priest from the opening, whose name is Father Lamont, talking to an older guy who I think taught Tommy Wiseau from The Room how to act; he’s just about as stiff. The older guy tells him to investigate the death of Father Merrin from the first movie, who is under posthumous charges of heresy as the church didn’t like what he was writing about, not wanting to acknowledge Satan as an actual evil presence anymore. I do think this is a pretty interesting subplot, but of course it’s never given any due attention and quickly fades into the background. Disappointment, thy name is Exorcist 2. But don’t worry, there’s more of that to come, too.

That scene ends abruptly after like 2 minutes again, and I really have to wonder how anyone didn’t just go up to director John Boorman and kick him straight in the ballsack for this, because how am I supposed to be invested in this movie when EVERY SINGLE SCENE just randomly cuts off and ends, no tension whatsoever? It’s insipid as shit! This is really textbook bad filmmaking right here. Seriously, guys. Try and make a scene longer than a minute and a half.

Okay, so we have Father Lamont coming to Regan’s psychiatrist to try and talk to her. Somehow this leads to a strange, strange experiment where Regan and her psychiatrist are hooked up to a machine that links their brain waves, or some shit like that; I don’t really know. It flashes a light repeatedly while a cheap synthesizer plays one plodding note over and over again, all while the characters talk in monotones that somehow manage to be even less convincing than the regular acting.

Well, that’s alright. It will end after a minute and a half, right? And then we can move onto the next scene and forget about this abysmal crap.

…right? RIGHT?!

No, apparently THIS is the scene they were saving the mindnumbingly long duration for! Yep, this is like 5 straight minutes of nothing but one-note synths and a flashing light over the characters’ faces while they babble about ‘coming down to one another,’ or some other inane garbage that the writers probably shat out of their asses while on a marijuana high. Have you noticed the weird sexual undertone to this whole thing? Talking about ‘trying the machine,’ ‘going deeper,’ ‘doing it like I showed you’…it’s pretty damn disturbing, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say I don’t need to see a threesome with Linda Blair, a psychiatrist and a priest – that sounds more like a really bad joke. The synth noise in the background is just hysterical, too; like hypnosis performed by a drunken sloth on Ritalin.

Look at that; it's like they hired the special effect editor's five year old to help with their movie.

Don’t you always think of these images when you think of The Exorcist? Isn’t it just a perfect fit?

Through a highly silly attempted recreation of the demonic possession of the first film Father Lamont finds out the demon’s name is Pazuzu, which sounds kind of like a particularly colorful Pokemon name or something. We see possessed Regan again in the vision, except her voice is now more like a kooky old cat lady rather than the embodiment of evil from the original film. Then we get some highly weird, drugged out montages of African wilderness and animal life through the eyes of a locust flying around. Did the movie just decide it wanted to be a documentary instead? Maybe the director wanted to go to Africa and just figured, hey, why not put what I saw on my Safari tour into the movie I’m making? That’s good filmmaking!

Run! The cameraman from Exorcist II is going to put us in his movie!

Augh, and they’re still going with this one scene, too! What is up with this? Just fucking end it already!

Of special note is at the end of the scene when the psychiatrist lady actually gets a heart attack from being wired to the machine. Isn’t that silly? I guess it backfired, huh lady? And then after that we see the movie turning into a satanic Lifetime special as the movie shows us Regan using her unconscious psychic powers to get an autistic girl to talk. This scientific miracle should have been studied and marveled over by everyone in the world, but I guess it’ll have to wait, as the psychologist doesn’t want Regan to study these powers until she’s older. Why? No real reason. That’s just how this fucking movie rolls I guess!

So since Father Lamont saw some weird visions of a little African kid surviving a demonic possession just like Regan did except over in Africa, he wants to go there and track down the kid, who he thinks will be able to help him figure out how to stop the demon, and has to disobey the church like a kid with his hand stuck in the cookie jar. Even though they wanted him to investigate what happened to Father Merrin, now that he actually has a lead, they don’t want him to do it anymore. Weird. It turns out that kid has grown up into James Earl Jones…but first we have to sit through some highly pointless, aimless scenes of Father Lamont wandering around in Africa with some tribal men. Yep, the movie is set in Africa now! Surprised? Yeah. Because you really think of tribal Africa when you think of The Exorcist. That makes a lot of sense.

But hey, at least we have a naked chick to show for no good reason! And Ned Beatty is in the film now, too! Surprised?

...that's really random. Both of these images are.

No, it’s all building up to the big meeting with James Earl Jones, who can apparently give Father Lamont all the answers he needs. Yes, this guy right here is going to finally reveal what this movie has been about all along and give us some much needed coherency. THANK YOU, Mr. Jones! You are a legend! You are a…locust?

….Hahaha! Hahahahahaha! What the hell is that? Are we really supposed to take that seriously? You know what I think happened? I don’t even think they told him to wear that costume. I think he probably just wears it randomly whenever he feels like it! It makes just about as much sense as anything else. He just walked onto set wearing nothing but that costume for the day and they just had to shrug and go with it. Maybe he knew this movie sucked and was just having fun or something. I couldn’t blame him for that one.

Then Jones takes Lamont on a tour of his research facility, because the whole locust thing was really just a dream – yeah, I know, just go with it – and talks to Lamont for a long time about locusts. Lamont goes back home and then everything Jones talked about is quickly forgotten and shoved into the movie’s abyssal ass-crack of forgettableness just like everything else in the plot. WHAT? I’m sorry but WHAT? You wasted ALL THAT TIME and showed us ALL THOSE POINTLESS SCENES just to forget about it the second they’re out of Africa? And he didn’t even learn anything! He just listened to Jones talk about locusts and then left! What happened to…oh, I don’t know, INVESTIGATING like you were supposed to? Did anyone even bother proofreading this script? Is anyone even aware of what they’re doing here? MAKE MORE SENSE.

Okay, so through more recycled scenes of the locust’s POV flying around Africa and mind-numbing scenes with that brain synchronizer machine that makes the synth noise, the movie reaches its climax, which is sort of like the armpit hairs of the movie Poltergeist. Somehow Lamont gets possessed, and then Sharon sets a car on fire, and there’s suddenly two different versions of Regan, and everything is flying around and exploding, and…it’s a mess. Sharon dies from some burn wounds and then the movie just kind of ends, no resolution at all.

Holy mother of shit, this was a bad one. I mean, what the hell can I even say about this? What can I possibly do to sum up why this movie is so horrible? It’s just unsalvageable. The acting is some of the worst out there, the directing is muddled in faux-symbolic stupidity and the storyline just makes no sense. At all. Plot threads are introduced with little fanfare and cut out with even less. Scenes plod along until they’re given the ax unceremoniously, ending without any kind of resolution. And the crowning jewel of the movie’s accomplishments is James Earl Jones wearing a locust costume; can you possibly get any less sane? This is just the cinematic version of the green vomit-like bile that Regan spat out in the first movie, like it mutated into a festering abortion of film. Just heinous. HEINOUS!

Happy Halloween!