Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Film Review: EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977, John Boorman)

Stars: 2.8 of 5.
Running Time: 118 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Linda Blair (ROLLER BOOGIE, THE EXORCIST), Richard Burton (THE KLANSMAN, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD), Louise Fletcher (BRAINSTORM, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST), Max von Sydow (THE ICE PIRATES, THE SEVENTH SEAL), Ned Beatty (STROKER ACE, DELIVERANCE), James Earl Jones (SOUL MAN, STAR WARS), Paul Henreid (OPERATION CROSSBOW, CASABLANCA), Kitty Winn (KOJAK, THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK). Music by Ennio Morricone (RED SONJA; THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY). Tap Dance Routine choreographed by Daniel Joseph Giaghi (PENNIES FROM HEAVEN).
Tag-line: "It's four years later...what does she remember?"
Best one-liner: "If he can teach me how he has survived Pazuzu... I'll come back and let you know."

Where to begin? The acting talent is astonishing- of the seven principal players, six have been nominated for (or have won) Oscars. The seventh, Kitty Winn, had won Best Actress at Cannes. The director, John Boorman, had a history of accomplished, edgy work from POINT BLANK to HELL IN THE PACIFIC to DELIVERANCE. So where did we go wrong? Well, two things in particular:

#1. EXORCIST II is playing a high-stakes poker game with the audience. And it's betting the farm on a little lady named Linda Blair, which you'll soon realize was something of a mistake. What everyone thought was a genius, new acting talent from the first EXORCIST was mostly just the voice of Mercedes McCambridge and the astonishing special effects. In the meantime, Blair had unfortunately become something of a King Midas in reverse… but, hey, she still does a mean tap-dance. More on that in a minute.

#2. Looks like John Boorman kept Richard Burton sober. Another big mistake. He plays nearly every scene with an infantile, bewildered grimace- the subtext is "Goddamn you for taking away my gin stash!" He's pronouncing "evil" with three syllables- "Eee-vee-ill." This man is tortured.

"When the wings have brushed you...is there no hope once the WINGS HAVE BRUSHED YOU!!!" Hand this man a flask, for the love of God!

"Where'd you put my stash, John? I won't be cross with you if you give it back, straightaway. I don't even want it all- just a fifth of the best gin. How's about a Gin Rickey, John? Just one Rickey. Then we'll get back to the film. Just a quick snifter, John. John?"


"Oh, I'll buy it back, John! I'll give you all the gold 'n silver in all the world, John! I'll do the picture gratis, John! Whaddya say? Just a quick Pimm's cup! It's all I need, John- just a little Pimm's to keep me going."


"You want some shite acting for your shite film, John?! By all the saints, I'll give it to, you bloody bastard! All's I wanted was some Pimm's, you divvy git! Why, now I'll take this Pazuzu fellow and cock up your picture!"

Anyway, there's some shit with amnesia and synchronized hypnosis,


and, wait- if Linda Blair can see into the future, then why doesn't she use that knowledge to prevent ROLLER BOOGIE from happening?

Then there's this tantalizing bit from the credits: "Tap Dance Routine choreographed by Daniel Joseph Giaghi." If you're anything like me, such an absurd statement will excite and intrigue. 'What can we put in Part 2 that we didn't have in Part 1?' Clearly the answer is a tap-dance routine. And not just a tap-dance routine– a psychedelic tap-dance collective seizure attack:

Dit-dat duh duh

Clickety-clackety-clickety-clack

EEEEEYEEOOOOOWWWW

YUHH-UHHHH-UHHH

Truly, it's the little things that keep ya going.

So, EXORCIST 1 had the head-spin, the vomit, and the inappropriate use of a crucifix. EXORCIST 2 has the tap-dance seizure, the locust POV shot,

and the rock crevice plummet. But there's some good stuff going on, too. Ennio Morricone's score is in turns funny, primal, epic, thumpin', and, on at least one occasion lends unexpected weight to a scene involving a locust attack. Boorman makes some bold stylistic and editing decisions, a few of which (trippy hallucinations

and a jarring self-immolation sequence) work quite well. On the whole, it kinda feels like a weird, arty horror retread of those terrible old Republic serials. It never quite bores and never quite entertains. Almost three stars- why not?.

-Sean Gill

5 comments:

J.D. said...

Couldn't be any worse than Friedkin's THE GUARDIAN. A film I kinda like but is still a mess. Sadly, no tap-dancing seizures, though.

Sean Gill said...

I haven't seen THE GUARDIAN- it's reputation (or lack thereof) has steered me clear thus far. And if there's no tap-dancing seizures- well...strike two!

Good Ash said...

My favourite guilty pleasure movie of all time... right next to Street Fighter: The Movie.

Sean Gill said...

Good Ash,

Thanks for stopping by- I'd hate to be forced to choose between Burton's "ONCE THE WINGS HAVE BRUSHED YOUUUU!" and Van Damme's "I'm going to kick that son of a bitch Bison's ass SOO HARDD," but surely both qualify as movie gold.

Chicken's good said...

I've never seen this movie, but now I'm curious!

All I know for sure is Morricone's "Magic and Ecstasy" is a fuckin' KILLER song!