The Exorcist is one movie that has gained a reputation as one of finest displays of horror with a gritty realism and stellar performances and special effects. It garnered much attention during its release and has succumbed to the annuals of movie history as one of the greatest movies of all time.
When John Boorman’s Exorcist II came along it was a box office failure and was not a hit with the audience they wanted. In his words the audience wanted “the same” and it wasn’t what they got for better or worse on reflection and will be revisiting Exorcist II: The Heretic and reevaluating it overall.
You have priest Father Lamont who was a follower of the teaching of Father Merrin the priest in the first movie who died trying to save the young girl Regan from possession, a passionate man of faith he wants to clear the name of Merrin who was believed to have committed heresy during his last moments. The struggle of faith is apparent throughout the movie with redemption at the end.
Regan’s characterisation is in many ways the centre of the movies bringing elements from the past, present and supposed future she a seer into the future and healer of souls the mix of old school faith and modern miracles one could see her as a modern day saint who has “powers” which cannot be explained by faith nor science but just are.
Father Merrin is present in the ESP scenes and also the flashback sequences throughout the movie revealing that his heart attack was brought on by the demon pazuzu. It is revealed that 4o years prior that he had battle the demon in Africa an young man named Kokumo who like Regan possessed powers of healing and that evil and the locust swarm in the movie symbolised the eternal battle between good and evil, light and dark.
Kokumo comes in three forms a young boy who was possessed then with Father Lamont’s travels to Africa he confronts him bearing the garb of the Locust setting a test of faith and belief by walking across a floor of spikes. Then he becomes a man of science who shows a great deal knowledge about locust swarms a scientist, accomplished and respected in his field. The bridging between faith and science, technology and mythology is seen in the character.
Dr. Tuskin is a person of logical reasoning and scepticism she deals with therapy and psychology of young children with mental health conditions and developmental disabilities. The bridging between western philosophy and modern medicine is quite contradictory to the ESP machine that she has created and uses on Regan, Father Lamont and herself showing the past, present and potential future. The question of faith vs. science and many different variables in between are represented in her characterisation.
The plot is a hefty mixture with many different messages flowing in around the characters and situations. This is why Exorcist II didn’t perform as well as the first movie because Boorman’s presentation of the plot was dream-like, surreal and at times a form of hyper-reality to convey the message of science and religion, reality vs. hyper-reality, ESP vs. powers of healing, the complete opposite of The Exorcist. The movies style and direction has European feel to with giddy camera work, experimental special effects and sound design, heavy stylised lighting and a brilliant and rather moving score by Ennio Morricone the whole tone was different from onset and even thought the opening titles shared the same red font it is a very different movie.
Looking back Exorcist II is not as bad as initially thought it was going to be an ambitious feat for any person to try and content with the first movie but in many ways this sequel has a reality all of its own and its intriguing how it polarised audiences but on reflection it is well worth a viewing.