I have in my hands, the DVD for the absolute GREATEST cinematic disaster of all time. “Exorcist II: The Heretic”. A movie that isn’t just bad, or badly made, but laughable and completely incomprehensible to an extent that has to be seen to be believed. I saw it as a wee lad when it played as a CFCF-12 Late Night Movie and even back then I thought this was legendary in it’s awfulness.
As I finally get a chance to watch it again as I write (This is the type of movie that’s enjoyed most if you don’t pay too close attention to it.) I can see that I was wayyyyyy off base. This is f*****g BRILLIANT!
Don’t get me wrong. It’s s**t, total complete and utter s**t of extraordinary proportions. But you can’t make a movie like this on purpose. It’s lightning in a bottle.
Think of all the circumstances that HAVE to occur in order for a cinematic turd that’s this entertaining to be made. 1) It has to be a sequel to an immensely popular, profitable and critically well received film because otherwise it wouldn’t be so shocking and dissapointing to people that it sucks. 2) It has to be made by someone who’s not just completely blind to the shortcomings of his film, but it has to be told in such an inept, illogical fashion that it completely baffles and alienates anyone that goes to see the damn thing. 3) It has to look great on paper. Directed by John Boorman (Deliverance), starring Richard Burton (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and it was scored by Ennio Morricone who needs no introduction. Not to mention a returning Max Von Sydow and an early role for James Earl Jones. Finally and most importantly, 4) The film also has to escape the attention of the producers and studio heads who have the power to pull the plug on the thing, order major reshoots and replace key creative people until it’s too late.
The odds of all of the above occuring is like a planetary alignment. It’s one in a million.
Beyond all of that though, lies more essential problem in my opinion. It’s that the film hits you with a deadly double whammy of being both inpenetrable and goofy. Movies should always take themselves seriously, even a comedy like “The Naked Gun” believes in it’s own essential reality. If Leslie Nielsen had always been snickering and rolling his eyes when he played Frank Drebin, because of how silly he thought this whole Police Squad bullshit was, he wouldn’t have been funny at all. Exorcist 2 is a bit like that. Nobody really buys that anything happening around them this is anything more than movie sets or special effects and it shows. The acting is just acting. The writing is just “stuff” that happens. It never jumps out or has the feel of reality. Then, to cap it off, Exorcist 2 doesn’t try very hard to offer you clues as to what the bloody f**k is going on. None of the science is explained (or makes any sense) and the film often contradicts the original exorcist. So you’re always at a loss and never quite “get” what you’re supposed to be seeing. Not to mention that all the spooky medieval Catholicism from the first film is gone, replaced by some hippy trippy new agey bullshit mystical religious nonsense that probably dissapeared when the next new agey fad came along.
There is also another, simpler and more obvious problem. Exorcist 2 isn’t the slightest bit scary. For a follow up to the “scariest film ever made” you would have thought that Boorman would have included something, ANYTHING to make your skin crawl. James Earl Jones dressed as a giant bee doesn’t count.
But everything I’ve said makes this film seem dull and dreary, and it’s really not. Goddamn this is good fun to watch. Get a couple of buddies and few six packs and this would make one hell of a movie night. What makes this movie especially funny is the pleasure that you get just out of simple scenes like Dana Plato appearing as an autistic girl. There’s no reason for it to be funny, but a movie as godawful as this can turn anyone into the guys from Mystery Science Theatre 3000; and you find yourself making wiseass remarks throughout the whole thing. It’s a participatory experience and that makes it extra neat.