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Posts tagged “John Boorman

The Exorcist 2: The Heretic *

Four years after her bout of demonic possession, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) seems at peace as she enjoys a privileged but lonely adolescence. Her actress mother, absent on-location, leaves her in the care of her childhood nanny, Sharon (Kitty Winn), who feels inextricably bound to her young charge despite the terror she endured during the girl’s possession. Regan attends frequent counselling sessions with Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher), an unorthodox psychologist who believes Regan remembers more of her ordeal than she admits. Meanwhile, Father Lamont (Richard Burton), a protégé of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), the priest who died exorcising Regan, is called to investigate the death of his mentor.

The Church is divided over the teachings of Father Merrin and wants to gather documentation of his views about demonic existence. Father Lamont himself is conflicted, haunted by images of a possessed woman he could not save. As he and Dr. Tuskin become convinced that the demon still exhibits a hold on Regan, the priest heads to Africa in search of Kokuma, who as a boy was possessed by the same demon and exorcised by Father Merrin. Learning the true name and ancient origins of his supernatural foe; a re-invigorated Lamont returns to America to stage a climactic battle for Regan’s soul.


The Exorcist
set a high bar when it was released in 1973, a bar that still remains out of reach for most horror films to this day. Pity then all involved in this turgid sequel to the greatest horror film ever made. I saw this on the same bill as The Exorcist and the lasting impression hasn’t really changed that much over the last 30 or so years. Watching it again recently I really gave it a chance, and to be fair there are some decent moments and some great ideas, however as a whole, the film remains a let down.

It would have been an easy decision for Warner Bros.at the time: audiences must surely want to see more of Regan and her Mum after the exorcism, how they handled the fallout, Father Merrin’s backstory, and the investigation into the death of Father Karras. The decision then to get a director who hated the first film to work on the sequel beggars belief.

Despite the fact that most of the vitriol aimed at The Heretic, blames John Boorman for the whole mess, he’s not entirely to blame. Boorman must have initially seemed like a good choice, he’d made the Lee Marvin thriller Point Blank, and the backwoods classic Deliverance. However, it appears that Boorman wanted to make something completely different this time around. What he didn’t want to make was a horror film, as The Heretic is almost completely bereft of scares.

The cast are uniformly awful in the film, Burton delivers one of his worst performances ever, his delivery is stilted and hammy, he’s entirely unconvincing throughout. Even Louise Fletcher, who had won the Oscar previously for her incredible performance in One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, is poor but still much better than Linda Blair and a one-note Kitty Winn. On a positive note, the score by Ennio Morricone is beautiful, albeit out of place in some places.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is full of interesting ideas (the most interesting being the idea of pure goodness as a magnet for evil), however, they’re not followed through and in the end simply discarded in favour of a ridiculous climax. The best, wasted idea is outlined in the scene at the Natural History Museum (in the full 117-minute version) where Father Lamont tells Regan about Teilhard de Chardin and briefly explains the World Mind theory. William Peter Blatty based the character of Father Lankester Merrin on the Jesuit scholar Teilhard de Chardin who espoused a metaphysical concept he called the World Mind, an interpretation of Christian mysticism which sees all minds as joined and gradually evolving into a full awareness of Being as a single consciousness akin to the New Thought idea of Christ Consciousness–the “only begotten” extension of Universal Consciousness, or God. This idea, a synthesis of Christian and Asian religious concepts, is resonant with many unorthodox spiritual teachings. After de Chardin’s death his papers were suppressed by the Vatican and his work was investigated on charges of heresy (his ideas being heretical by the standards of the Catholic Church.)

This could have made for an interesting movie, it didn’t; the central idea that people who have been possessed and survived can then themselves heal others who are similarly afflicted is not explored with enough intelligence to work. It’s not the worst movie ever made, it’s not even the worst Exorcist movie, that would be Renny Harlin’s abysmal Exorcist: The Beginning. Blatty made a much better Exorcist sequel, Exorcist III from his Legion novel, that was also largely ignored, as were both ‘prequels’; it would appear that audiences don’t want more Exorcist movies, they just want The Exorcist, I know I do.

Quality: 1 out of 5 stars

Any Good: 1 out of 5 stars


Linda Blair

Linda Denise Blair (born January 22, 1959) is an American actress. Blair is best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in the film ‘The Exorcist’ (1973), and the ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’ (1977).

Blair was born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Westport, Connecticut. She began her career as a six-year-old child model and started acting with a regular role on the short-lived ‘Hidden Faces’ (1968-69) day time soap. Her first theatrical film appearance was in ‘The Way We Live Now’ (1970). Blair was selected from a field of 600 applicants for her most notable role as Regan in The Exorcist (1973). The role earned her a Golden Globe and Peoples Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Academy Award nomination.

The Exorcist is a 1973 horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book was inspired by the exorcism case of Robbie Mannheim, dealing with the demonic possession of a young girl and her mother’s desperate attempts to win back her daughter through an exorcism conducted by two priests. The film features Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Linda Blair. The film is one of a cycle of “demonic child” films produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Omen’. 

The Exorcist was released theatrically in the United States by Warner Bros. on December 26, 1973. The film earned ten Academy Award nominations—winning two (Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay), and losing Best Picture to ‘The Sting’, it was robbed. It became one of the highest earning movies of all time, grossing $441 million worldwide.

The film has had a significant influence on popular culture. It was named the scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly and Movies.com and by viewers of AMC in 2006, and was #3 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. In 2010, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry. 

Blair reprised her role in the sequel, ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’ (1977). Directed by John Boorman from a screenplay by William Goodhart, the film starred Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, James Earl Jones, Ned Beatty and Kitty Winn. The film is set four years after The Exorcist, and centers on a now 16-year-old Regan McNeil who is still recovering from her previous demonic possession. 

The film was a critical failure at the time of its release, and is often considered the worst film in the series.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Blair encountered trouble with law enforcement authorities as she was arrested and charged with drug possession and conspiracy to sell drugs: after trial, she was found not guilty of possession, but guilty of conspiracy to sell, leading her to get a reduced sentence of three years’ probation. Though she tried to act in films, Blair found it hard to restart her screen career and landed low grade films in the 1980s and later. As she herself said in an interview, her career “went down faster than the Titanic”.

Blair’s career took a new turn in the 1980s, as she starred in a number of low-budget horror and exploitation films, including ‘Hell Night’ (1981), ‘Chained Heat’ (1983) and ‘Savage Streets’ (1984).

Blair featured in the Exorcist spoof, ‘Repossessed’ (1990), and had a cameo role in ‘Scream’ (1996). In 1997, she appeared in a Broadway revival of Grease. She also hosted Fox Family’s ‘Scariest Places On Earth’ (2000-6).

In 2008 she turned up at the 18th annual Malaga Fantasy and Horror Film Festival to accept a lifetime achievement award for her work in the horror genre. She also appeared in the 2009 documentary ‘Confessions of a Teenage Vigilante’, discussing her role as Brenda in Savage Streets (1984). The documentary is included as a bonus feature on the 2009 DVD release of the film.

Blair has become an animal rights activist and humanitarian, working with PETA, Feed The Children, and Variety, the Children’s Charity. Blair also devotes time to her non-profit organization, the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, which works to rescue abused, neglected and mistreated animals.