Sorry for the light posting around here lately, but we’ve been beavering away at the sequel to Better Living Through Bad Movies — anyway, that’s our story. But just to prove we weren’t actually snorting crystal meth off of naked call girls at a Minerals Management Service mixer in the Interior Department Grotto, here’s a piece from the chapter tentatively entitled When Bad Movies Happen to Good People.
Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977)
Directed by John Boorman
Written by William Goodhart, based on characters by William Peter Blatty
The sense of dread begins with the credits, as blood-red words appear in a black void, while our ears are haunted by the strange and sinister score. Not quite music, and too eerie to be a human voice, it sounds as though the composer somehow persuaded an elephant to fart into a vuvuzuela.
We open inside the Haunted Shack at Knott’s Berry Farm, which has been filled with twinkly Christmas lights and Richard Burton, who is dressed as a Roman Catholic priest and looking extremely uneasy, as if he expects at any moment to be handed a subpoena.
Richard is there to exorcise a young woman, but he can’t find the right page, and the Bible doesn’t have an index, and while he’s flipping through it the girl sets herself on fire and burns to a crisp right in front of him. As an exorcist, this represents a personal best.
Cut to Linda Blair tap-dancing as a kid with a limp Shaun Cassidy hair-do honks out “Lullaby of Broadway” on a baritone sax. Just in case you doubted that Satan is real.
Cut to Louise Fletcher, who is sitting face to face with a teenaged girl and shouting “Debbie! Debbie! Debbie! Can you hear me?” into a microphone. Louise is a distinguished pediatric psychiatrist who is famous for pioneering the technique of screaming at deaf people. Or she got the lyrics to Tommy wrong.
Linda breezes into Louise’s office, which for some reason is on the Space: 1999 set, and stretches out on the couch. Louise asks Linda if she has flashbacks to the earlier, better film, then shows her “a machine we can use together,” which gives me flashbacks to Requiem for a Dream.
Fortunately, it’s just an AM radio with a couple of flashbulbs on top, which will put them in synchronized hypnotic trances so doctor and patient can make each other cluck like chickens.
Cut to the Vatican, where Cardinal Victor Lazlo orders Father Richard to investigate the death of Max von Sydow in the original film. But Dick doesn’t want to do it because his faith in God has been shaken, and he’d rather it was a cocktail. But then Cardinal Victor says “we all have a destiny – for good, or evil,” and he lights two cigarettes and gives one to Dick, and they decide not to ask for the moon, because they have the stars.
Cut to the Moonbase Alpha set, where Father Richard is staring through a window at disabled children. Linda notices Dick, and stops to smile at him in apple-cheeked, sparkle-eyed delight, because she’s just so gosh-darned cute and nice, or because it’s been an awful long time – maybe too long – since she’s killed a priest.
Father Richard tells Louise he wants to question Linda, because Evil is “alive, living. Perverted and perverting.” That’s Linda’s cue, and she barges into the office to announce that she wants to use the machine with Louise, and she wants the priest to watch, because they can make a lot more money with a two-girl show.
The next day, Linda sits in Louise’s office, wearing a headband of electrodes and what appears to be Stevie Nicks’ wedding dress, while Father Richard stands over her looking worried about Evil and kind of hungover. Then Louise turns on a strobe light bright enough to give Satan a headache, and he’s not even in the room yet. Linda stares at it for three seconds, then her eyes roll back in her head; perhaps she’s having an epileptic fit due to the flashing light, or perhaps Louise has hypnotized her to be really sarcastic.
Louise slips on a headband and keeps telling Linda to “make your tone go deeper,” getting my hopes up that she’ll spend the rest of the film talking like Barry White. Instead, director John Boorman points the strobe light at the camera while Louise murmurs, “You will remember none of this,” presumably addressing the critics.
Louise orders Linda to go “deeper…deeper,” then says, “Now I want to come down and be with you.” She adds, “We will obey the commands that Father Richard gives us.” This is the worst phone sex ever.
There’s a flashback to the first movie, with Linda in demonface and Max von Sydow having a coronary. Except it’s not actually footage from The Exorcist, since it’s clearly Linda’s body double in the makeup, and Max’s ostensibly fatal heart attack seems about as serious as one of Fred Sanford’s.
After it’s all over, Linda borrows art supplies from an emotionally disturbed child so she can draw a picture of Father Richard with his head on fire.
“What does it mean?” Richard whispers, clearly worried that it means he’s going to die and go to Hell, or worse, live long enough to appear in Ghost Rider. Then it suddenly hits him, and he realizes that the fire in his portrait means there’s a fire in the basement, because to Linda, his head symbolizes a dark, moist place filled with canned peaches and porn. He runs downstairs, finds a flaming cardboard box in a closet, and smacks it repeatedly with a crutch.