The Exorcist II – The Heretic

“The Exorcist II – The Heretic” is a 1977 film directed by John Boorman.

The work directed by John Boorman is often considered a controversial and less successful sequel to its acclaimed predecessor, primarily due to production issues and creative divergences that, upon completion and subsequent distribution in theaters, elicited a negative reception from both critics and audiences. But let’s take it step by step.

The cast of “The Exorcist II – The Heretic” included some renowned actors: the aforementioned Richard Burton played the role of Father Lamont, replacing Max von Sydow, who had portrayed the character of Father Merrin in the first film. Linda Blair reprised her role as Regan, the young girl possessed by the demon, while Louise Fletcher appeared in the role of Dr. Gene Tuskin and actor James Earl Jones as Kokumo, who undergoes an unexplained and inexplicable doubling of his character Kokumo (both shaman-locust and scientist researcher).

Other cast members included Max von Sydow himself, who returned as Father Merrin in some sequences, and Kitty Winn as Sharon Spencer. Yet, despite the presence of talented and famous actors, critics noted how the film failed to fully exploit the potential of the cast, attributing some of the problems to the screenplay and direction.

Regan MacNeil, the young girl possessed in the first film “The Exorcist,” now a teenager, is under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Gene Tuskin (played by Louise Fletcher), who works with a young priest, Father Lamont (played by Richard Burton). The priest is tasked by the Vatican to investigate the death of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), the priest who performed the initial exorcism on Regan. During the investigation, Lamont discovers an ancient demonic statue linked to the origin of evil and begins to understand the complexity of the battle between good and evil, a discovery that will take him to East Africa.

During production, numerous cuts and changes were made to the screenplay. This was partly attributed to creative divergences and a tumultuous development process. Director John Boorman and the production team worked on different versions of the screenplay in an attempt to achieve the desired vision for the film. However, the ongoing revisions failed to prevent the film from being incoherent and confused in its narrative, contributing to its failure both critically and commercially.

Yet, despite everything, “The Exorcist II – The Heretic” has some strengths. William A. Fraker’s cinematography has been praised for its visual aesthetic, with some dreamlike sequences and evocative images that still captured the audience’s attention. Additionally, Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack received praise for contributing to the film’s eerie atmosphere. Some also appreciate the performances of the actors, particularly Linda Blair in reprising the role of Regan.

Regarding the film, recent remarks have been made:

“The producers pursued us for years to make a sequel. We felt that this was an important project, and the screenplay was very good. But it wasn’t the screenplay we shot. John Boorman brought with him a person named Rospo Pallenberg. I still don’t know who Rospo was. He was rewriting plots, and even the makeup and hair personnel were upset.

They brought me this information, saying that they would make these changes that I needed to know so that I could intervene, which I didn’t because it wouldn’t happen. I don’t think it was the project they really had in mind because the script changed so much, I’m not sure. I know it was carried forward with tremendous effort, dedication, and commitment.

We did everything we could to make a project that could follow The Exorcist, that people could appreciate, enjoy, and form different opinions about, and that’s what matters in cinema.”

The actress also recalled her excitement at the opportunity to act alongside Richard Burton:

“Working with Richard Burton was one of the greatest honors of my life. I grew up with Richard Burton in Becket, Cleopatra, and everything else. He was Richard Burton! What an incredible experience and memory. Louise Fletcher was very much in character, and later, when I got to know her better, she was completely different from that very intense and precise character. John was affable but relied heavily on Rospo.”

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