15 July 2024

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
Contributed by Peter Joseph Swanson

Peter Joseph Swanson is the author of several paperback novels including Hollywood Sinners, The Joan Crawford Murders, Bad Movies, Merlinís Charge, and Punk Minneapolis.

When the first Exorcist came out in 1973, I was a kid in a Lutheran K-8 school. We all took the Devil very, very seriously and to talk about him too much was forbidden. It would not only invite bad luck...it could invite Satan himself! So the movie was banned.

I was way too young to see an R-rated film anyway. I loved hearing about it though...and read everything I could about it in the newspapers and magazines. Somehow, a girl in my class had wicked parents because she saw it and she would tell me about it. It would be chilling, like hearing ghost stories around the campfire.

Its sequel was on television first. TV shows were not really allowed in my home if they were considered too "immoral" or were about the occult. But everybody was out of the house that evening so I sat before the tiny black & white set to watch The Exorcist II: The Heretic.

As it played, I thought it all a bit silly; I took religion too seriously back then. It wasnít Lutheran at all (or Jesuit, which was the demonology of the original). Instead, this movie was a flaky convoluted Hollywood African Shamanism (with Ethiopian made up stuff) in interesting, arty sets and grand locations. At the time...I thought Linda Blair was neat, regardless. Who didnít?

As I was watching, Mom came home. She turned it off and I had to hear at school the next day how it had ended (from the same girl with the wicked mother). Years later I was able to watch the whole thing on VHS, with lots of beer, and still thought it was silly and blah.

I was overly harsh and snotty about most movies then, especially 70's films. That was in the 80's and we now thought we had better hair. I had the vinyl soundtrack album I found dirt-cheap at a yard sale and that was fun to play sometimes at late parties; it all came off as campy and trippy.

I love the film now.

It has aged badly, so it has aged beautifully as a 1970's fashion trip. And enough time has passed that I can enjoy that kind of thing as nostalgia. Since I now donít care about being a serious Lutheran, I can appreciate the movie as a big budget creative horror film that - while never scary - is always very ambitious and very weird, with a wide variety of neato trick shots.

If you compare it with the quality of most other horror movies (and especially their sequels), the film is an epic star-studded artistic masterpiece. (Wink.)

Even better, when The Exorcist II was released on DVD, it was restored to its initial theatrical cut. When it was first out on the big screen, it was received so poorly that it was re-cut and shortened. That butchered version was the one they put out on VHS. The DVD restored the filmís creepy, dreamlike atmosphere that the dingy VHS had somehow ruined, and the preserved scenes really add to the crazy stew.

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