Follow TV Tropes


Film / Exorcist II: The Heretic

Go To

Exorcist II: The Heretic is a 1977 supernatural horror film and the first sequel to The Exorcist. It was directed by John Boorman.

Father Lamont (Richard Burton), about to lose his faith in God, is persuaded by the Vatican to investigate the death of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow, who appears in flashbacks) during the exorcism of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) four years earlier. His quest leads to the now-16-year-old Regan, who has no recollection of her demonic possession but is plagued by nightmares and is being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher). Upon observation, Lamont is convinced that Regan is a faith healer and explains why she might have been possessed in the first place. Lamont then visits Africa to meet Kokumo (James Earl Jones), another victim of possession, who helps explain what attracts evil towards good and good towards evil.

All of this is explained in one of the trippiest and most bizarre films ever put to celluloid. The next sequel, The Exorcist III, would notably by and large ignore the events of the film, treating it as Canon Discontinuity.

This film provides examples of:

  • The Cameo: Ned Beatty as Edwards, the African bush pilot.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The Exorcist III is a continuation of the first film and just ignores this film entirely. So does the 2016 series.
  • Cold Ham: Richard Burton has his share of Large Ham moments in this film (and many others), but at times here he approaches Frozen Ham: there are many scenes where he is totally immobile, unblinking, and barely breathing, with only his sweating showing that it isn't a still frame.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As RedLetterMedia noted, the film can be seen as a superhero/supervillain origin story, much like Unbreakable.
  • Evil Doppelgänger: Pazuzu appears as Regan to Father Lamont towards the end.
  • Fake Shemp: A weird example - Linda Blair only accepted to return if she didn't have to go through the make-up again. Thus whenever possessed Regan appears, it's a stand-in.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Father Damien Karas, the hero of the original who saved Regan by sacrificing himself, is never mentioned by name, only being referenced as one of the three who died.
  • Genre Shift: It's difficult to say exactly what genre this film falls under, but it most definitely isn't horror.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Dr. Tuskin's psychiatric institute appears to have been built with "put as many reflective surfaces as possible!" as its motto.
  • Idiot Ball: Many examples, including -
    • Dr. Tuskin calling the fire department asking what to do about the fire in the basement. They instruct her to use the fire extinguisher.
    • Father Lamont trying to extinguish the said fire with a crutch
    • When requesting information and help from the clerics and congregation of an Ethiopian Coptic Church, Father Lamont tells them that he's seen visions with the help of a demon. As a result, he's cursed by the priest and nearly stoned to death by the congregation.
    • The Pope in this movie wants an investigation on Father Merrin's death, a thing they ALREADY know, especially because they believe him, an exorcist who died trying to free a little girl from demonic possession, to be a possible satanist. Let that sink in.
    • Merrin was based on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a forward-looking and very controversial Catholic priest whose writings have been both praised and condemned for heresynote , He was repeatedly condemned by his superiors during his lifetime, especially for his his writings about The Singularity and ideas about original sin. Merrin, then, is the possible "heretic" of the title. The investigation is to detail the exact circumstances of his death (that's why they want to question Regan) because he is being considered for sainthood.note 
  • Informed Ability: Regan's artistic talent, especially her laughably bad drawing of Father Lamont.
  • Kill It with Fire: The fates of the possessed girl in the opening sequence and Sharon.
  • Large Ham: Weirdly enough, Richard Burton underacts as aggressively as he overacts in some scenes.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the first film. Especially when you realize that John Boorman and the producers considered its predecessor exploitative and negative (one could question why Warner Bros. executives didn't see this as a bad omen).
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Dr. Tuskin decides to try a mind-reading gizmo on Regan. It all goes downhill from there.
  • Mind Screw: The whole friggin' movie.
  • Missing Mom: Adding to Howard MacNeil being absent from Regan's life, now so is Chris, who Regan says is 'away all the time'.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Linda Blair goes She Is All Grown Up in this movie.
  • One-Woman Wail: 'Regan's Theme'.
  • Posthumous Character: One of the storylines regards figuring out how Father Merrin died.
  • Psychic Powers: Regan has them. Other than that spoon-bending trick she fakes Sharon out with at the beginning of the picture.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: note  Despite the name Pazuzu being incredibly silly sounding, it is the name of a real demon from ancient Mesopotamian mythology and it also happens that one of his abilities is to bring locusts during dry seasons.
  • Re-Cut: The original rough cut of the movie was three hours long. Amongst the scenes which were deleted from the final version, there was a special effects sequence of the African church being destroyed by the demon.
    • Shortly after its premiere, John Boorman went back to re-cut the film in response to poor audience reactions, although this version fared no better. Boorman shortened and changed the order of certain scenes, deleted lines of dialogue, changed some musical cues, and added an introduction with narration by Richard Burton.

      Boorman also cut all footage of Burton after his character, Father Lamont, fights Regan's doppelganger, cutting immediately to the end credits after Regan walks out of the rubble of the townhouse. This gives audiences the impression that Father Lamont dies during the climax. The only other significant change of the recut ending is that Sharon's death is not shown, leaving the viewer presuming that she survived at the end of the film. The major plot, though, is not significantly different between the two versions of the film.
  • Scenery Porn: The sets and mattes are amazing to look at.
  • She Is All Grown Up: My, how little Regan has grown. Most of the movie has her in some form of revealing clothing. And then there's the tap-dancing scene.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Lamont is introduced as a well-intentioned but troubled and insecure man early on in the film. Under the demon's influence, his darker impulses become unleashed as he accompanies Regan back to the house in Washington DC where her possession occurred.
  • The Swarm: Locusts are a recurring appearance.
  • Title Drop: Kokumo says to Father Lamont 'You're a Heretic.'
  • Written-In Absence: Ellen Burstyn didn't want to return, so Chris MacNeil is explained as being away working.