Friday, October 1, 2010
Movie #1 The Exorcist II: The Heretic
The Horror genre has it's long list of cliches, and one of the most popular (in terms of familiarity with audiences and looked upon as a good idea to producers) is the sheer amount of sequels that get churned out for that last effort to make a quick dollar. If you've ever seen the masterpiece that is The Exorcist, you're well aware of its clear cut ending. It is a perfect example of a good stand alone movie that requires no further explanation or back story; however, 4 years after its release (had the film been made now it would have been the following year) we were given its sequel The Exorcist II: The Heretic. Even though I am big fan of sequels myself, This is one of the best examples I can think of for a movie series that is cheapened by its following installment.
The film has a good idea for a sequel, a much better start than most sequels in the horror genre get, it is just poorly executed. The central idea behind it is the church's investigation of the cause of Father Merrin's death in the original film(though I wonder why they would wait four years to enact such an investigation). Linda Blair returns and has aged appropriately (IE: she's pretty) except her voice hasn't changed in the 4 years that she's been demon free, so she still sounds like a 12/13 year old. Richard Burton stars as Father Lamont, the man charged with investigating the strange circumstances of Father Merrin's death, and he delivers with one of the most dry performances I have ever seen. Louise Fletcher plays the psychiatrist Gene Tuskin, who resembles Ellen Burstyn so much I was thinking it was her, and Kitty Winn returns as Regan's mother's assistant (though she's actually more Regan's assistant since Regan's mother is nowhere to be found), and to top it off Max Von Sydow makes appearances as Father Merrin. James Earl Jones also appears as the adult version of the boy possessed by the demon the first time Father Merrin encountered it. The filmmakers also desired to have the house and the infamous "Steps" from the original appear in the sequel but it is an eye sore since it's obviously NOT them, PLUS the spine crawling score doesn't even make an appearance in the movie!
The film starts strong, taking this idea and begins the process of crafting us a film that could easily be a mediocre sequel with a well thought out plot. The filmmakers shoot their wad entirely too early by answering their main and strongest plot thread of what happened to Father Merrin, and the subsequent question of What demon possessed Regan, in the first 20 minutes. The film becomes a jumbled mess of poorly written ideas and cardboard performances from here on. Things happen in this movie for seemingly no reason, Characters decide to do things and appear on completely different continents in a matter of seconds, without so much as the slightest time frame given.
The movie is very heavily visual, but not in the same sense as the original. The visuals of the original were presented to unnerve us, and makes us secretly desire for more; however, it's sequel gives us images that answer our questions, but create more questions because we can't comprehend what the original answer even said. At least when its predecessor answered our questions and created more it was for things we could understand and be interested in.
The first film has a characteristic of old horror films that I love, and is seldom seen in modern horror: patience; the film took its time to set up and it paid off in spades. The sequel exhibits an equal amount of patience (except for the first 20 minutes that I mentioned earlier, because this could have been spread out for a much longer duration of time), but then nothing happened that was satisfying to me. The movie is 110 minutes of silently waiting for something extraordinary to happen, and though unexpected and visually exciting things happen in the film's climax the movie left me with one last question based on what I had seen "Why should I care?".
The Exorcist is a bull in a china shop kind of movie in my opinion, once it starts it doesn't let up until it's finished doing what it needs to do; and these same characteristics SHOULD have been applied to the sequel. There was a lot of potential to make a movie that wasn't a straight forward horror movie, to make a movie that took its time, setting up its scares right in front of us and springing them on us when we least expect them. Instead we're given a very lackadaisical movie, with almost no scare value on the surface or in its core.
The best way for me to summarize this movie is said by Richard Burton about 25 minutes into the movie: "It was horrible.....utterly horrible."