Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Exorcist II: The Heretic.”
The Movie: “Exorcist II: The Heretic”
Starring: Richard Burton, Linda Blair, Louise Fletcher
Director: John Boorman
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A teenage girl once possessed by a demon finds that it still lurks within her. Meanwhile, a priest investigates the death of the girl’s exorcist.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 10 percent
Brown: Look, I know we’re about a week late on our final movie of Halloween Month.
It’s OK, though. Life gets busy in the newspaper business.
And it’s not like it matters anyways. Because “Exorcist II: The Heretic” isn’t much of a horror movie anyways.
I didn’t see the original “Exorcist” before the JOE-DOWN because, as is well documented, I don’t enjoy horror movies. So of course I never saw “Exorcist II.”
My knowledge of this movie came from two sources.
There was the Nostalgia Critic’s less-than-glowing review.
And, I knew Ennio Morricone did the soundtrack. You know, the guy who did “The Ecstasy of Gold,” one of the best music pieces to a movie? Well, he made this cocaine nightmare for this movie.
A baffling song that perfectly encapsulates just an utterly baffling movie. We’ll get into it.
Froemming, give us your first take while I go under hypnosis with *checks notes* lights flashing right into my unblinking eyes.
Froemming: I can’t believe I paid money to watch this (REDACTED) movie.
Like you, I had never seen this movie. The original “Exorcist” is my favorite horror movie of all time. Hell, “Exorcist 3” is damn good as well. Yes, I saw the third one before the second one, but that is easy to explain: The second movie is hard to find on streaming, and for good reason. It is (REDACTED) lousy.
Now, how does an Exorcist movie with a soundtrack by Morricone and starring Louise Fletcher, who played Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” and Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones, fail?
My guess: Cocaine and hubris.
Anyway, as I sit in a drunken stupor on a bus to Washington, Brown why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: I will say for “Exorcist II” that it jumps right into an exorcism. Who needs all that drama and intrigue and tension when we can go straight to the money shot?!
The movie opens in Brazil (apparently? I don’t recall the movie specifying where we’re at) as Father Lamont (Burton) heads towards a lot of odd sounds and screams. He’s here to perform an exorcism on a possessed woman.
Things start to settle down until the possessed woman gets free and starts throwing a bunch of candles around setting fire to this … what, cave church?
I have no idea what’s going on with these settings.
Anyways, this possessed woman is burned to death. And I think her dress was polyester soaked in gasoline because that (REDACTED) thing lit up quick!
Froemming: The first movie had us believing exorcisms were something the church didn’t really believe in and were very rare. In this? Hell, it happens all the time!
So Lamont meets with some cardinal, who wants him to investigate the goings-on from the first movie with Father Merrin. See, the church is trying to modernize, and they think any evidence out there that the devil exists will make this new PR job not work.
Except, we just saw a (REDACTED) exorcism. The Catholic Church is as good at covering this up as…
Brown: The Catholic Church’s PR has always been questionable. Remember the ad campaign they tried to run through Springfield in the ‘90s?
Froemming: Or that time in New Jersey.
Brown: Also, the Catholic Church has fathers acting as private eyes? There’s a private dick joke that’s way too easy and we’re above that at the JOE-DOWN.
So yeah, Father Lamont is tasked with investigating Father Merrin’s death during the exorcism of Regan MacNeil in the first movie.
What’s Regan up to nowadays? She’s practicing tap-dancing in front of a pervy saxophone player for a school play.
Froemming: This movie, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Staying Alive” tell me that people actually thought they could have a career in dance in the 1970s. Everyone had Dance Fever, which is code for “cocaine.”
Brown: Regan also goes to therapy on a leftover “Star Trek” set? I was waiting for this with any one of the sliding doors.
Froemming: “Star Trek?”
Anyway, the place her therapy takes place looks like the most 1970s place on Earth. I think there is even shag carpeting on the wall in parts of this dirt brown and shit orange color scheme of the place.
Her therapist is
Nurse Ratched, a cold by-the-books sociopath Dr. Gene Tuskin, a woman who believes in science over religion, which was considered crazy at the time.
Her problem, as well as Lamont’s problem, is they never heard of the old saying “let sleeping dogs lie,” because their poking the bear that is the comically named Pazuzu that resides inside Regan’s mind (?) has the horrible results you would think.
Brown: For his investigation, Lamont wants to meet with Regan.
Well, I thought that he was there to talk to Linda Blair to express his concern over her partying with Rick James.
Regan says she has no memories of her exorcism in Washington D.C. But Lamont just won’t leave it alone. So her way to getting to Regan’s deep-seeded trauma: Hypnosis via suspect device.
This device is
bullshit a “synchronizer” that puts two people into a hypnotic state and you can *checks notes* go into someone’s dreams.
… This is the kind of science I’d expect from someone who collects crystals to balance out their chakras. You know, bullshit.
Froemming: *slowly slides crystals out of sight*
Yeah, this doodad (technical term) allows Dr. Tuskin to visit the dream world of Regan (I think?). So, she is just stomping around in people’s subconscious with technology I am sure was developed by Dr. Nick.
Brown: What technology?! It’s two (REDACTED) strobe lights shining into your (REDACTED) eyes. Seriously. They tell you to relax by doing the least relaxing thing ever. I felt like Jim Carrey having high beams flashing into his face when he’s having a romantic dream.
Froemming: Isn’t that what virtual reality is? I am seriously asking, I have no idea how VR works, only my vague understanding from “Lawnmower Man.”
Brown: My only real understanding of VR is from “Community.” JESUS WEPT!
Froemming: So Tuskin is mucking around in Regan’s thoughts/dreams/??? when suddenly she basically starts having a heart attack!
So Lamont pulls some real MST3K energy by demanding to use the doodad himself to save Tuskin!
MST3K GIF HERE
Now we now have Lamont in Regan’s mind, and he sees two Regan’s, one clutching the heart of Tuskin.
It was at this point I was wondering what the (REDACTED) I was watching, and cursing Brown’s name at the same time.
Brown: Yeah, the possessed Regan was clutching Tuskin’s heart like she was copping a feel. Which, unfortunately, that won’t be the last time I use the term “copping a feel” in this review.
This also has a hilarious effect where they superimpose possessed Regan’s look over current-day Regan because Linda Blair didn’t want to go through all that makeup again. Can’t say I blame her. But their way of fixing that issue is so hokey.
One of the movie’s most inexplicable parts comes afterwards where Lamont describes his experience in the synchronizer. Richard Burton looks dead into the camera and says that what he saw was evil… and fascinating.
Dude may as well have been Wayne Campbell fawning over an all-white Fender.
Froemming: I saw him more as Glen.
Brown: The scene makes a lot more sense when you find out that Richard Burton was drunk during a good chunk of filming. He was also having to read off cue cards allegedly because they were changing the script during filming.
Also, for some reason, Regan draws a picture of Lamont, which leads him straight to the basement where he knows there’s a fire in a random box?
A fire that Father Lamont decides the best way to extinguish is to *check notes* beat it with a wooden crutch?
I am fascinated with how awful this movie is, Froemming.
Froemming: When he starts beating the flames with the crutch, I seriously wondered if fire extinguishers had even been invented by this time, because of how stupid that was. They were, Tuskin grabs one. I wonder if Burton just drunkenly added that.
Brown: We now see the aftermath with Regan in her palatial penthouse in New York City that was furnished by Tony Montana’s interior decorator. Regan also keeps birds like she’s Mike Tyson.
During a dream, we’re whisked away to Africa.
Froemming: I did not understand any of the Africa stuff. I did not understand 90 percent of this movie. In Africa, we see Merrin there and this area is swarmed with locusts, probably the work of former President Geroge. H.W. Bush.
We see a possessed young man swinging some thingamajig (technical term) in the middle of all this, face looking like Regan’s in the first movie. So, we get an origin story for the hilariously named Pazuzu! How did Pazuzu go from this kid in Africa to Regan in Washington?
Anyway, Merrin performs an exorcism on this young man. An event, if I remember correctly, is referenced in the first movie. Which, had this movie not been co-written and co-produced by cocaine, might have worked.
Brown: In the scenes where we’re literally flying through Africa, it was clear: We didn’t get “Deliverance” John Boorman in this movie. We got “Zardoz” John Boorman in this movie.
After making a trip to the Washington D.C. exorcism, we get another synchronizer scene between Lamont and Regan. This time, the camera brings us to a grown-up Kokumo (the African boy that was possessed).
Now he’s James Earl Jones dressed like a grasshopper? And James Earl Jones turns into a leopard?!
The hilariously named Pazuzu shows Lamont this, because villains in movies love showing our hero how to destroy their plans. So, Lamont decides to ask the cardinal who threw him on this goose chase if he can go to Africa and find a man dressed like a grasshopper with the voice of Darth Vader because he is the key to stopping Pazuzu.
The cardinal correctly tells Lamont things have gone too far. But Lamont, fueled by his crude instincts and bourbon, decides to go and find Kokumo, which I really want to pronounce it as:
Brown: If none of this is blowing your mind, the next scene has Regan telling an autistic girl that she was possessed by a demon. The child is right to be horrified/confused by that statement.
For the sake of her safety, Tuskin tells Father Lamont to keep his distance from Regan.
Regan finds Father Lamont at an Africa exhibit in a museum. He knows he’s not supposed to talk to Regan… and yet he goes on for minutes about some priests thinking that humanity will act as a hive mind in the future?
Brown: For the sake of moving the review forward, they notice a picture with where their vision took them. So Father Lamont is off to *checks notes* a dangerous temple on a cliff in Ethiopia?
Froemming: Here, he is searching for Kokumo, asking around for the grasshopper-dressed man who will save humanity. He also helps the people here find the body of a murder victim because why-the-hell-not? He also ends up, tricked by someone, at an auction for a hooker I think? And everyone laughs at him, like Carrie’s mother always warned about.
This movie made zero sense.
Brown: An African priest thinks Father Lamont is a devil worshipper. So people start stoning Father Lamont.
As this is going on, it’s also hurting Regan, who’s in the midst of her tap dance performance.
How…? How does anything work in this (REDACTED) world?
Also, a quick rewind. When Father Lamont arrives in Africa and gets communion from the priest, I was laughing at how Richard Burton was CHUGGING that communion wine. I should have had a drink while watching this flick.
Froemming: He is also flown to the area where Kokumo is by Ned Beatty, a man who somehow starred in every movie in the 1970s!
Brown: They flew through a cloud of DDT, which seems like a perfect time to shoehorn professional wrestling into this review!
Froemming: Do you also have a 45-minute rant on pro wrestling and The Misfits?
Brown: You don’t want to test me on that, Froemming. Be thankful this is the written word and not free-flowing dialogue.
Froemming: So, Lamont eventually finds Kokumo, who says Lamont has lost faith and needs to prove that he still believes in his God, or something. So Lamont does the worst thing a person can do in a trust exercise: Fall assuming someone will actually catch you.
And Lamont falls on some spikes, and is suddenly in a …research lab?
Wait, what? What the (REDACTED) just happened? Did I miss something here?
Brown: No. This movie goes from Bleeding Gums Murphy in a grasshopper costume to James Earl Jones being the Nutty Professor. And he’s nutty about locusts, I guess. He has a locust that doesn’t go with its ravenous, plague-inspiring bug brethren, which is a breakthrough?
Yeah… the symbolism is lost on me when nothing in this goddamn movie makes sense.
Froemming: So was the cave part real, or was the research lab real? Which was the hallucination, Brown? I was so lost at this point.
Brown: The whole movie is a (REDACTED) hallucination. It’s best we just move on instead of trying to analyze it.
Froemming: Wikipedia tells me Lamont learns that Pazuzu attaches itself to people with powers of healing. Since I was so turned around by that last scene, I probably missed that (REDACTED) part. Anyway, Lamont returns to the States without any real game plan to stop the hilariously named Pazuzu. He knows why Pazuzu picks its victims. Not sure if he knows how to stop it, maybe there was some answer in the baffling locusts scene at the research lab?
Also from Wikipedia: Father Merrin, who belonged to a group of theologians that believed psychic powers were a spiritual gift that would one day be shared by all people, thought people like Kokumo and Regan were forerunners of this new type of humanity.
No memory of this shit at all. I guess Kokumo and Regan are going to be X-Men?
Brown: I remember it vaguely, but does it affect anything in this movie? No. No it does not.
At this point, Lamont returns to New York. He needs to synchronize with Regan again, so they go to a *checks notes* no-tell motel with stolen equipment from a doctor’s office?
After doing this synchronization, Father Lamont is in a trance-like state….
Froemming: That is a polite way of saying “drunken stupor.”
Brown: You’re not wrong.
Anyways, they book it to Penn Station to hop on a train to Washington D.C. We’re going back to the site of Regan’s exorcism because we should be reminded of a better movie.
Tuskin and Regan’s caretaker, Sharon, are concerned and go the planes, trains and automobiles route to D.C. to get to the house.
Froemming: Now I wish Del Griffith was in this movie.
Brown: Well, we didn’t get that. Instead, we got possessed, seductive demon Linda Blair.
When Father Lamont enters Regan’s room in D.C., there’s a Regan with demon eyes in a nighty. It’s a succubus, according to Wikipedia.
Then Father Lamont hops on the bed and basically dry humps Regan.
Linda Blair was 17 years old when this movie was made.
Froemming: You sure know how to pick them, don’t you?
Brown: I know you’re gaslighting me, Froemming, but I hate there’s a grain of truth in that statement.
Froemming: So, Tuskin and Sharon’s cab crashes, killing the poor cab driver. And then things just go off the rails. Sharon sets herself on fire like she is auditioning to be on a Rage Against The Machine album cover. We have Regan and her doppelgänger battling it, while Lamont is drunkenly horned out. He eventually gets rid of his fear boner, and decides (after groping a 17-year-old, which is so disgusting) to go all Mortal Kombat on the hilariously named Pazuzu!
Brown: Yep… Father Lamont is copping a feel on Regan. Told you I’d bring it back.
Only, this becomes a deadly trip to second base as Father Lamont rips the succubus’ heart out. Here’s a few visual demonstrations.
The house crumbles around them, but Regan and Father Lamont survive. They find Tuskin holding a burned and dying Sharon in her arms. The Father and Tuskin talk and… she just leaves Sharon’s charred corpse laying on the stoop of some random row home?
What the (REDACTED), movie? What if a kid finds that dead, well-done body in the morning? Is this how you renew the cycle of therapy and make a living, Dr. Tuskin?!
Froemming: The children in “Stand By Me” found a dead body and they turned out OK.
Well, mostly ok.
Brown: Corey Feldman and River Phoenix did not turn out OK, Froemming. I also have questions about Jerry O’Connell.
Froemming: I SAID MOSTLY!
Brown: During all of this, there’s been a swarm of bugs flying over Washington D.C.
My first thought: Oh shit, they’re killer bees. Wu-Tang is in D.C.!
Brown: But no, it’s locusts. I’m thoroughly convinced this movie was originally titled “Exorcist II: The Good Locust.”
The locusts come to swarm our heroes (??), only for Regan to mime some rope spinning that Kokumo did to fend off the locusts in Africa. And it works?
I understand nothing about this movie. Thankfully it’s about over.
With Sharon dead, Regan and Lamont wander the D.C. streets as a crowd checks out the damage from the house pretty much eating itself.
Froemming: The worst part, this movie does not even include the iconic theme music from the first movie!
What THE HELL WAS THIS, BROWN!?
Let’s go look at blinking lights down in recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I’ll admit to being utterly fascinated by how weird this movie is, but no, I don’t suggest watching it. At its core, it’s a horror movie that’s not scary. It couldn’t do its ONE JOB.
Froemming: No. No I would not. This was horrible, it was baffling, it was stupid.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: