Blu-ray Review: Exorcist II: The Heretic

STUDIO: Shout Factory | DIRECTOR: John Boorman | CAST: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, James Earl Jones, Paul Henreid
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 25, 2018 | PRICE: Blu-ray $34.95
BONUSES: new commentaries and interviews
SPECS: R | 102 min./118 min. | Horror drama | 1.85:1q widescreen | DTS HD Master Audio mono | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall  

John Boorman’s 1977 Exorcist II: The Heretic, a sequel to 1973’s you-know-what, is not “one of the worst films ever made,” as a handful of notable critics and sources have declared over the years, though by any standard, it’s certainly a weird one worthy of consideration—or re-consideration, if you will.

Set four years after the original film, The Heretic centers on the now 16-year-old Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair, Born Innocent) who, although now seemingly normal and staying with her guardian Sharon (Kitty Wynn) in New York City, continues to be monitored at a psychiatric institute by Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). It is there that she meets Father Philip Lamont (Richard Burton, Cleopatra), who’s been assigned by the Church to investigate the death of Father Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow, The Virgin Spring), who was killed four years earlier (in the original film) while exorcising the Assyrian demon Pazuzu from Regan. Well, wouldn’t you know that his investigation, coupled with the institute’s revolutionary technique of synchronizing two people’s brainwaves, taps into something downright demonic that resides in the recesses of Regan’s mind and soul…

Neither The Exorcist’s writer/producer William Peter Blatty or director William Friedkin (Sorcerer) were involved in The Heretic, which was originally conceived as a relatively low-budget production rehashing the plot of the first film. As the film was developed, though, and Boorman (fresh off Deliverance and Zardoz) came on board with the desire to make a “metaphysical thriller,” The Heretic began to go in a much different direction that included Merrin’s exorcism of a young boy named Kokumo in Africa, a huge swarm of locusts, lots of airborne nature photography that foresees Boorman’s upcoming Excalibur and The Emerald Forest, James Earl Jones (End of the Road) in a native garb, Paul Henreid (Casablanca) in his final performance and Ms. Blair singing and dancing up a storm to “Lullaby Of Broadway.” Whoa…

Shout Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the film—which it bills as “the sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time”—features new 2K scans of two versions of the film: the 118 minute original cut and a subsequent 102-minute follow-up. Both transfers are outstanding. The discs also contain a handful of new bonus features, including commentaries from both Boorman and project consultant Scott Bosco (who LOVES the film) and a third on the second cut by Mike White of The Projection Booth blog. There’s also a new interview with editor Tom Priestley and another from star Linda Blair, who describes working with Burton as “one of the highlights of my life.” Blair is also very candid about the film’s ever-changing screenplay and end result, which she isn’t very proud of, though she concedes to viewers that “If you can find anything in it you enjoy, that’s great. And if you don’t, I get it.”

Yeah, it’s a weird one.

Buy or Rent Exorcist II: The Heretic

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.