Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Exorcist II: The Heretic

One of the less-discussed aspects of “The Exorcist” is that it was based on a true story. While it’s doubtful that the original events match up scene for scene with the first film, chances are good that since “The Exorcist II: The Movie Everyone Tries to Forget Exists” features neither the original writer nor the original director of “The Exorcist,” chances are good that it lacks a certain truthfulness.

The story begins somewhere unnamed, as a middle-aged priest walks down the hallway of a poorly constructed building. He’s surrounded by people, and at the end of the hall is a screaming girl.

The girl is question is not covered with the creepy, creepy makeup seen in the first film, which makes things a little confusing. Is the girl not possessed? Or did Warner Brothers cut the budget for the film, so they couldn’t afford decent makeup effects?

The priest stops in the middle of the hallway and opens what I’m guessing is his bible. It has a picture of Father Merrin in it, and the priest says, “Father Merrin, in the valley of the shadow of death, be at my side.”

The many, many people in the hallway start chanting in what sounds like some variation of Spanish, so I’m guessing we’re in Mexico. Or South America. Or the back lot of Warner Brothers.

The father throws some holy water on the so-called possessed girl, and she normalizes for a minute, crying out, “Why me, why me? I heal the sick.”

Then she flips out and tosses a few dozen candles on the floor, and the building goes up in the flames. The girl burns, smiling as she does so. But still, no creepy makeup, so the question of whether she was possessed or just crazy still stands.

More importantly, in the first film performing an exorcism was a big, big, big deal that required two priests. So did this guy get permission? Or is he just freelancing?

I guess we’ll find out later, because somewhere totally different we get reacquainted with Regan, who is now sixteen and kind of scantily clad and practicing a tap-dancing routine while a young lad accompanies her on the saxophone.

This scene lasts just long enough to make us wonder what the point is, and then we’re in the weirdest psychiatric hospital/ward ever put on film. All of the walls are glass, I guess so every single patient can look in on every other patient. Really. It’s bizarre. At one point, Regan walks in, and watches while a catatonic girl accidentally gets pushed over and just lies there on a pillow.

One suspects that this doctor’s office was shut down mere moments after Regan leaves the building for violation of privacy laws.

Regan goes to her psychiatrist’s office and we get to find out what’s going on via expositional backstory. Regan says, essentially, that she’s only coming because her mother feels guilty about “what happened,” and about how her career keeps her away all the time.

She also states she doesn’t remember anything that happened in Washington – she remembers being sick, and having bad dreams, and that’s it.

Her psychiatrist pulls out a machine used in hypnotism, and suggests they give it a whirl. I’m guessing Regan’s new doctor didn’t call the previous guy who hypnotized her, as she is clearly unconcerned about leaving the room with all her reproductive organs intact.

At this point, we leave Regan and whatever horrible violence is about to ensue, and we catch up with the priest, whose name is Lamont. Lamont is visiting a Cardinal Jaros, who must spend his days boiling under all the robes he’s got on. Or maybe his cathedral has really excellent air conditioning.

Jaros wants to know why Lamont doesn’t want to investigate the death of Father Merrin. He notes that Lamont has performed exorcisms (um, so much for the established fact that exorcisms are rarely performed, I guess) and that Lamont was familiar with Merrin’s teachings.

What teachings would those be, exactly? How to mix heart pills and hooch?

And while we’re at it, four years have passed since Merrin died. An investigation into Merrin’s death isn’t exactly timely. Plus, no mention is made of Damien, who not only died, but flung himself out of a second-story window and rolled down a massive flight of concrete steps.

We’re offered a reason, but it’s a lame one – it seems that certain members of the church are trying to get Merrin declared a heretic and possible Satanist, and to have his writings locked away. Lamont is charged with clearing Merrin’s name.

Lamont goes to visit Regan’s doctor. There are so many logical fallacies here that I’m just going to list them off:

How did he know where to find Regan? How did he know that Regan was seeing a psychiatrist? How did he know which psychiatrist it was? How did he get in to see the psychiatrist, when asking questions about Regan must be a major violation of client/patient secrecy?

After all, this isn’t a legal issue – Lamont is neither a lawyer or an officer of the law. He’s a priest.

Lamont doesn’t even hide is agenda. He walks into the doctor’s office as Regan is walking out, and immediately states that he wants to talk to Regan. Which should be easy, since she’s standing on the other side of a glass door.

The good doctor tells Lamont that she thinks Regan’s problems are related to mental illness, and that she can’t let Lamont speak to Regan. So she handcuffs him to the desk so he can’t leave, and calls the police and tells them some random guy who claimed to be a priest showed up at her door and tried to get her to violate client/patient confidentiality.

No, wait. My apologies. I keep looking for logic.

Instead what happens is Regan comes in and says “I’d like to try that machine, now.” Then she informs the kindly Lamont that he can stick around and watch, if he’d like.

Anyone up for another list of logic problems?

In a real psychiatric setting, Lamont would have to sign at least a couple of papers to make this okay. Regan is speaking to the doctor as if the doctor has JUST suggested Regan try out the hypnotism machine, which would imply that Lamont was visiting the Cardinal in a hallway in the same building, and then just walked down to talk to Regan.

Which would at least explain how he found her so easily.

Regan’s appointment is set for the next day, and everyone dutifully shows up for the freak show.

Regan is hooked up to her hypnotism machine, and put under. The doctor also straps herself to the machine, because this is a magical machine that, once Regan is hypnotized, will allow the doctor to view Regan’s thoughts and/or memories and/or whatever else is going in her head.

Once Regan is under, the good doctor tells Regan to go to her room in Washington. Regan goes there, and the doctor has Regan hypnotize her so that they can share memories.

We are less than nineteen minutes into the film, and it is already the most ridiculous thing ever.

Lamont starts asking questions about Merrin, trying to figure out what he was doing when he died. Suddenly, the doctor starts breathing rapidly and freaking out. The nurse presses a button, a tone plays, and Regan wakes up.

This leaves the doctor “trapped” in whatever nightmare scenario she was sharing with Regan.

The nurse demands that Regan “go and get” the doctor, but Lamont says that he knows where the doctor is (how?) and that he will go and get the doctor (how?). The nurse straps him in and Lamont starts the hypnotism process. The nurse helps him, and he’s under and ready to help about ten seconds later.

Trying to understand what happens next is going to give you a massive headache, for which I apologize:

On one side of the table is Lamont. He is looking at the doctor.

On the other side of the table, the doctor is sitting in the chair, freaking out. Regan is standing behind her with her hand on the doctor’s chest, feeling the doctor’s heart race. Overlaid on top of that Lamont can see Regan’s bedroom in Washington. Regan, who is rocking the freaky possession makeup, is sitting up in her bed, while Merrin stands at the foot of the bed praying.

Possessed Regan extends her hand, and starts fondling the air, which from Lamont’s viewpoint appears to be the doctor’s chest area.
Merrin has a heart attack and falls over. The doctor’s heart appears to seize. Intercut with all this, we got a shot of the possessed Regan’s hand fondling a heart in an open chest cavity.

Do I even need to mention that this possessed version of Regan is clearly sixteen, and not twelve? So just in case you thought this was maybe some lost footage or something, it ain’t.

Lamont yells out, “In God’s name,” and the possessed version of Regan stops fondling the heart in the open chest cavity. Regan demands that Lamont tell the doctor not to remember anything, and he does.

Everyone comes out of their trance.

The doctor has Regan leave her office, and Regan goes to play with one of the many children hanging around. She offers to draw one of the kids a picture.

The doctor and Lamont talk, and she tells him that what he saw under synchronized hypnosis might not have been a memory at all.

The nurse brings Lamont Regan’s picture – which is of his face, surrounded by flames.

Lamont panics, because he somehow knows that this picture of flames around his face means there’s a fire in the building. So he chases after the doctor and drags her to the basement.

Sure enough, there’s a box on fire. The doctor calls the fire department while Lamont attempts to beat the fire into submission with a crutch. He is not very successful.

In case you’re wondering, yes indeed there is a shot where Lamont looks up and the doctor sees his head surrounded by flames, just like in the picture.

Eventually, the fire department shows up and the flames are put out.

Lamont informs the doctor that her machine is miraculous, and proves scientifically that there’s an ancient demon trapped inside Regan. Naturally, he wants to synch up with her again.

Regan goes home to her high-rise in the city, falls asleep, and dreams about Africa. This results in her sleepwalking out her patio door and waking up just in time not to fall several stories to her death.

Her housekeeper/nanny, Sharon, walks out onto the terrace and finds Regan there, feeding and playing around with the pigeon house that’s out there. For some reason. Because we all know large cities don’t have enough pigeons.

Sharon tells Regan that she has to go to Washington that afternoon to “Take care of some things.”

In Washington, Sharon talks to Lamont, explaining that Regan’s mom wants to help in any way that she can. You know, short of coming home and taking care of her daughter in her time of need.

Lamont and Sharon go to the house Regan and her mother shared in Washington, and Lamont asks a bunch of questions about what happened. My favorite is when Lamont asks whether or not Merrin prayed while preparing to face the demon. Mostly because Sharon doesn’t answer. Probably because, “He helped himself to an adult beverage,” is probably not the answer Lamont is looking for.

In a surprising bit of continuity, Sharon, who quit at the end of the last movie, says that she stayed away for two years and then came back because she had to be with Regan – that when she was with Regan was the only time she was at peace.

Lamont asks if Sharon has talked to a psychiatrist or a priest about this. Sharon says, “I’m talking to one, now.”

Lamont says, “I’m not here for you.” Whatta guy. He probably kicks homeless people as he walks by them on the street. “Sorry, buddy. I’m not here for YOU.”

Back at the hospital, Lamont, the doctor, and Regan meet up for another session. This time Regan brings Lamont into her brain, so that she can provide him and us with a bunch of flashbacks about things she couldn’t possibly know about.

But it’s okay, because they’re “dreams,” you see.

In the dream, Father Merrin is in Africa, admiring a young boy who has healing powers, and uses them to protect the rest of his tribe from swarms of locusts. Merrin puts forth the idea that perhaps great good calls great evil upon itself.

The locusts swarm, the boy falls over in the field, and when Merrin runs to him, the boy is clearly in possession mode. He rolls over to face Merrin and says, “I am Pazuzu.”

Regan says, “Call me by my dream name,” and Lamont says, “Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air.”

In the dream, Merrin drags the kid up a mountain to a church hewn into the rock and exorcises Pazuzu from him. But Pazuzu is a cheeky monkey who explains in voiceover that he could totally, like possess that kid again if he wanted to.

This leads to a bunch of stock footage shots of Africa until, finally, we get a shot of the boy today, and we discover that he’s James Earl Jones.

Regan and Lamont wake up, and Regan tells the doctor that she remembers they were “in Africa,” although she claims she can’t remember anything else that happened. She does note that it looked like something she saw in the Natural History Museum.

Lamont determines that the boy/man must have a power over evil, and figures he’ll go to Africa and find him. And why not? Clearly finding Regan was the easiest thing in the world, so locating some dude somewhere on a continent shouldn’t prove much trouble either.

Out in the waiting room, Regan starts talking to a girl, who tells Regan that she’s autistic and can’t talk.

Moments later, the girl’s mother comes out and hears her little girl talking for the first time. She’s overwhelmed with joy, and takes the little girl home so that her father can hear her speak.

The doctor and Lamont come out into the lobby and Regan asks if she can help some of the doctor’s other patients with her magical superpowers. The doctor doesn’t think this is a good idea, but tells her that maybe Regan can do it when she’s older.

The fact that Regan appears to be some sort of Messiah seems to have little effect on the good doctor. Then again, she did invent a form of hypnotism that allows you to crawl into another person’s brain, so perhaps she’s just grumpy that Regan didn’t do the water into wine trick first.

Lamont tells the doctor that she needs to help him get the demon out of Regan so that she can reach her full spiritual power.

Lamont heads to the Natural History Museum, where Regan meets him, accidentally-on-purpose.

Regan asks Lamont what he thinks about ESP, and Lamont begins babbling about something having to do with idea that eventually all people will join some sort of collective unconscious, but if they do it before they’re ready, the world may find itself pointing in, “… the wrong direction, towards Satan.”

Apparently Merrin bought into all this trash. Frankly, locking away his writings may be one of the better decisions the church has made.

Lamont and Regan stop at one of the displays, and Regan notes that it looks like the place where Merrin fought Pazuzu.

Lamont says, “You remember Pazuzu?” And Regan confesses that she remembers everything that happened. And also, that the boy from Regan’s dream is named Kokumo.

Lamont goes back to the Cardinal and says that he must go to Africa. It seems that father Merrin prophesied that certain spiritually gifted people would rise up to fight evil. The cardinal relieves him of his assignment, and asks for his badge.

At least, that’s what he would do if this was a buddy cop movie, and who’s to say it’s not? I mean, it’s all there. He’s the priest. She’s the psychic. They fight evil.

At any rate, Lamont, in the tradition of all great buddy cop movies, defies his boss’s orders and heads to Africa to find Kokumo. How he affords this without church backing is anyone’s guess.

In the city, the doctor goes to visit Regan, who hasn’t been keeping her appointments. Regan hasn’t been showing up because the doctor won’t let her “synch up,” which Regan explains would allow her to communicate with Lamont, even though he’s in Africa.

An interesting side note: The display at the Natural History Museum noted that the place Merrin took Kokumo to was a rock church in Ethiopia. So why not say the Father went to Ethiopia? Is everyone associated with this film not aware that Ethiopia is a country unto itself?

Anyway, back in Ethiopia, Lamont asks around at the rock church and find out the abbot knew father Merrin. Then he asks about Kokumo, and the abbot, instead of saying, say, “Yes,” or, “No,” starts blabbering on about how Merrin brought a “very sick boy” up to his church, and how a monk fell to his death during the process. They never found the monk.

Lamont, who saw all of this in a previous flashback, says, “He didn’t fall there, he fell over there,” and climbs down rock face to show him.

Meanwhile, Regan is having a dance recital. Remember that rehearsal way at the start of the movie? That was very important to the plot, because otherwise they couldn’t have this scene.

One can’t help but think that the actress agreed to play Regan again only if she could demonstrate her tap skills somewhere in the picture. Perhaps the actress who played her mom backed out because they couldn’t work her skills with a bagpipe into the screenplay.

Back in Ethiopia, Lamont proves that he knows where the bodies are buried. Then he explains that he knew where the body was buried because he flew with a demon. For some reason, the Ethiopians take this the wrong way, and assume he worships Satan. So they try to stone him, and Lamont runs to his jeep and drives away.

This is intercut with shots of Regan, who is still performing, screaming and tripping and jerking as invisible rocks strike her. Eventually she falls facedown into the audience.

In the next scene, the doctor, who came to her dance recital for some reason, and also has drugs with her, dopes Regan. Regan is upset, because the drugs will prevent her from dreaming, so she won’t be able to help Lamont.

In the wilds of Africa, or possibly Ethiopia, or wherever he is now, Lamont consults with a nun who doesn’t know the place that Lamont is looking for. It seems the fine father has reached a dead end when a nice man with a plane drops off a brand-new crucifix for the nuns.

His name is Edwards, and he knows all the holy places in Africa, because it’s his business. He says the place Lamont is looking for it Jepti, and he flies the Father there.

How in the world does Lamont manage to find the one guy in the middle of Africa who knows where Lamont needs to go? It’s either the hand of God or really bad screenwriting. Take your pick.

Lamont wanders the city (I guess it’s Jepti, no one ever says), calling Kokumo’s name. After a minute, this tactic starts to work, and a large gathering of men lead him through the city to his destination. This is assuming his destination is a lady of easy virtue. Since Lamont seems unhappy about this, I’m guessing it’s not what he was looking for.

Lamont finally decides to try praying – first to God, then to Regan. Regan, who is still lying in her hospital bed, demands that Lamont call her by her “dream name.” So he prays to Pazuzu.

And finally, after a long, long, long and boring search, he finds Kokumo. Who is pretty crabby about the fact that Lamont used Pazuzu to find him.

Kokumo tells Lamont that Lamont has lost faith in his God, and tells Lamont that Lamont needs to “Pluck out her evil heart.”

Did I mention that Kokumo is played by James Earl Jones? And that he’s dressed in a locust costume?

Lamont insists that he believes, and that he’ll do anything to help Regan. So Kokumo tells Lamont that Lamont must “cross over. Though what Lamont must cross over is unclear. Lamont and Kokumo appear to be separated by a hallway, and the floor appears to have something black and oily on it, but I can’t say it appears all that dangerous.

Either way, I have to share this line: “If Pazuzu comes for you, I will spit a leopard.”

I simply must find a way to work that into casual conversation.


Kokumo spits a ball of something-or-other out of his mouth, and it falls onto the “floor,” which is finally revealed to be a deep pit of water with spikes sticking out of it.

Lamont attempts to step on it, his foot is impaled by the spikes, and he starts to fall on the floor… only suddenly the floor is black marble, and Kokumo is now a nice, normal-looking dude wearing a white lab coat.

Lamont starts spitting questions at the now very normal-looking Kokumo, who says that he did know Merrin and that his mother told him that as a young boy he was possessed by Pazuzu.

Lamont also states that Regan was, as a child, possessed by Pazuzu, only she WASN’T. She was possessed by the devil. But to be fair, Lamont has had a rough trip, and he probably just forgot.

(A footnote: If you read the original novel “The Exorcist,” the name Pazuzu does appear within its text. And if you watch “The Exorcist,” and you’re some kind of scholar, you’ll know that the statue that keeps popping up throughout the movie is Pazuzu. Or if you read the screenplay for “The Exorcist,” you will find the name Pazuzu mentioned. But is Pazuzu named in “The Exorcist?” No. So, boo on you, people who make II.)

Here’s an issue, though. Assuming that Regan was possessed by Pazuzu, what exactly happened at the end of “The Exorcist?” Did Pazuzu jump out of Regan, go into Damien, and then a minute later, after Damien was dead, just back into Regan and just opt to hang out for a few years?

But we were talking about Kokumo.)

Kokumo, it seems, is a scientist who studies locusts. While the director throws a bunch of grasshopper footage up on the screen, Kokumo yammers on and on and on about how when things are wet, the locusts brush wings, and they all go crazy and follow the locust mind of destruction.

Then he pulls out a genetically engineered grasshopper that isn’t bothered by wing brushing. Apparently, her children are going to make the locusts calm down and be happy grasshoppers again.

If the camera zoomed in for a close-up shot of the grasshopper with Regan’s head superimposed over the top of it, whoever wrote those lines could not have pounded the point home any harder.

For additional emphasis, Lamont says, “The Good Locust?”

Then the movie cuts to Regan as she gets out of her hospital bed. She grabs her stuff and runs out the front door as the nurse says, “Hey Regan, where do you think you’re going?” but doesn’t try to actually stop her. Good work, nurse. I’m sure that’ll come up at your review.

Lamont heads back to the States and heads to Regan’s apartment. Sharon meets him at the door and tells him that Regan has run away from the hospital and that it’s all his fault.

Lamont heads to the Natural History Museum to drown his troubles in learning, and finds that Regan is already there. He fills her in on what Kokumo taught him, and Regan, as it turns out, has stolen the hypnotism device and is carrying it around with her in a shopping bag.

Regan and Lamont head to a hotel room and fire up the world’s most magical plot device. Lamont states that he is afraid, but Regan insists that Merrin will help them.

Hypnosis ensues, and Merrin, who I feel compelled to remind everyone is still quite dead, tells Lamont that he is entrusting Lamont with the care and feeding of all of the good people that Merrin attempted to protect while he was alive.

He also explains that Satan sent Pazuzu. In case we were concerned that Pazuzu was a free agent, or something.

Regan wakes up, but the doctor remains in a trance. He gets up from his chair and starts walking, and after a lot of Regan-whining, we learn that Lamont is headed to the house in Washington.

Regan calls the doctor and explains all of this.

Regan and Lamont get on a train and head to Washington. There is some pointless babbling that ultimately does not affect the plot in any way.

Sharon and the doctor head to Washington on a plane. There is an anti-climactic moment where it looks like the plane is going to fall out of the sky, only it doesn’t. Eventually they land and get a taxi, and when they tell the driver where they’re going, the driver seems… you know, sort of hesitant.

Lamont goes into the house, leaving Regan behind. He runs up to Regan’s old room and pulls open the door. He is immediately swarmed by locusts.

Back in the cab, a rock hits the windshield and the car spins out of control, eventually crashing into the front gate of Regan’s old house.

Regan, who has just gotten into the house, is terrified by the noise upstairs. At least until the director cuts away, and cuts back to her, and Regan seems mildly wary, at best.

Outside, the cab is a crumpled mess. The driver is dead. Sharon just barely manages to push her way out of the vehicle. She has an impish smile on her face. The doctor asks her for help getting out of the cab, and Sharon just kind of grins at her.

The doctor cries out, “At least help Regan.”

Sharon refuses until the doctor says the name “Pazuzu.”

Inside, Regan walks to the door of her old room and opens it, and sees the possessed version of herself on the bed. So she screams. Somewhat unconvincingly.

Lamont runs up behind her and pushes her into the room, and the possessed Regan’s face changes from hideous and disgusting to pretty much normal, except for the fact that she’s wearing the kind of makeup that would cause a mother to declare, “You are not going out of this house like that, young lady.”

Oh, and her eyes are kind of yellow.

The possessed version of Regan asks Lamont to “Join with us,” and her demeanor pretty doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Lamont runs to her, falls on the bed and begins nuzzling the neck of the possessed 16-year-old girl.

Lamont is ordered to kill Regan. He runs over to her, grabs her by the shoulders, and starts banging her head against the wall. Regan starts speaking with Kokumo’s voice, yammering about The Good Locust and how she’s designed to not be affected by the brushing of the wings.

Outside, the doctor gets out of the car just in time for Sharon to stomp on a light in a puddle of gasoline, which causes the car and Sharon to go up in flames. I have no idea why this happens.

Inside, Regan says “Why me?” Then she says it in Spanish, which causes the doctor to remember that he’s pretty much a total failure at the whole exorcism thing. So he runs back to the bed, jumps on top of the possessed version of Regan, and starts strangling her. Or something like that. There’s a lot of motion and grunting, and the thing on the bed calls out to Pazuzu, so I guess you can draw your own conclusions.

Outside, locusts swarm over a really bad blue-screen shot of Washington.

Inside the house, the possessed version of Regan and Lamont wrestle on the bed. The window bursts open, and locusts pour in.

The house beings to crumble.

Lamont punches the possessed version of Regan in the chest a bunch of times, and tears out her heart.

Regan escapes from the house, and begins waving her arm around her head. So that the audience doesn’t just think she’s spazzing out, she is intercut with shots of a young Kokumo as he swings a device around his head that he used to fend off locusts.

After a minute, the locusts calm down. Which still leaves Washington with a metric booty-load of grasshoppers running around, but, there you go. Oh, wait. Never mind. After they get calm, they vanish.

Regan looks around, and spots the doctor, Sharon, and Lamont. Sharon is burned really, really badly. She notes that, “I… chose… evil…”

Lamont counters, “No, Sharon, your hunger for belief was your truth.” Granted, it doesn’t make any sense, but neither does anything else that’s happened thus far, so we’ll let it go.

Lamont gives Sharon last rites. Sharon dies.

The doctor apologizes to Regan, and says, “I understand now. But the world won’t.” She’s got that right.

The doctor tells Lamont and Regan that they have to go, and Regan and Lamont walk away.

Mere seconds later, the entire neighborhood and the cops show up, crying out things like “What happened?”

I think the more important question is, “Where were all these people when a cab crashed violently into the house, then exploded? And where were they when the house exploded? And where were they when the entire neighborhood was being swarmed by locusts?”

Personally, I want a sequel to this film where the doctor calls up Regan’s mom, and explains that Sharon is dead, the house in Washington is a gravel pit, and her sixteen-year-old daughters just ran off with a priest who is old enough to be her father.


  1. Man, I applaud you for trying, but that made no goddamn sense.

    It made less sense than that movie with the floating ball that stabs people in the head.

    1. Thou shalt not mock phantasm for it is an abomination to do so.

  2. I confess that while I did my level best, there are some things that just can’t be explained. As it is, I found myself cutting things out – like a flashing light that appears every time two people are supposed to be psychically linked. I also ended up dropping lists of things that just out-and-out contradicted other things, not just in the first movie, but in this movie as well. And I still managed to vault the 5000 word mark.

    The good news is that part III is more straightforward. The bad news is, it still isn’t all that good.