Screen Savor: Oh, the horror!

By Gregg Shapiro


You know how somethings improve with age? Well, “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (Scream Factory), now available in a collector’s edition Blu-ray, isn’t one of them. An incoherent mess when it was first released, the catastrophic 1977 sequel to “The Exorcist”, directed by John Boorman (“Deliverance” and “Hope and Glory”), features an intoxicated Richard Burton at his scenery-chomping worst. Even the few returning cast members, including Linda Blair, Kitty Winn and Max Von Sydow, couldn’t give this doomed production the credibility that it needed.


Father Lamont (a bumbling Burton) calls on the spirit of the late Father Merrin (Von Sydow) to assist him with an exorcism that goes wrong, resulting in the subject igniting herself with candles. Meanwhile in Manhattan, teenaged Regan (Blair) is onstage at a rehearsal for a tap-dance number (seriously?). Is she attempting to follow in her actress mother Chris’ footsteps? While that’s not clarified, what is obvious is that we never see Chris (she’s making a movie on location) because Burstyn turned down the role.


In the next scene, Regan meets with her hypno-therapist Gene (an unfortunate Louise Fletcher) “to make her mom feel better”. Claiming not to remember what happened in Georgetown a few years earlier, other than being “sick”, Regan is regularly strapped into the doctor’s synchronized hypnosis device in an effort to make her well again.


Before you know it, Fr. Lamont has tracked down Regan at Gene’s office. There’s lots of pseudo-religious and semi-psychiatric mumbo-jumbo. As you might expect, the priest and therapist are at odds. Nevertheless, at one point, Gene actually allows Fr. Lamont to take part in the shared hypnosis, leading a series of unfortunate events.


Determined to find out the truth about what really happened to Fr. Merrin, Lamont travels to Africa where another exorcism subject may be the key to solving the mystery, which involves a massive swarm of locusts, among other things. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen James Earl Jones in a giant locust costume.


By the time Regan and Lamont end up back at the Georgetown house for the ultimate battle of good versus evil, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been possessed by confusion. The combination of Burton’s overacting and Blair’s underacting, matched with the awkward editing that is the movie’s trademark, make “Exorcist II: The Heretic” scary for all the wrong reasons.


Blu-ray special features include two discs (original cut and original home video cut), a new (and very revealing) interview with Blair, new audio commentary by Boorman, still galleries and much more.


Far more frightening, considering the current political climate, is the triple-DVD set “American Horror Story: Cult – The Complete Seventh Season”(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). Set in the days and months after the 2016 presidential election, the 11 episodes focus on two main characters. The first is massively phobic Ally (out actress Sarah Paulson) who, in addition to voting for Jill Stein, is having a psychotic break, brought on by the election results, as well as the presence of killer clowns terrorizing their small Michigan town.


While Ally and her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) are trying to adjust to the prospect of living in Trump World, bright-blue-haired outsider Kai (Evan Peters) sees this as his chance to alleviate all of his white-man anger. Magnetic and terrifying, Kai soon amasses an army of devoted and bloodthirsty followers – newscaster Beverly (Adina Porter), detective Jack (out actor Colton Haynes), supermarket cashier Gary (Chaz Bono), nanny Winter (Billie Lourd), therapist Rudy (Cheyenne Jackson), married couple Harrison (out actor Billy Eichner) and Meadow (Leslie Grossman), among others — for his new world order cult, as the body count mounts and mounts.


With the new eighth season of the FX series currently airing, this is a good opportunity to catch up on what came before.


Ratings: “Exorcist II: The Heretic” – F / “American Horror Story: Cult”: B+

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