Another feature of...
Forward: though it was a brand new, original copy, the quality of the transfer on the tape I bought for this review is about the worst I've ever seen for a major motion picture, good or Bad. Just to be able to make out what was on screen I had to crank up the contrast and brightness settings on my system, as can be seen from the washed out, grainy images within this review.
Not exactly what a film wants to do to get on my good side.
Just as rumors surfaced that the camera caught actual intercourse between Mickey Rourke and Carre Otis in the filming of Wild Orchid, just stories circulated that we were in fact seeing a woman getting her ribs broken in the opening sequence of Jaws, so too is Exorcist 2 : The Heretic claimed by fringe sources to present us with some unexpected cinematic veracity. Richard Burton, so the whisperings go, does all his own sweating in the film. If youve seen E2, then youll understand that this is no mean feat.
I think it best to begin my treatment of E2 by touching briefly upon its predecessor, as, ironically, it was the astounding success of the first film which laid the groundwork for such a singularly Bad sequel.
William Friedkins 1973 hit The Exorcist remains today one of the most shocking, yet well-crafted horror films of all time. During its theatrical run stories abounded of audiences becoming hysterical, of bizarre tragedies plaguing those associated with the film, and of a few people who were supposedly driven to criminal acts upon seeing it. Casting aside the undoubted hyperbole and outright confabulations, and ignoring author William Peter Blattys nonsensical insistence that his story was taken from an actual case of true demonic possession, there remains nevertheless the legacy of an emotionally powerful film to be reckoned with.
So powerful, in fact, that it raked in around one hundred million dollars for Warner Brothers studios, and spawned an unholy number of imitations (no pun intended). Possessed, if you will, by the thought of an equally lucrative follow up, Warner Brothers held the semi-famous "half-million dollar lunch". Friedkin and Blatty were begged for a sequel to the point where the studio arranged a lunchtime meeting between its executives and the two men to green light just about anything they could come up with. On the unlikely event that Friedkin and Blatty couldnt pitch an idea the studio liked, the men would still be paid $500,000.00 for one afternoons troubles, so sure was the studio that they could pull another hit from them.
As things turned out, despite some promising discussions beforehand, Friedkin and Blatty couldnt agree on a story at the lunch, and they opted out of the project (and eventually returned the half-million to Warner Brothers, so the story goes). Blatty went on to write and direct Exorcist 3 : Legion over a decade and a half later - a seriously flawed, but I think unjustly overlooked film. In the interim, rip-off films were cutting into a market Warner Brothers felt rightfully belonged to an Exorcist sequel, and they longed for a project to fill their void. Into this vacancy stepped screenwriter William Goodhart and director John Boorman. And with them, as Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote of his countrys decline, the Exorcist saga " descend[s] from an age of gold to one of iron and rust."
On the surface E2 must have seemed a cant-miss picture. Boorman had made Deliverance a few years earlier, and would go on to make the visually rich films Excalibur and The Emerald Forest (we politely ignore Zardoz in this review). Cast-wise, E2 featured Richard Burton (admittedly a hit-or-miss casting decision), Paul Henreid, and James Earl Jones, as well as return performances from Linda Blair, Kitty Winn, and Max von Sydow. They even had Ennio Morricone to compose the score for the film. And, of course, there was a certain guarantee of interest due to the success of the first film. So what went wrong?
The short answer : they forgot that they had to hang an entertaining and believable story on all that talent (Richard Burton bears rather conspicuous culpability for its failure as well, but well get to that in due time). A quick bit of research shows that screenwriter Goodhart didnt really do much before E2, and has done even less since. So at least there is some justice in the world.
Whereas Blattys script slowly stripped away all rational explanations for a little girls disturbing behavior until all that was left was an inescapable acceptance of the supernatural, E2 not only tries to immediately blend the supernatural with bizarre pseudo-science and psychology, it also seems to indicate that the evil inside the still-possessed Regan has only been stirred up because of a priests mucking about with it. And the claustrophobic enclosures of the MacNiel house where a demon called out your name from just down the hall have been replaced by a rambling, spastic, globe-trotting mess that hops around from New York to Georgetown to places unknown and even to a few locales in Africa via the wings of a locust (seriously).
On opening night audiences were laughing out loud at the farce put before them. If his story is to be believed, Blatty was the first to chuckle openly in the theater he was attending. One thing that is certain is that the reaction to E2 on opening night was so universally negative that director Boorman pulled the prints the very next day to make some hasty edits. The new cut of the film, sporting some Alan Smithees Dune-style opening stills and narration of events from the original Exorcist, fared little better, and the film soon found itself enshrined forever as one of the top entries in the prestigious pantheon of Bad Moviedom.
As luck would have it, the copy of the film I purchased for this review is touted on the box as being the "original theatrical version". In other words, the one that was laughed off the screen. This is an especially welcome treat for me, after learning about the number of marvelously Bad sequences cut from the copy of The Beast (qv) I picked up and reviewed here previously.
And now, on to the film.
Those predisposed to be embarrassed at composer Ennio Morricones association with this film will find their sentimentality evaporating away right from the opening music. Morricone most likely threw together and whipped up (computer people, substitute kludged) the score one morning in the bath whilst balancing the plate holding his Denver omelet on one knee, as it consists entirely of five rather short cues, with only slight, occasional variations :
The opening credits treat us to brief samplings of 1-3 as the titles show us the names of rather a lot of people who are going to be leaving this little project completely off their resumes. This gives way shortly to a small hovel crowded with peasant-looking women, and the sound of dialogue-screaming (as opposed to the music-screaming heard over the credits). The array of candles in the darkened room and the contrasting light streaming in through gaps in the wall boards may lead the hopeful to concluded that this is actually the opening segment of Hellraiser, but this is, unfortunately, not the case (though there will be a few tearings apart of souls).
Enter a cassocked Richard Burton (who we can tell from the first moment we see him took this role because actors must pay their electric bills just as you or I) as Father Lamont <insert Sanford and Son joke here>. Lamont is led into the room to stand before a young Hispanic woman in a flowing white gown whos being held back by some older women in rather frumpier apparel. The movie would have us believe that she is possessed, as shes supposedly the source of the dialogue-screaming. The trouble is that her mouth doesnt seem to do much but stay contorted in an uncomfortable sneer, and anyone whos ever heard a cat in heat will most likely not be too terribly frightened by the womans growling.
Lamont opens up his Bible revealing a bookmark made out of a news clipping or church bulletin of Father Lankaster Merrin (Max von Sydow), chief exorcist from the first film. Were two minutes in, and already theyve committed the fatal mistake of including overt reminders of the much better film which preceded them.
After Burton invokes Merrin in a short prayer, I suddenly realise that I am going to have a tough time describing Burtons acting (if one can be so charitable as to call it that) throughout the film, as I only know so many synonyms for vapid. Lets see, theres wooden, and stilted, and uninspired, and
Lamont makes his way into the throng of rotund women restraining the possessed girl, and splashes some holy water on her, eliciting, to a small extent, the expected screams and writhing. Merceedes McCambridges wailings from the corresponding scene in the first film were recently sampled and used in a powerful and driving techno-dance song. The sounds recorded from this scene will most likely find their way onto a Cure Your Insomnia Now! cassette. As the rest of the crowd reacts with agitation, Lamonts eyes start about wildly, his face a comic mixture of fright and the uh-oh of a little boy that just broke Mommys favourite lamp.
Lamont eventually barks at the assemblage to be quite, and we hear the possessed girl ask "Why me? I heal the sick.", first in Spanish then in English. Well, what about me? I actually paid money for this tape! At this stage Lamont invokes the ancient Catholic art of standing still and staring at the afflicted in a motionless, wordless attempt to rid her of the demon. Alas, this is not effective, and she breaks free and begins tossing things about. Still holding fast to his teachings, Lamont continues to do and say nothing in a way that only Richard Burton can pull off so convincingly.
After toppling a few candles, the possessed girl starts a fire in the small crowded room. Shifting to a new strategy, Lamont plants his feet firmly on the ground and silently watches her. Then we shift to one of the many arty shots Boorman threw in as if they would somehow sustain this disaster of a film. The possessed girl stands in the middle of the flames and raises her arms out to her sides. As her flowing gown drapes over the flames and beings to combust, she smiles eerily, and I guess we were supposed to react with "Wow. Shes like an angel in hell". Instead were busy laughing at the all-too-noticeable cut where they quickly substituted a dummy for the actress so it could finish burning up.
At this, Lamont pulls out the all the stops. He fades back slightly into the crowd allowing a few matronly bodies to shield him, breaks out in the first of his serious sweat attacks, and contorts his face into what looks like a manic Albert Finney trying to look like a drunken Richard Burton trying to look frightened. He lets out a few random vowel sounds that dont really mean anything at all, and the possessed girl is soon reduced to a briquette.
Sure can see why Lamont was given this assignment. His standing there and sweating is matched by few on Earth.
Cut now to something a bit more frightening. A group of young children are practising a tap dance number, and among them is a chubby cheeked Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). Im certain that Boorman wanted to make sure everyone knew that either the character Regan or the actress Blair had grown up in the past four years, as shes first shown at the tap practise wearing shorts and a distressingly snug little front-tied midriff top that really shows off her midriff, as well as her upper- and lower-riffs too. In addition, as she stays to do a kind of tap dancing Dueling Banjoes thing with the kid on the baritone sax, her dancing makes it obvious even to those trying desperately to look the other way that young Regan, though she rather stands to benefit from one, isnt wearing a bra.
There are a number of scenes in the movie where her budding sexuality is frankly presented in visual form, though the actual dialogue and plot never touch upon it (with one notable exception at the end, which Ill get to). Long after I had first made this observation to myself, reading the back of the movies box lent reinforcement to it. Paragraph three describes Linda Blair as playing "a more lovely and mature Regan, ". Well, there you go.
This depiction does become a bit disconcerting as the movie develops. As she forms a bond with Lamont, we cant help but think Lolita, especially in that scene Ill be getting to. Were it not for the sheer side-splitting goofosity of the rest of the film, we might be given to wondering what this says about Boormans inner vision, and if its strictly legal in most states.
Cut now to one of the films principal locations, the research institute of Dr. Jean Tuskin (Louise Fletcher, making her second appearance on this site). Of all the locations in the film, this is quite probably the strangest. A very large room is occupied by smaller free-standing hexagonal rooms made almost entirely of glass, which comprise the various treatment rooms and offices. The ceiling consists of hexagonal paneled fluorescent lighting (as if were about to beam down to the planet at any moment), and all the non-glass surfaces are painted in a singularly displeasing shade of subdued umber (along with "burnt sienna", the two crayons you never used to use).
Two noteworthy items found in the walkways outside of the offices (which serve as a playground, we shall learn) : molded plastic furniture that Im sure was stolen right off the set of Space : 1999 (though polyester bell-bottomed uniforms and Barry Gordon are sadly absent), and a cool looking toy in the shape of a four-foot high vinyl covered hollow hexagonal wheel. This last item is seen a few times in the background of scenes taking place inside the institute, and is one of the very few truly likeable objects of any kind (animal, vegetable, mineral, or ethereal) seen in the film. For reasons which should be obvious, I dubbed this item the Nut O Fun.
The actual work done at the institute is about as baffling as the décor. Not only are there patients in attendance who suffer from deafness, autism, emotional problems, and who knows what all, but there is at all times a rambunctious gaggle of children scampering about at play in the walkways between the large all-glass offices, as if it were some sort of day care (floor length panes of glass and small children - what a combination, hey?).The broad spectrum of services offered is even stranger when we take into account that, while she does have a few nurse-level assistance at hand, Jean appears to be the only doctor in the house. Couldnt they go a bit lighter on the eclecticism, and a bit heavier in the PhD area?
After some quick shots establishing the atmosphere of the institute (i.e., weird), Regan walks in. Thankfully, shes no longer attired in such a was as to advertise whether shes standing under an active air conditioning vent or not. While waiting for her therapy appointment with Jean, Regan watches as a young boy beats on a passive young girl (played by a pre-crime spree Dana Plato) with a plush toy. Given the amount of time the camera lingers on the two young ladies staring at each other we get the suspicion that were going to see them together again in some kind of Important Scene (hopefully without the younger one being beat upon) sometime later.
Jean arrives for the session, and she and Regan walk into one of the hexagonal pods (which offers zero privacy, as its made of glass, by the way). Regan lies down on a leather couch (no, thats not cliched) and they begin with some Generic Dialogue. At this point Morricone should have had the Beach Boys playing on the soundtrack with "Exposition city, here we cooome".
As has been observed in other reviews on this site, expository dialogue can serve as a means to fill the audience in on facts important for the back story or developing plot, provided that its done properly. When its not done properly, it comes off like two or more people awkwardly saying out loud things that they both know. This scene in E2 is so inept that it resulted in Charlie Gordon drawlingly asking his furry little companion at the premier "Hows come shes tellin that other lady stuff she already knows, Algernon?"
The distilled content of this bit is that Regan has been sent to New York to live with Sharon (Kitty Winn), the live-in from the first film. Regan also believes that the reason her mother has her seeing Jean is due to the mothers own guilt at being divorced and being away making films all the time. In one of the few points of true continuity with the first film, Regan only remembers being sick, and has no recollections of the possession.
At the conclusion of their session we get our first glimpse of the laughable little device that will serve as the central method of plot advancement. Jean displays a tall box topped with a tube sporting two tiny halogen lights pointing in opposite directions. If we look closely (and frankly, why would we?) we can see some wires leading off the base to two sets of headsets. This, it will be revealed, is the imaginatively named "synchronizer". Jean describes it to Regan as a machine they can use together to make them both "feel very relaxed, and very comfortable". Thankfully the machine is clearly shown, so we dont spend too long considering perverted applications of Jeans statement.
When Jean asks Regan how she feels about the idea of using it, Regan forces us to renew our prurient musings on the machine as she grins slyly and says "I dont think youre ready for it".
Cut now to something a bit less secular. Inside some formal church building somewhere (we think the Vatican, but its never formally established), Father Lamont waits in a reception area attended by two guards who look like they just wandered onto the set after finishing up a dramatic recreation of the Napolionic wars for the History Channel. A procession of high officials enters the hall, and the character known only as The Cardinal (cant help but be reminded of Monty Pythons The Bishop! sketch) splits off to walk past Lamont. A less ostentatiously outfitted underling beckons Lamont to follow into The Cardinals office.
Boorman again goes for some kind of arty shot here, as the camera looks down two sets of doors and a very long hallway to Lamont being formally presented to The Cardinal ("Dont touch the ring, vic!" sorry). I think what Boorman was trying to do was present a metaphor for the inner workings of the Roman Catholic Church being distant and removed from everyday experience. What I noticed instead was how much the décor and black and white marble floor reminded me of the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks.
When a director is trying to be deep but instead reminds you of Monty Python and David Lynch, you know hes in trouble.
We do finally cut to inside The Cardinals office, and we see that hes played by none other than Paul Henreid (yes, Casablanca Paul Henreid), who now asks Lamont why hes refused his latest assignment. When Lamont answers back that hes not worthy (and given Burtons lackluster read here, Ive got to agree), The Cardinal <snicker> politely asks the Beach Boys to strike up a refrain of "Exposition City" as his underlings undress him.
Since I hold no malice for you, oh my Brothers, Ill spare you a detailed transcript of this dreck and give you the salient bits. Father Merrin (from the first Exorcist) stands to be brought up on posthumous heresy charges (?). Some church officials think that he might have even become a Satanist (??) toward the end of Regans exorcism (???), and that he died "at the hands of the Devil" (well, DUH!). Since Lamont knew Merrin and served under his tutelage, The Cardinal asks Lamont to investigate the facts surrounding Merrins death during the exorcism (four years later?) and help clear his name.
The intimation is that the church is uncomfortable with the idea of the exorcism having been performed (even though they officially approved it beforehand, and even selected Merrin specifically in the first film), and is scapegoating Merrin to cover things up. The Cardinal mentions that Merrins writings have been impounded for being too controversial, and Burton flatly remarks that "Satan has become an embarrassment to our progressive views" (emph mine). Well, as we all know, the Roman Catholic Church is famed far and wide for is constant, fickle alterations of fundamental dogma in order to keep ahead of the winds of change, right? Didnt they recently decide to subsidize nose piercings for altar boys?
And isnt this just a bit self-contradictory? While the Roman Catholic Church may not go round offering coupons for "real exorcisms" (demonic possession of a person, as compared to "simple exorcisms", such as baptism or house blessing), it is still a matter of doctrine. There is a formal procedure to be followed, church officials must sanction the event, and this was all clearly shown in the first film. Now were to believe that there is a move to explain away Merrins death and the first exorcism by the same people who believe he was murdered by Satan, and all because the idea of evil doesnt fit with their theological outlook?
As The Cardinal goes on to talk about what a great guy he thinks Merrin was in spite of the current suspicions, he produces an old photo for Lamont. Were to presume from the way he proffers it that The Cardinal is shown in the photo with both Merrin and Lamont, but the camera (wisely) never gives us any actual detail. And its here that Burton first lays down a reoccurring motif for his character Lamont. In response to The Cardinals comment about "How he [Merrin] inspired us, Phillip!", Lamont replies flatly "We were young. Today wherever I look I see only Evil". Sounds to me like someones been listening to too many of his old Journey albums
Lamonts apparent chemical imbalance aside, The Cardinal orders him to follow up on the MacNiel exorcism and Merrins death, in order to keep Merrins name clear. Lamont hisses again that hes not worthy (see my comments above the first time he said this), but under orders he capitulates. To properly drink in the atmosphere of the balance of the film, the reader must remember that from now on whenever Lamont says the word "evil", he pronounces it "EEE-ville", and always gives that word a little kick, no matter how lifeless the rest of the surrounding read is.
Cut back to the institute, and a lovingly lingering shot of a young boy with some obvious developmental disorder puzzling over some machine or test. This goes on to show a short series of other children with similar conditions, and it becomes gradually apparent as the film progresses that children with real disorders and disabilities were used in the scenes of the institute. With the exception of the aforementioned Ms. Platos character, the deaf girls are really deaf, the Downs Syndrome children are truly thus afflicted, and so on and so forth.
Even for someone as decidedly un-PC as Yours Truly, this soon becomes offensive. We get the sense that the children arent there to add an air of verisimilitude, but rather as a shortcut to getting an emotional reaction out of the audience.
On the positive side, though, the Nut O Fun makes an appearance during this.
Back in the institute, we learn that the shots of the disabled were supposed to represent Father Lamonts POV, as a cut now shows him standing in one of the rooms and looking around. Another pointlessly arty shot shows an opaque yet reflective black glass door to the room slide open to reveal Regan, who steps inside the room. She stops just inside, and as the door closes again behind her we see Lamont mirrored in the door next to where Regan is standing. Regan regards the off-camera Lamont for a while, and the door slides open again to reveal Jean occupying the point in space where Lamonts reflection had been, still next to Regan.
Ooo, I get it! One is the caretaker of her mind, and the other of her soul! And since science is more materialistic than religion, Jean is shown in the flesh, whereas Lamont was only shown as an insubstantial image, indicative of the metaphysical nature of his calling!
I cant believe I actually typed those last two sentences.
Regans two guardians introduce themselves to each other only as "Jean Tuskin, Father" and "Lamont, Doctor", causing me to make a few references to the "Dentarthur Dent" gag from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which my wife completely failed to get.
My clumsy attempt at humour was thankfully overshadowed by the ensuing dialogue between Jean and Lamont. Throughout this scene (and, indeed, the bulk of the film), Burton turns in a performance that gives new meaning to the term uninspired (hey, one synonym down). Its pretty pathetic when you cant even give a believable read of the line "I was hoping to question the girl." A stand up comic once joked that Sean Connery could read off his shopping list and turn in a great performance (again, we politely ignore Zardoz). Burton could read aloud from A.N. Roquelaure and put a room full of cloistered monks to sleep.
Jean (who does not for a minute believe the whole demon-thing) tells Lamont that Regan has suppressed her memories of the events of the first film (as we will be suppressing our memories of this one), and that she believes the exorcism did more harm than good to Regan. In fact, she continues, in many ways Reagan is worse off now than before. True, I can see how tap dancing Lullaby of Broadway sans bra is far worse a condition than vomiting pea green soup on any nearby clergymen whilst waiting for the next episode of levitation or head rotation to occur.
Jean sums up her scientific position by saying that she cant permit Lamont to question Regan, for fear that the shock of recall might cause Regan to do something drastic, such as commit suicide (or take a role in Caged Heat). Lamont answers with what I will insist is lazy contempt and sarcasm in his voice "You have a heavy responsibility. The care of her soul." This lackluster (two down) read is made all the more tragic by the fact that Burton does maintain a very articulate diction, even though he doesnt seem to care putting actual feelings in what he articulates.
Jean replies that shes responsible for Regans body (oh, so youre the one who gave her cleav- SHH!), and Lamont stands to deliver his little speech. "You realise what youre up against, dont you?" he begins, as music cue #1 (reeds and winds) strikes up. "Evil [see my note about pronunciation]. Evil is a spiritual being, alive and living, perverted and perverting, weaving its way insidiously into the very fabric of life." Might I humbly suggest that this is probably not the best tack to take with a psychiatrist if youre trying to convince her to let you see her emotionally troubled patient?
This dramatic <cough> episode is rudely interrupted by Regan, who tells Jean that shes changed her mind, and would in fact like to try out the synchronizer with her. There is a small discussion with Jean as to when this will take place, and Regan invites Lamont to come on in as an observer, even though she really doesnt have the authority, and she doesnt even know why Lamont is there at this point. While all this is going on, Lamont stands there staring directly at Regan.
So Regan tells Jean she wants to use that machine which will make them both "feel very relaxed, and very comfortable", and invites the leering Lamont to come on in and watch them at it. Maybe the subtext really isnt there, but I still feel creeped out, and think Ill go wash up.
We cut to Sharon and Regan sitting at dinner watching a credulous documentary on Uri Gellar (the supposed spoon bender who was exposed as a total fraud years ago). Thankfully this is brief, so I dont have to whip myself up into a skeptic fervor over it.
The next scene opens with a close up of an assistant putting a strap with two wires attached via push pins around Regans forehead as Jean explains "These are EEG biofeedback electrodes. They pick up any brain frequency." Anyone out there buy this? Just checking.
A wide shot now shows Regan wearing a dress she stole from Laura Ingles-Wilders wardrobe and sitting before the synchronizer. Father Lamont is also in attendance, and is standing there motionless in a way that no one but Dick Burton can portray with such panache, such style. Jean explains that the two headbands are "integrated" with the two "hypnotic strobes" on the machine, which is what allows the two "altered states of consciousness" to "synch up". Again, anyone out there buy this? I mean, doesnt it sound like a slightly (slightly, mind you) more scientific version of the old "two cans on a string" telephones you used to make as a kid? If only they were doing this little experiment in a clubhouse somewhere
Jean flips on the synchronizer, and the "hypnotic strobe" facing Regan begins to pulse, emitting a tone as it does. Please dont ask whats making the sound, as theres nothing in evidence on or around the machine which could account for it. Jean then "hypnotizes" Regan by telling her "make your tone go deeper". Regan flutters her eyes a bit, and the light slows down its pulsing, resulting in a lower-pitched tone. This is repeated until the strobe flashes only once every few seconds, and the tone is low enough that they better have an Atlantic Technologies subwoofer hooked up to that thing, or Im gonna call foul.
During this, and as Jean struggles awkwardly into her own little psychic headband, the camera cuts a number of times to close ups of Lamont, who (surprise surprise) is standing in one spot, barely even blinking. Its getting to the point where we imagine George Romero wouldnt have taken Burton on as a zombie in Night of the Living Dead, as Burton would have been too inanimate for the part.
As we will see later, Burtons only other mode of acting is manic clumsiness. Its ironic that with all the talk of Burtons drinking thats been going round for years and years, its only in the scenes where hes trying to actually do something that we get the impression he might have put back one or two before the shot. For the rest of the film, his statuesque (and by that I mean, as motionless as a statue) presence makes me think that hes been stuffing some towels under the door of his trailer and putting on Pink Floyds Wish You Were Here before his call each day (kids, ask your older brothers).
Once her headband is in place, Jean asks Regan if she can see her room in Georgetown. Reagans answer of no apparently indicates that E-flat below middle-C isnt "deep" enough, so Jean commands Regan to "go deeper until you can see your room".
(Im going to dispense with the sarcastic quotation marks you get the point by now)
Lowering her tone by an octave, Regan can now see her old room, the center of much of the fun from the first film. This is the cue for Jean to come down with Regan. Even though the session is attended by Jeans assistant Liz and Father Lamont, Jean has the hypnotized Regan hypnotize her now, asking that Regan help Jean bring her own tone down to match Regans level.
Once Jean is down at Regans level, Liz asks if she can see Regans room as well, to which Jean sleepily replies yes. Now that the two women are in hypnotic synch, a stage hand clears the dust and cobwebs off of Burton so that he can actually move, and take control of the session.
By the way, if my description has managed to make the sequence so far seem even slightly believable, then Ive failed miserably.
Lamont asks Regan to picture her encounter with Father Merrin. After a few surface level questions (and a wonderfully goofy read of the line "Is he casting out the unclean spirit?") Lamont turns the questioning to Regans activities. Before Regan can answer it becomes apparent that theres something wrong with Jean. Liz hits the "de-hypnotizer" alarm which rouses Regan, but which has no affect on Jean, whos rhythmically hitching in her breath and tensing up her body in a way that well, lets just say that women should only look that way when theyre with a man they love very very much. Liz places her ear about four inches away from Jeans (clothed) chest, and pronounces "Her heart its fibrillating". With such crackerjack diagnostic skills, one wonders why shes frittering away her life as Jeans un-uniformed RN.
And here comes a dialogue one-two punch. Liz tells Regan that she has to "go back and find her right now!", meaning Regan should strap the EEG bio-whateveritis back on her head and re-synch. But dont let your laughter from this cover up the segments real money line, when Lamont seizes the wires from Regan, plops himself down in the chair, and says with all authority "I know where she is! Help me to find her!" (BANGs added for clarity)
I know what you did last summer. What did you do last summer? Well, one thing they didnt do last summer was buy a crash cart for the institute, as theyre apparently going to hypnotize Jeans heart back into action, rather than whipping out those cool little paddles and yelling "clear!" a few times.
Anyway, Lamont brings himself down to Jeans level (Burton in a trance yeah, theres a stretch), and Regan stands behind Jean, placing her hand right over Jeans sternum, her fingers holding one of Jeans breasts. No, I mean really. Okay, forgetting for a moment about the whole touching the swimsuit area thing, is this an entirely prudent thing to do with someone whos supposedly fibrillating?
Unfortunately there is a reason for Regan to grope Jeans chestal area : Boorman subjects us to a string of arty shots now, combining re-filmed flashbacks of events in the previous film (which took place but werent actually seen in the first film, mind you), with the current happenings. As the synchronizers lights pulse, superimposed images of Father Merrin and Possessed Regan become visible.
Eventually things fade completely to the flashback scene, where we learn that, not only is another person doing the voice of Possessed Regan for these newly filmed flashbacks, Possessed Regan isnt even played by Linda Blair! Blair flat out refused to don the Possessed makeup for the film, though oddly enough she was more agreeable about it when it came time for that train wreck of a 'comedy', Repossessed, with Leslie Nielson.
What this scene is supposed to show is the events directly causing Merrins heart attack (hey, just like Jean!) and death during the first movie. The problem with it is twofold. One, these events werent directly shown in the film for (effective, IMO) dramatic reasons, and two, 50% of the cast in the scene has been replaced. So rather than giving us a sense of connection with the first film, quite the opposite is achieved we suddenly wonder what the heck this trash has to do with its predecessor.
And oh yes, my Brothers, it does get worse, as Boorman inserts more needles arty shots : Possessed Regans face appearing over Busty Reagans face as the synchronizer flashes. Flashback Merrin and Jean hitching in their breath in unison. Busty Regans and Possessed Regans hands both struggling on Jeans chest. Busty Regan and Possessed Regan fighting over a bit of chicken entrail thats supposed to be Jeans / Merrins heart.
To John Boorman : youre not fooling anyone, you know.
Finally, after an intolerable length of time, and after Busty Regan has pleaded with him a number of times, Lamonts mouth creaks open and he breaths "In Gods name", which quite neatly causes the whole rigmarole to fade away, and restores Jeans normal cardiac rhythm quick as you please. Whod a thought combating Eternal Evil would be so simple? This rather reminds one of the quick n easy taxonomy done in The Beast.
Some movie trivia you wont find on IMDB, or in the Medved books : in the space of eight minutes and ten seconds, the camera cuts to close ups of Lamont in which hes neither moving nor speaking twenty six times! This total doesnt include genuine reaction shots, by the way. I know this, as I counted how many times I said aloud "cut to Dick, whos doing nothing" while watching it the fourth of fifth time through.
The scene ends with Lamont telling Jean that she will not remember what happened, though the audience isnt treated so benevolently. In fact, the only way I made it through the number of viewings of this scene needed for a review was by tattooing the sheet music for La Villa Strangiato by Rush on my left thigh with the stylus from my PalmPilot PDA.
Now that normality has been restored by Lamonts utterance of a few well-chosen (if inexplicably delayed) words, the room is soon cleared of all but Jean and the priest. Regan heads to a group of kids at an easel in a part of the play area, where an undead preteen girl toys with Regans hair (its a visual thing, really). Back in the office, Jean and Lamont de-brief each other on what was seen, and Lamont says that he saw Evil gaining within Regan.
Here the Nut O Fun makes a conspicuous appearance in the background.
Deader than the zombie working on Regans coif, Lamont goes on to drone in utter deadpan fashion that what he saw "wasnt the mind of a child. It was horrible. Utterly horrible." Yeah, stoically delivering that line from what sounds to be the depths of a diabetic coma really conveys the soul-blasting insanity of it all, hey? After a brief pause Lamont adds " and fascinating", almost to himself, spiking the needle on my Foresha-Domitor (which is built into the same sturdy housing as my Pai-Nomitor and Bulshi-Tomitor). About my third time through this scene I caught the oh so faint sounds of the synchronizer tone playing in the background while Lamont speaks. As Im not sure who was to blame for this little demitasse of art Ill just chalk it against the film as a whole.
Jean tries to allay Lamonts letharg-, I mean anxiety, by saying that, as there is still little known about synchronized hypnosis, what Lamont saw could easily have been "a dream, a fantasy, a hallucination not a memory at all" (as recovered memory therapists everywhere hiss at her and plug their ears to keep from hearing what she says). After some very sloppy dialogue and unfinished sentences Jean leaves to do her rounds (see authentic medical talk!).
As Lamont stands there pondering which wall has the slowest drying paint, Liz walks in and presents him with a picture Regan drew for him. When he asks "What does it mean?", Liz says that its a picture of him, despite the fact that it looks far more like Ziggy Stardust than Lamont. Seeing that Regan has drawn flames around him (which look far more like red marijuana leaves, by the way), a slight variation of music cue #1 plays, and Burton slowly ramps up to his first presentation of the Manic Clumsiness mentioned earlier.
Lamont wanders around seemingly at random, half muttering odd detached phrases like "theyre getting bigger", "we may be too late", and "Regans picture" as he meets up with Jean. Granted, this is not quite so incoherent as the "flag on the Moon" (et al) lines from Beast of Yucca Flats (qv) but then again, what is? Lamont wanders into a service tunnel nearby as a bewildered Jean follows after. After searching around briefly they come across a small box which is barely even smoldering. Jean walks off to call the fire department (?) and Lamont pulls a wooden crutch from a large disordered pile of them lining the wall (guess Jean sublet the service basement to Peter Popoff and Benny Hinn).
Now, picture this : the box has been pulled out so that it sits in the middle of a concrete floor, not really near anything else, and only faint flames can be seen licking at the lid. What does Lamont do? He proceeds to beat on the box with the crutch, giving the small flames a fresh supply of oxygen as the crutch tears apart and spreads open the box, scattering burning bits in all directions. Even as the fire continues to grow, Lamont flails away at the now-sizeable conflagration, somehow thinking that a wooden stick is going to put it out.
As its been almost a minute since we were last exposed to art, a close up of the flaming box shows a small doll (apparently the only other item in the box apart from some oily rags) wearing a white gown spill out and begin to burn. If we remove our glasses, squint real hard, then have a friend box our ears with frying pan lids, the burning doll might in some small way be suggestive of the possessed Hispanic Briquette seen in the opening segment, in that Lamont didnt make a move to keep either one from burning up.
Cut now to Jean whos on the phone with the fire department. Apparently their advice to her was to hang up, walk a foot and a half back toward the burning box, and fetch that commercial sized FIRE EXTINGUISHER (!!) hanging on the wall which she walked right past in order to phone them up about a smoky box, as this is what she now does. A second arty shot adds to this sequence, as Jean catches sight first of the picture Regan drew lying on the floor, then of Father Doofu- uh, Lamont, still bashing away at the inferno that now surrounds him. If we remove our glasses, squint real hard, then have a friend shut the movie off entirely, we will notice a similarity between the drawing and the close up shot of Lamont surrounded by flames, provided that were very good at picturing David Bowies face in place of Burtons in our minds. Pausing only long enough to allow for a brief sampling of music cue #2, Jean puts out the now-considerably sized blaze in under ten seconds with the extinguisher.
Cut now to later outside the Institute. Apparently simply putting out the candle sized flame which Lamont whipped into a four foot circle of fire wasnt enough, as the building has been evacuated and the fire scene is attended by at least two fire engines and an ambulance. Lamont is first shown sitting in the back of an ambulance, greedily inhaling from an oxygen mask hes pressing hard to his face.
I would have forgiven almost everything the film had done to me at this point if Burton were to have shouted something like "Call me Daddy!" into the mask, but, alas, this was not to be.
We hear Jean in the background telling all the developmentally disabled children that they can go back inside the building again (unescorted, of course), and she slowly approaches Lamont. Giving her own oxygen tank and mask back to the ambulance attendant, she pulls the now-freely resuscitating Lamont off to talk. Lamont maniacally praises the wonders of Jeans machine, while Jean tries to get him to tone down his compliments a bit. Becoming more and more agitated, Lamont begins speaking of Regan (or we assume on the whole, Lamont never identifies his pronouns before using them).
In addition to the Nut O Fun, another enjoyable aspect of this film is the endless parade of truly atrocious bits of dialogue wonderfully suited for .SIG lines. One of, if not the best occurs here, as Lamont blathers "Dont you understand that I was face to face with the Evil thats inside her. Your machine has proved scientifically that theres an ancient demon locked within her" (emph mine). Actually, this does make sense, if we bear in mind that Lamont has studied extensively with Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, and is a proud member of the Von Däniken / Hoagland book of the month club.
Cut now to a fitfully sleeping Regan, tossing lightly in her bed, and wearing a nightgown that she probably lifted from Laura Ingles-Wilders wardrobe when she was helping herself to the dress we saw her in earlier. If only they had shot the film in faded sepia tones, Boorman could have recouped some of the financial loss of the film by selling still shots of Regan in these outfits to Time-Life for its upcoming Demonic Possessions of the Old West series of books.
Anyway, faint voices call out to Regan in her sleep, inviting her to come flying with them. This, and her sudden wordless scream is apparently supposed to serve as some sort of segue to the next scene, which finds us poking about in the bushes of some small village in faux Africa. After wandering around the villages periphery for a bit and treating us to our first close up shot of a hovering locust (which is supposed to represent the demon in Regan just go with it for now) the camera cuts right back to Regans room again for a brief arty shot.
And while it may be one of the shortest, I think it is quite possibly the most pointless of all the arty shots in the entire film. It opens first on a highly stylized drawing in Regans room of a woman pursing her lips. As we start to wonder why were seeing this, Regan sits bolt upright into the frame and turns her head to the camera, her face filling out exactly where the picture had been. Then, for no good reason other than because Boorman said so, Regan narrows her eyes and purses her lips in a way that, if we remove our glasses, squint real hard, and eat one of our scruffy friend Deans special brownies, might just sort of remind us of the drawing we saw a few seconds ago. After lingering long enough for the audience to pick up on (if not at all understand) what the shot is about, Regan falls back to her bed.
At this point on opening night, Tom Hanks stood up, raised his hand, and said questioningly "Um, I dont get it.". (okay, I made that part up)
Cut back now to faux Africa, where a wide shot shows a swarm of locusts (realised in a manner only microscopically more believable than its sister shots from The Swarm (qv)) descending upon the aforementioned villages crops, as the villagers rush out with their spears to combat the insectoid menace.
Now the camera moves quickly back and forth between the two locales. The villagers are shown carrying a boy on their shoulders to the fields, and he begins swinging a sling around above his head. Regan is then shown rising trance-like from her bed, and a close up frontal shot of her nightgown causes me to reconsider my Laura Ingles-Wilder theory, as Laura was always depicted as having rather a good deal more modesty than this (word to the director please turn the heat up on the set!). Now back to the boy with the sling and the swarm of locusts. Now back to Regan walking out onto the patio of her apartment (which is at the top of a very large building, by the way).
This all builds to what I think was meant to be some sort of dramatic climax : the young boy begins to succumb to some Random Evil Energy being given off by the swarm, and he falls down amongst the locust as Regan walks out to the edge of her patio (and building) in the cut away shots. To make the tension even more unbearable <cough> very little of the patio is bordered in anything other than air twenty or so stories up, and there are only a few token railings here and there. As the boy finally falls, Regan wakes up from her trance screaming and flailing her arms about, tottering on the edge of the building.
Its obvious from her thrashing and the fact that her feet are shown to be about half way off the edge of the building that, in the Real World, Regan would have taken a header right off the building to land a few seconds later on top of poor old Gustavos hot dog pushcart with a sickening, wet thud. Instead, what happens is that Sharon rushes out to the patio to see what the source of the screaming was to find Regan calmly tending the doves they keep in a coop ridiculously comprised of a few large polished chrome cubes with holes in them. Regan pops her head up from behind this aviary eyesore and cheerily greets Sharon, her near death a few seconds ago apparently as forgotten as the valise containing all her Madienforms, which Regan never got around to collecting from the La Guardia baggage claim when she moved up from Georgetown years ago.
A brief bit of dialogue establishes for us that Sharon is headed back to Georgetown to attend to some things that Regans mother didnt have time for, and we segue to a frontal shot of a wide body jet dominating the frame as it slowly lifts off the runway. And here is where another unusual motif is established in this and a few more shots of a taking off/landing plane, an unmistakably ominous variant of music cue #1 is heard as the shot tracks to under the plane as it lifts off. Since were not watching Alive, Fearless, Terror at 20,000 Feet, or The Buddy Holly Story, its hard to figure out whats so bloody terrifying about a plane. If the cue were heard only in this shot a case could be made that its some kind of foreboding of Sharons return to the MacNiel home, but we hear it a few more times under even more benign circumstances than this.
Now we cut to Sharon standing in the rain at the top of the stairs which Burke Dennings and Damien Karras met their deaths upon in the first film. We see Lamont making his way up the stairs to meet her, but, much to our chagrin, the water does not cause him to slip back down the concrete steps leaving him in a crumpled heap at the bottom, unable even to bleat out "Ive fallen and I cant get up", as his spinal cord snapped on the way down.
Now, Im not going to suggest that theyre using a rain machine for this shot, but the boundary between the heavy-splatter zone and light-splatter zone on the pavement is as clear cut as an incision, and in a wide shot we can see blue sky in the distance. To drag out my little saying again, if this is the part you have trouble with
As Sharon and Lamont circle around to the front of the building we can see that some helpful soul has topped the iron fence surrounding the yard with concertina wire. I can only assume that they placed a few Claymores in the fruit trees and erected proper redoubts as well, as were not show these little details. Instead Sharon prattles about how Regans mom would do anything for the memory of Father Merrin, as she believes Merrin gave his life for Regan. Well, no, that was Father Karras, but lets not quibble (at least not about this). She goes on to ask Lamont if the church is going to make Merrin a saint, and rather than tell her up front that Merrin has been accused of being a Satanist, Lamont drearily responds that "the world <beat> doesnt want any more saints". Guess Lamont listened to a few albums by The Smiths on his way up to D.C. Marvin the Paranoid Android was a more cheerful companion than this guy.
Now we move to inside the house, and Im convinced that this days shooting must have taken place after they fired the script girl for some reason and she took her revenge the night before by cutting and pasting the lines for this scene randomly, as questions are answered by phrases that have nothing to do with the question, and some pretty obvious information is asked after. Heres a sampling:
Lamont : "When Father Merrin arrived, how did he prepare himself? Did he pray?" (uh, well, DUH!)
Sharon (supposedly answering Lamont) : "They couldnt explain it the police - could they?"
-- later that same scene
Lamont : "Was, uh, <beat> was Father Merrin afraid?"
Sharon (moving up the stairs) : "Youd better see where it happened."
-- a few seconds later, Lamont asks this probing question
Lamont : "What was the girls condition when Merrin went up to see her?" (uh, possessed, ya think?)
Sharon then rambles on about how she stayed away from Regan just after the exorcism out of fear, but then returned to the MacNiel's, as being around Regan gave Sharon her only moments of peace. When she whirls on Lamont asking why this odd dichotomy might be, he blows her off by replying flatly "Have you tried a psychiatrist or a priest?"
Psst Dick check out that white thing round your neck, and the little metal cross-shaped thing in your pocket
Oh, yeah, and out of two different windows in this sequence we can see a nice bright sunny exterior that was pouring down rain a few seconds earlier. Guess Boorman did some reading up on the Ed Wood Jr./Coleman Francis Visual Continuity series of books at the local BookMobile before he started principal photography.
So Lamont leaves Sharon on the staircase landing as he enters Regans old room. Apparently the room where a little girl who was possessed by a demon killed a few people is no more a frightening locale than the end of runway 7b when a DC-10 takes off, as the same cue (the now-venerable #1) cuts in again. Hovering in the corner unseen by Lamont is a locust. Id say its the same one as was seen in Regans dream, but :
The entire Georgetown sequence comes to a very anti-climatic end with a close up of Lamonts profile as he prays aloud at the foot of Regans old bed, the spookiest part of the whole thing being the prodigious amount of overtime Burtons sebaceous glands put in here to augment the sweat he's drenched in ("Mr. Boorman, we're ready for our close up now").
Back now to that far creepier setting, Jeans institute. Though the Nut O Fun is nowhere to be seen for the moment, we do catch a fleeting glimpse of a desk aid in Jeans office that looks like a cross between a futuristic Rolodex and that one Micronauts vehicle that was always shown floating in a bathtub in the commercials, but which sank like a stone when you tried that at home, the battery pack shorting out on its way down, leaving you to grieve over yet another toy ruined less than 24 hours after purchase, the bitterness and hatred at it all welling up inside you as you tried to remember where the nearest bell tower was, and what time the local Big Five sporting goods store closed that day. Or maybe that part was just me.
So Jean walks in to her office where Lamont is waiting for her. She invites him to come inside, which is an odd thing to say to someone whos already there, especially when you do it without any irony or sarcasm. I dont think this was a result of active mis-blocking for the scene I just dont think they were paying attention when they wrote it. Jean and Lamont carry on with some meaningless twaddle about their personal lives briefly, which, if it were more substantial, might just pass for character development. As things stand here, though, it comes off as nothing more than clumsy padding.
Then, out of the proverbial blue, Jean quite matter-of-factly asks Lamont "Dont you ever need a woman, Father?". Burton does nothing for a moment or two (I know thats hard to picture, just go with me), then replies just as emotionless and detached as ever "Yes".
Wow! And you thought 9 ½ Weeks was steamy! Let's just say that this isn't exactly The Sandpiper, here (take that how you will).
And I would like to point out that I always thought that this was one of the things you simply dont bring up with a clergyman. Im not even a Christian, much less a Catholic, and even I cant see myself asking a priest if he was a man of the world (know what I mean, nudge nudge?). Usually you get this type of questioning in a film when the woman is trying to seduce (to some extent) the priest, but thats obviously not what theyre intending to portray here. Its just a case of Jean being intrusively inquisitive.
A few cuts back and forth between them as they regard each other silently are apparently supposed to convey something, though I doubt it was the sense that they had a few feet of film left on the spool and figured theyd just as well use it up, which is what actually comes across to us. Again, even though this doesnt mean whatever it was they intended, I highly doubt that they were trying to imply any sexual tension between them.
Thankfully they are broken in on by Regan (again), who is there to "feel very relaxed, and very comfortable" with Jean (again). In other words, time for another session with the synchronizer.
Since weve already seen how this laughable lump of lazuline lighting operates (have I ever mentioned my fondness for Jonathan Harris?), we open with Regan already under as Jean starts to hypnotize Lamont to bring him into synch with Regan. And here, as Emeril Lagasse would say, things get kicked up a notch.
This time around, Jean has Regan explore the Africa dream, with Lamont there to act as the hypnotic equivalent of the OSHA clipboard man (i.e. just stand there looking important). Odd thing is that, in directing Regan to this dream, Jean asks her "Do you remember dreaming of Father Merrin?", though Merrin was nowhere to be seen in the dream we were shown a few minutes ago. Nevertheless, Regan answers "yes", just so they can get on with it.
As we return to the faux African village, we see that a young Father Merrin is indeed inside one of the huts where some white guys idea of a primitive African ceremony is taking place. Jean asks Regan what Merrin is doing. Helpfully, an echoy voice-over from Merrin himself informs the audience that he was abroad studying the holy men of Africa when he encountered the young boy seen in Regans earlier dream, and who is currently shown to be spastically undulating in front of a screaming baby being held by its mother. He goes on to tell us how the village needs the boys powers to keep away the locust swarms, but how he (Merrin) thinks the boys own goodness might draw the plague there in the first place.
There are a few things we should simply not waste time wondering about :
The hypno-synched vision continues on to show us the locust swarm from Regans earlier dream, this time with Merrin in attendance. When the boy falls to the ground Merrin rushes into the field to help him. As he turns the boy over, we see the boy has been ever so slightly possessified (odd teeth, coloured contact lenses), and a growling voice not dissimilar to Possessed Regans proclaims "I am Pazuzu!".
Lamont, a witness to this all thanks to the miracle of synched hypnosis <choughcoughcough>, repeats "Pazuzu" with what passes for astonishment in Burtons repertoire (i.e. I think I saw him blink when he said it). This starts Regan off on repeating like a mantra "Call me by my Dream Name. Call me." (which has found its way into my .SIG line on more than a few occasions). As Lamont begins calling out "Pazuzu, king of the Evil spirits of the air", we return to the hypno-synched vision.
Were now somewhere in the African Highlands (where ever that might be), as Merrin and some attendants are hauling the Posessed Boy up a rickety pulley system to a shrine built at the top of a sheer, dizzying cliff face. While highly defensible in the event of a siege by any rampaging Mongol hordes that might happen by, I cant help but think that the geography of the place impacts rather negatively on the odds of any prospective parishioners casually popping by to see what the late morning mass is like.
As Kathleen Battle gives the coals another go on the soundtrack, a sweeping crane shot apparently meant to represent the locust/demons POV takes the express route up the cliff and frightens a few devotees lounging about the stone temple (dont say it!) foyer. As Kathleen hands the soundtrack over to cue #4 (locust flight song), the POV swings back down the path of the ascending Merrin troupe, dislodging an African version of the Red Shirt, who proceeds to fall back down the cliff to his death.
The movie couldnt even do this part right. As he plummets, the view alternates between a top-down view of him spiraling into a matte shot note: there are matte shots and then there are Matte Shots; this is a MATTE SHOT! -, and sideways views of him bouncing of the cliff face, his ridiculously slow rate of descent as he twirls about making us wonder if gravity itself suddenly decided it wanted no truck with the film, and took an impromptu holiday.
Now, as Ive stated elsewhere, Im a ComputerGuy with a background in Sociology and quite a few other things of little use outside of trivia games, so I cant claim any authoritative knowledge of film technique. Still, I have to wonder how hard it is to convincingly film someone falling. Go up twenty feet. Put a guy, and nothing else, there. Film it.
Whats truly confusing to me is that its obvious that a great deal of work went into filming a sequence that looks far less believable than if theyd stolen a Back-to-School Sale mannequin from a Sears somewhere and filmed one of the grips tossing it off the second story of the parking structure.
Back in the film, the hapless ex-climber ends up wedged in a cleft at the base of the cliff. The camera lingers on it long enough for us to deduce that this will become important (or as important as anything in this film can be said to be) at some point in the future.
Merrin and the remainder of his assistants manage to haul their afflicted cargo up the cliff and perform a quick n dirty exorcism on the boy. The special effects extravaganza that is the boys de-possessification sequence was done in a way not seen since a teenaged Michael Landon went round eating high school gymnasts whenever the tardy bell rang, though not in quite so polished a fashion. To make the points where they stopped the camera to remove the next portion of Possessed makeup even more noticeable, the boy thrashes his head back and forth, the sequence, looking not so much like a special effects shot, as a portion of film where three or four frames had been removed at random every here and there.
Slow tracking close ups of various patches of ground teeming with locusts are voiced over by Lamont and Pazuzu (who is in fact the voice of Possessed Regan as well, we learn) carrying on a conversation of their own about Merrin and the young boy, whos name is Kokumo. Pazuzu boasts that he (Im using the masculine pronoun just for convenience) could take over Kokumo again even now, and offers to take Lamont on a trip to show him.
Lamont accepts, and the following segment is best related by simply listing the shots in order :
Elapsed time for all this : seventy five seconds (and, yes, I did time it).
A few meandering shots drift down the narrow alleys of the city as frightened dwellers therein flee the POV. After a bit of this, who should loom menacingly out of a small mud building at the terminus of our drunken magic carpet ride, but James Earl Jones. A small part of me died when I saw James Earl clothed in a garish loincloth and Buddhist-style hat made of leopard skin. When he reared back his head and the sound track dubbed in the growl of a snarling bobcat, some of the parts of me which had survived decided to pull a Leeland Palmer, and tossed themselves on top of the coffin containing the dead bits of me as it was being lowered into the ground.
After a few frames of a roaring big cat leaping at the camera, we cut back to the institute, where Jean has hit the de-hypnotizer alarm, and both Regan and Lamont bolt up from their chairs in shock and alarm (as with the presence of the Tornado in the earlier bit, we have to assume these are the emotions Burtons blank expression is meant to convey).
[authors note : while working on the past two pages, the movie showing on Cinemax as Id occasionally stop my tape of E2 to type has been a little something apparently called The Erotic House of Wax, whos on-line description read "Statues strip down when the temperature rises.". I only wish I had words to describe how surreal this last half-hour of writing has been.]
Back in our film, Jean lets Regan leave after a quick debriefing, and Lamont rambles on about how Kokumo must have some power over Evil. Jean starts to take Lamonts pulse (as if he had one!), and we cut to Regan as she walks into that Important Scene with Ms. Plato's character (Sandra) we figured was coming at some point. The Ooo Ooo music strikes up, and were suddenly presented not just with a tender Important Scene, but a thieving one - one which steals from Change of Habit and The Swarm (qv both).
Sandra is standing in a waiting area, silently staring out the glass (I think looking for the Nut O Fun, as thats what I'm doing right now). Regan tries to strike up a friendly conversation with the shy little tyke, who speaks very haltingly. When Regan asks whats wrong, the little girl replies "I-I-Im a-a-au-t-tistic", and goes on to say (after much Mel Tillising about) that she cant talk. When Regan points out the obvious - that shes talking now - the little girl acts quite surprised, and then asks Regan what is wrong with her. During my first viewing of the film for this review, I waggishly called out "Oh, I was possessed by the Devil, that's all", smug in my wry wit. To my horror, Regans casual, matter of fact reply was "I was possessed by a demon". To reassure the shocked Sandra, Regan adds giggling "Its okay, he's gone.".
To borrow phraseology from Mystery Science Theater 3000, I had been hit with "riff-back".
Sandra's mother and Liz walk into the waiting area, and Sandra points at Regan saying "Mom, know what happened to her?" (insert the stutter - I don't feel like typing it). Mom, not used to hearing her daughter talk, is overcome with joy and rushes over to the receptionist. Yep, mom is so gladdened to hear her heretofore silent daughter vocalise that she wants to share that special moment with the RN behind the desk, leaving her daughter still pointing at Regan, tottering in an abyss of parental neglect that is probably what caused her to shut up in the first place.
This continues until eight year old autistic Sandra walks over to her swooning mother to reassure her, at which time Jean and Lamont arrive on the happy scene to share meaningful glances. Given mother's odd manifestation of the maternal instinct, I for one won't be surprised if ten years from now Sandra decides to Menendez dear ole Mum, and take over the family's Rayon empire that much sooner. As the two leave the institute to track down dad and share the good news, Regan calls out "Remember, Sandra : there is no bee." Okay, I made that part up.
Understandably curious, Jean asks Regan what she did. Regan replies "Nothin'. First she was talkin' inside, an' then she started talkin' outside", and while I'm sure you're going to think I only imagined that I heard a Georgia accent from Regan on this line (and this line only, in the entire film), I assure you that that is in fact what I heard. Drunk now with her own power, Regan asks "Jean, do you think I could start helping you with some of your other kids?".
Jean, sensing that this might be Regan's equivalent of a beer hall Putsch within the institute, decides she's not going to just let Regan march into her own private Poland, and warns her about "fooling around with other people's heads". Well, as we all know, talking to people is so fraught with peril that only licensed professionals should even attempt it. Personally, its my feeling that Jean felt threatened by Regan. After all, if this newly fledged Avatar went round making Jean's clients better by simply talking to them, it wouldn't exactly do wonder's for Jean's cash flow. Healing people is one thing - Jean has berthing fees for a 40 foot Sea Ray to worry about, you know.
Put off but no less chipper than before, Regan leaves the institute, and Lamont begins rambling that Regan got inside Sandra's head and got her talking. When Jean scoffs, Lamont makes the odd demand "Don't hide behind science. You're better than that!". Yeah, imagine a scientist trying to hide behind science. Sheesh.
As Jean walks off demanding that nutbag Lamont stay away from Regan, he chases after, grabbing her wrist and kicking into full Manic Clumsiness mode as he froths "Listen. You've got to fight that demon thats inside her! Its preventing her from reaching full spiritual power!". Again, might I humbly suggest that this is probably not the best angle to take with a psychiatrist?
Jean echoes the sentiments of the audience by shouting that Lamont is obsessed with the idea of demons. In one of the biggest holwers of the movie (and that is saying rather a lot) Lamont sneers and barks back "I'm not obsessed! I'm not!", a faint sheen of perspiration beginning to show itself. I honestly don't think that they intended this line to come off this absurd or ironic, that they were just shooting for a vehement retort by Lamont. As it is, Lamont's denial is about as effective as yelling at your shrink "Why does everyone say I'm paranoid? You all discuss this behind my back, don't you?!?"
Take it from me - this doesn't work.
Unfortunately Lamont continues frothing to the point where Jean leaves, throwing away the last of her dialogue over her shoulder as she departs.
Next we cut off to the inside of a natural history museum. As Lamont ambles through the diorama section, who should approach him but perky lil' Regan. Lamont's questioning as to how Regan knew he'd be there leads them into a discussion of psychic phenomena, wherein a few interesting bits of knowledge are put forth :
Before we can spend too much time working through this gunk, the wandering couple walk smack dab into a Plot Convenience. Featured in the background of the last diorama on the wall is a scale model of a temple hewn out of the rock atop a cliff face in the African Highlands (where ever that might be). Even without removing our glasses, squinting real hard, or having our friend do anything to us at all, the diorama reminds us of the Holy Church of the How the Hell Do I Get Up There Temple. Perhaps this is because it is in fact the very same temple we visited via locust/demon in Regan's hypo-synched vision.
There are plot conveniences, and then there are Plot Conveniences; this is a PLOT CONVENIENCE!
After the two recall out loud that this is where Merrin fought Pazuzu, and wonder why Kokumo wasn't afraid of the demon, Lamont walks out of the scene saying (and I do quote, oh my Brothers) "If he can teach me how he has survived Pazuzu <Burton beat> I'll come back and let you know.", and begins planning a trip to Africa. Apparently the Vatican uses the same accountancy firm to audit expense reports as Mulder and Sculley's department of the FBI.
Next we're back in the office of The Cardinal, where Lamont is saying out loud all over again what he wants to do, and why. He asserts that he must go to Africa right away, as "If I can find this man Kokumo, it would prove beyond doubt that the exorcisms were valid", demonstrating that Lamonts grasp of logic is about as solid as his grasp of science (I couldn't find a way of hinting that the oceans of sweat covering his body here were somehow responsible for this 'tenuous grip' without falling back on a clumsily mixed metaphor, so I opted for this parenthetical route). I guess Lamont is invoking Edgar Cayce's Theorem : If A=B and B=C, then Ramtha is speaking to me from distant Atlantis through my budgerigar.
When The Cardinal tells Lamont that he is in dire need of prayer, and suggests he take a retreat, Lamont retorts "A retreat? Why not an advance?!", and I'm sure ole Goodhart the screenwriter was patting him self on the back, all a grin, the moment that deft little top came to him in a beer-sweat soaked delirium. This is what Tom Stoppard would have written like, had he been a talent-free hermit suffering from the advanced stages of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease.
Finally asserting his authority as Lamont's superior in the church (as opposed to begging him to do this, or pleading with him to do that), The Cardinal orders Lamont off the MacNiel/Merrin case, tells him he's to have no further contact with the MacNiels, and sends him off on his retreat.
As the 'Ooo Ooo' music begins to swell, the camera pointlessly cuts to a brief shot of Regan (clad in the costume Laura Ingles-Wilder wore the Halloween she went as a trollop) standing on her roof looking like the prow on a sailing ship as the POV dollies around behind her. A single three-quarter loop of the camera round Regan's back and eight bars of 'Ooo Ooo'ing later, we cut to Lamont struggling up the side of the cliff face leading to the Holy Church of the How the Hell Do I Get Up There Temple. Since Lamont has been breaking out in Prefontainan perspirations when merely sitting down hooked up to a strobe light, one can imagine the diluvian downpour deluging from Lamont's pores as he claws his way up a cliff (Hmm a lot of alliteration from arrogant authors pretentiously penning (partially poly-parenthetical) ponderous prose )
Lamont eventually makes it to the top and stumbles into the temple proper. Inside, the turban-clad parishioners are enacting that same aforementioned white guy's idea of another African ceremony, vaguely bobbing around and chanting what sounds to be a 78 RPM record of the Macarena song being played at 33 1/3. While Lamonts excretions pose an easy target, lets not overlook the finer details in this scene : the religious décor and trappings inside the temple appear far more Eastern Orthodox than Coptic, at least to my eyes.
To make the theology here even more bizarre, a cut away shows the Abbott chanting over a Eucharist that looks precisely like what you'd get if you asked a sculptor to make you a two foot tall gingerbread "I Love You This Much" statue of Rosanne Barr, who's tube top has fallen down round her waist. While I'm sure its possible that there are sects out there who use modified gingerbread men for the Host, the baker here seems to have been influenced more by the looks of Mr. Bill, than of Jesus. Another bit of trivia : it took about a dozen trials to get a Host baked up the way Boorman wanted it to look, so what we're seeing here is the best they could come up with. <shudder>
Being the only white guy in the throng, a dazed Lamont (again, tough to picture - just try) pushes his way to the front of the assembled supplicants. I'm doing my best not to let the stories of Burton's drinking skew my judgement here, but when it comes time for the Communal wine, Lamont seems to take a titanic gulp more befitting Polyphemus at his dinner with Odysseus than a guest taking services with a few dozen other worshippers, all of whom must share the same modest sized goblet. At least to my eyes.
We cut back to the roof of Regan's apartment. As Jean walks out to speak to Regan, we get our first good wide shot of the patio. A disturbingly busy affair, the odd angles of glass and chrome jutting here and there had me imagining that I could in fact hear Roscoe Lee Browne murmuring about fish, sea greens, and proteins from the sea as he tended to his birds. The camera pans around, and just as I started paying some serious attention, we do not get to see Jenny Aguitter changing into some comfy furs, but rather a wistful Linda Blair gazing out over the cityscape, challenging me to find a new scale with which to measure my profound disappointment.
As Jean quietly walks up behind Regan and reaches out to touch her, Regan trots out that spooky little cliché of speaking to Jean before Jean has made her presence known. Regan continues that she heard Huey, Gurney, and Duncan come in as well. Okay, I made that part up. What Regan actually does is ask Jean to help Lamont by going into synch with him. How this is supposed to help Lamont isn't established. Jean protests that she can't help Lamont, as he's in Africa, which Regan responds to by saying that "when you're in synch, it's different. I mean, it doesn't matter where they are. You can find them, you know help them.". Then what's the point of the subwoofer equipped strobe lights? At this point I'm just going to label the rest of the scene "dialogue dumping ground", and move on without wasting any more time describing it, as it doesn't amount to much.
Back now to outside the Holy Church of the How the Hell Do I Get Up There Temple, where Lamont is speaking to the Abbot (via a translator) about Father Merrins visit there. The Abbot recalls the "devil wind" which sent one of Merrins attendant Red Shirts to the ground rather more rapidly than is healthy for the human body (as seen previously in Regans hypo-synched vision), and says that so much dust was raised that the body was never found.
After an awkwardly long pause (making us wonder if hed forgotten his line) Lamont exclaims that the body didnt fall there (pointing to one part of the MATTE SHOT!), but that it bounced off a rock and fell over here (pointing to another spot). Since his protective layer of sweat is beginning to evaporate, Lamont whips up another batch by laboring his way down the cliff to show the Abbot where hes talking about.
One of the truly horrifying events of the film occurs here : the camera abruptly cuts to a close up of cherubic Regan in a garishly sequined tuxedo costume replete with top hat, tails, and cane, merrily tap dancing to Lullaby of Broadway in a line with seven others similarly attired. Its hard to imagine how eight uncoordinated teens with all the grace and fluidity of motion of a three-legged hippopotamus on Quaaludes dancing on a ten foot by two foot stage with frank disregard to keeping in step with each other can quite completely fail to please the viewer, but, somehow, this segment manages to do just that. Of special interest is the stoned Barry Manilow look-alike we can see dancing over Regans right shoulder, his head lolling about to the strains of Iron Butterfly undoubtedly echoing through his mind. Theres another dancer who looks disturbingly like a plump Linda Hunt, though she doesnt do anything odd worthy of further mention.
After a few minutes of this, cut back to Lamont, where hes showing the Abbot and his Posse the skeleton of the Red Shirt wedged between some rocks, just where he said it would be . Apparently in the decades since the mans death, the frequent searches that were told were undertaken to find his body never bothered to look about fifty feet or so to one side, where a large number of onlookers (as seen in the hypo-synched vision) had actually seen him land. Ah, well, Lamont is here to put things aright.
When asked how he knew where to find the body, Lamont replies that the Red Shirt was killed by Pazuzu, a very powerful demon, and that he himself flew with Pazuzu in a trance. Not to be a pest about it, but might I suggest that this is probably not the best thing to say to a gathering of holy men? Understandably, this tale of consorting with the powers of the underworld ever so slightly puts off the Abbot, and he walks away as his Posse gathers about Lamont, calling him a devil worshiper. Well, where ever might they have gotten that idea, we wonders?
As of this writing I am still undecided as to whether the next sequence reminds me more of The Corsican Brothers, Dark Crystal, or Gamera : Guardian of the Universe. As the Abbots Posse pelt Lamont with stones, cut away shots show a still-dancing Regan contorting with the pain of his wounds. Well, actually Im being rather liberal here. Regan reacts to pains which match the wounds inflicted on Lamont only in so much as the occur in the same film (Lamont takes a blow to the back of the head, and Regans right leg collapses, etc.). Cutting back and forth between Lamont and Regan (who seems to have gone to the Shatner School for Dramatic Physical Acting) we see Lamont barely make it inside a waiting jeep and drive off to safety, as Regan does a slow motion stage dive into the audience. Since this isnt quite as laughable as it might be, we quite distinctly hear the de-hypnotizer alarm sound as Regan thrashes about on the floor in spasms that give us a good look at the gold sequined lining of the flares on her bell-bottoms.
Cut to later, where a more subdued Regan is being attended by Jean and Sharon (both of whom had been in the audience at the recital). As Regan drowsily begs her not to, Jean whips out a syringe and gives Regan a sedative. So, has Jean been carrying around a few vials of Thorazine with her to formal occasions on the off chance that someone would need sedating, or was this simply a bit of fortuitous Batman and Robin synchronicity ("Lucky thing you brought that alphabet soup Bat Container!", as was heard in one episode for instance)? In either case, given the diminutive nature of the clutch bag Jean has with her (and the total absence of pockets on her low-cut formal dress), about the only thing else she could have on her person would be a house key and one or two Altoids, unless of course she resorts to the less-conventional methods of carriage usually reserved for drug smugglers (in which case Id really rather not know).
Now we go back to some other unnamed region of Africa, where Lamont is speaking to the head of a small mission of French nuns (and no, they do not break into that one song youre thinking of right now, at any time during this scene). I know that in a movie as overwhelmingly Bad as this I really shouldnt get too caught up in minutiae, but theres something minor in this scene that annoys me to the point where I have to bring it up.
Lamont is speaking to the nun in a small, plain room with double doors and large windows, so we can see most of the outside. The doors are a simple affair : a wooden frame with a single cross piece about waist level. The only thing is, neither the doors nor the windows have even the slightest traces of any glass, netting, screen, or anything other than air in them! A set of swinging double doors that is really more like two hollow wooden rectangles, which must be opened and closed every time you go in or out of the room.
I know this sounds incredibly minor, but it bugs me. Its like Les Nessmans office walls from WKRP in Cincinnati, which were nothing more than tape laid down on a bare floor, but which everyone was required to treat as if they were there, even to the point of knocking on a door that wasnt there. It bugs me, thats all.
Anyway, as Lamont is describing the mud city from the hypno-synched vision, a small plane piloted by self-described "Ecumenical" Edwards (played by Ned "SQUEEL!" Beatty) lands outside. Edwards is a dealer in religious trinkets and icons, and professes to know of the city which Lamont has been asking after. In another minor yet annoying bit, Lamont for some reason doesnt want to be known as a priest, so he introduces himself as an archaeologist. Beatty shakes his hand saying "Its nice to know you Father", indicating that hes seen through Lamonts ruse. Two questions :
Rather than deal with any of this we cut to Edwards ferrying Lamont in his plane to the mud city (Jepti, were told). Edwards points out some other planes spraying for locusts near them, saying that this is the traditional route for the plague (I assume he means locust plagues, and not the Black Death, which, to my recollection was never so, uh, equatorial as this). Get your .SIG files ready, oh my Brothers, as we cut to a sweaty close up of Lamont who says "Ive flown this route before. It was it was on the wings of a demon.". When is this guy going to learn some simple rules of decorum, and which things you should and should not say around which kinds of people? The cherry for this scene is Edwards looped in response of "Did he take you to Jepti?", while Beatty is shown shaking his head and mouthing only a one or two word reply. The vocals and visuals so obviously do not match that they could have done no worse by having Edwards asking his father Zeus at length why he wont help him in his fight against evil queen Omphale on the dialogue track. At least it would give us a sense of familiarity.
We fade to a shot over Lamonts left shoulder as he ambles down the narrow walled streets of the city, taking what appears to be the same route our drunken carpet ride took in the earlier hypno-synched vision. Lamont ambles around for a while (and Boorman films every last second of it) until he finally asks a policeman (or so we assume) in French if hes heard of a man named Kokumo. Its hard to describe just why this is, but the way the policeman talks and darts his head about in a random manner reminds me quite strongly of a parrot. Perhaps theres something to this, or perhaps its only because I just watched Netherworld again last night. Hmm.
In any case, the man replies in the negative, and Lamont resumes his shambling tour of the city. We cut briefly to the institute, where Jean is finishing up some Random Doctor Stuff with Regan. As Jean exists the room and turns down the lights, the rest of the institute (and its attendant pod of playing children) can be seen, reminding us of the total lack of privacy this bed ridden young woman is convalescing in.
Back to Lamont still wandering the city streets, now late into the night. He stumbles across a gathering of men who pick up on his mumblings of "Kokumo". They confer with each other for a second or two, give a group "Ohhh! Kokumo!" sound in reply a few times, and lead Lamont down a near by alley, laughing as the do.
Yeah, like this is going to turn out good for Lamont.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, Lamont allows himself to be lead to a small house, out of which steps a smiling, oiled, nude young woman, followed closely by a man beamingly pointing out her, uh, finer appointments. The men share in a laugh at Lamonts obvious discomfort, and he stumbles wordlessly away from them.
So, rather than beating you up and taking your wallet, the small-time street gangs in Africa simply wave a perky little set of boobs at you? Hmm what exactly do the organised crime families do to threaten you, we wonders?
A quick visit to Regan in her bed shows her pulling the IV from her arm, music cue #1 hovering over the scene, and then its back to Lamont still wandering about early the next morning. In an odd little bit of framing, Lamont is shown in profile (perspiring like mad, of course), unsteadily shifting to and fro. Each time he leans back, we can see the sun in the distance, and each time he leans forward its obscured again. Not sure if this was intended to actually be arty or not, but it seems at least to have been done intentionally, and I just plain dont get it, what ever the reason.
While wobbling around, Lamont prays out loud asking God to help him find Kokumo. The goofosity gets kicked up a notch again, as a cut to bedridden Regan shows a strobe flashing slowly on her face, and we hear the synchronizer tone playing as she intones "Call me by my Dream Name" repeatedly. No, shes not hooked up to the synchronizer or anything. Remember : "when you're in synch, it's different. I mean, it doesn't matter where they are. You can find them, you know help them.". Uh huh. Just keep telling yourself that, babe.
Lamont finally gives in to the spiritual peer pressure, and calls out "Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air, help me to find Kokumo.".
Now that Lamont has invoked Pazuzu, he quickly finds his way to Kokumos dwelling. Inside the small hut/cave, Kokumo (again, James Earl Jones, of all people) is seated on a stone throne wearing a loincloth and strange little headdress that, when he bows his head down, looks like the head of a locust. Between where Lamont is standing in the entry way and Kokumos throne is a small wall-to-wall moat, complete with spikes protruding just out of the water. Apparently someone involved with the production had been reading one of the Grimtooths books prior to the shot.
Some truly befuddling dialogue is exchanged between Lamont and Kokumo, including one episode of Manic Clumsiness for Lamont, and Kokumo wraps things up by saying that Lamont must "pluck out her evil heart", referring to Possessed Regan. Then he tells Lamont to cross over the moat as a test of faith, saying that Pazuzu has "brushed you [Lamont] with his wings" (?), evinced by the fact that Lamont called upon Pazuzu to find his way there. To reassure the uncertain Lamont, Kokumo says "If Pazuzu comes for you I will spit a leopard", and backs this up by hocking (in slo-mo, no less) a cherry tomato out of his gob, which lands on the spikes, impaling itself there with a wet <SPLORK>. And no, I did not make that part up.
Lamont asserts that his faith is in Jesus Christ reborn (sounding quite less than convinced), and tentatively steps out onto the spikes as modified strains of music cue #1 goad him on. With his first step out, the spikes pierce Lamonts foot (thats what he gets for having an AC of 10) and he pitches forward onto them.
Suddenly we hear James Earls voice again, slightly higher pitched this time, asking "Can I help you". A close up shows Lamont lying face down on a different floor somewhere else muttering about how hes failed, and I really dont think it took much for Burton to whip up an emotional memory for this bit. As he rises we see a more modern James Earl, attired in a lab coat, helping Lamont up and inviting him inside where ever it is they are outside of right now, remarking on the heat.
This, it turns out, is the real Kokumo a scientist studying the behaviour of locust swarms and trying to lessen the damage they do to crops in Africa. Yes, he says, he was possessed by Pazuzu as a child, then laughs and says that at least thats what his mother used to tell him. Taking Lamont on a tour of his lab (the building Lamont collapsed in front of), Kokumo says that its the "brushing of the wings" (?) which turns harmless little grasshoppers into destructive swarms of locusts.
As the audience reels and tries to piece together just what the hell is going on here, Lamont breaks out with more Manic Clumsiness, crying desperately to Kokumo "When the wings have brushed you is there no hope once the wings have brushed you?" (?). As we try to control our laughter enough to write that little gem down in our list of future .SIG lines, Kokumo answers back in an oddly casual and bright tone "We try, with the help of science.", as if Lamonts pleadings were nothing out of the ordinary.
Taking Lamont over to another cage, Kokumo shows him a new breed they refer to as "the good locust" females bred to "resist the brushing of the wings" (?) and be a calming influence on the evil of the locust swarm.
Youll pardon me, while I pause to shut off my stridently ringing Symbolism Alarm, wont you?
An extended close up of a truly moist Lamont lingers long enough to allow the current music cue (#1) to fade slowly to Ooo Ooo music, and the scene itself then gives way to Regan collecting her things and preparing to make a stealthy escape from the institute. This cuts quickly to a brief shot of the front of an airplane preparing to land, and the frightening childrens choir (cue #2) strikes up. Again, whats so bloody frightening about a plane? This segment is finished off by a shot of Regan walking out onto the street, shrinking back and flinching like a vampire as she steps into the sunlight. Please dont ask why she does this, or Ill start to whimper again as I try to figure it out too.
After a brief but unsettling scene of Jean bathing two children (who look nothing what so ever like her) and a visit from a leisure suite attired Lamont, we move to the museum again. Adorned in a velour running suit she probably stole from a Mafia don and carrying a bag containing the synchronizer, Regan is slowly pacing around waiting for Lamont to show. They hadnt made prior arrangements to meet, but Regan knows he will be there, as "when you're in synch, it's - ", well, you know the rest. They both decide that they need to fight the Eee-ville inside Regan, and Regan shows that she brought the synchronizer with her just for that. Given that she was linked to him telepathically when he was in another hemisphere, were not sure what she needs the synchronizer for, but at this point why bother making a stand on the issue?
They take a room in what appears to be a rather seedy hotel. As they walk down the hall, various unsavory characters leer knowingly at them from their respective doorways. A man dressed as a priest on his day off and a young girl clutching a big bag headed for a room lets just skip commentary on this, shall we?
They reach their room and Regan sets up the synchronizer while Lamont stares vacantly out the window (if you can stretch your imagination enough to picture that). As Lamont distantly breaths "Pazuzu has brushed me with his wings" (?), Regan replies simply "Dont worry. Father Merrin will help us." (???). As the two synch up, we return to those events from the first film which werent actually seen. Father Merrin is crumpled in a corner dying, as Possessed Regan gloats over him.
And what happened then?
The Ooo Ooo music begins to play, as Merrins disembodied voice narrates "Not only Kokumo, but others like him began to appear in the world.". Under this we see various flashbacks of Kokumo, a young Merrin performing an exorcism, the Hispanic Briquette ("Why me?") from the opening scene, etc. Merrin continues "I found these people where I could, and tried to protect them against evil. So Satan has sent Pazuzu to destroy this goodness."
Pardon me while I interject that, as Pazuzu is a part of ancient Mesopotamian mythology, saying that the Judeo-Christian Satan has sent him to do something is rather like having Quetzequoatl sending a couple of Shub-Nigguraths offspring down to the local 7-11 to fetch some beer and chips before Darmok and Jalad stop by on their way to Tanagra. (and dont even correct my spelling on these )
Merrin finishes his ethereal narration thusly : "Phillip, you must take my place. Shes precious, and I entrust her to you.", this apparently in spite of the fact that Phillip hasnt finished his training with Yoda yet. The hypno-synched session ends with the old Merrin (who had been dying in Possessed Regans room in Georgetown) suddenly being teleported to an isolated room somewhere in the Holy Church of the How the Hell Do I Get Up There Temple, as the POV (Pazuzus, it would seem) flies away from him. Regan hits the de-hypnotizer alarm, and rushes over to Lamont. Without speaking a word or making eye contact (or even blinking, it seems), Lamont makes his slow, steady way out of the room and down to the street, Regan chasing after.
In very short order were at a train station, and from here on out its a veritable roller coaster ride of confusion. Zombie-like Lamont gets in the queue for the Washington train as Regan calls Jean to tell her whats going on. As Jean gathers her things to fly out to Georgetown to meet up with Regan, a strange little aside has Sharon mutter "little bitch!" vitriolicaly under her breath. This is as much foreshadowing (and explanation) as were going to get for a truly obtuse event in a few minutes, so get ready for it.
Back on board the train, Regan takes a seat next to the still silent Lamont. Spying the conductor walking up the aisle collecting tickets, Regan asks Lamont for money to cover the fare. When he remains unresponsive Regan searches through his wallet. As the conductor begins to restrain this understandably questionably act, Lamont turns to him, flares his nostrils, and growls "Leave her alone! She belongs to me!" (BANGs added for clarity once more), then returns to staring wordlessly out the window. I think one of the few things more laughable than a priest trying to assert his status as alpha-male is when that priest is played by Dick Burton.
After a quick jump over to Jean and Sharon trying to make their way to the airport in spite of a traffic jam (and a completely unconvincing accident victim pounding on Jeans window begging for a doctor) we cut to a shot looking into the train from outside of Lamonts window. The childrens choir cue (# 2) plays here, and is augmented by some percussion riffs lifted off the soundtrack from Disneylands Enchanted Tiki Room (sans clacking parrots) for some unfathomable reason. Staring out the window into the camera Lamont breaths the following in his typical you-cant-make-me-act-so-there-nyah-nyah-nyah fashion : "The power its getting nearer. Cant you feel it? The power is immense. It fills me. I can do anything!" (again, BANG added for clarity).
To prove his point we cut first to a model plane being pulled on wires through fakey clouds, then to Jean and Sharon seated in the interior of what most certainly is a real plane, and not simply one of those pre-Star Tours hydraulic rides from an amusement park which, for the low low price of five tickets, would jostle you about trying to simulate a space ship crashing on the surface of Mars so much that your candy apple found itself smeared across the blouse of 17 year old Missy Pederson the cheerleader who somewhat reluctantly agreed to let you take her out on a date even though she wasnt into the whole carnival-thing and thought you were something of a dweeb anyway, but mistakenly gave you this one shot which you can bet your bottom dollar she wont be foolish enough to repeat, now that youve ruined a blouse she just yesterday bought at the Wet Seal with that silly little snack of yours (which she tried to talk you out of buying of in the first place because it made you seem like even more of a little kid when you got that red crap smeared all over your cheeks), so dont even accuse Boorman of staging something so cheaply.
(my grammar checker and I are going through a trial separation right now, so please be patient with us)
This is a real airplane, and it looks to be really crashing due to Lamonts hypno-synched whammy, or something.
Back down in the train, Regan clutches Lamonts hands to her, imploring him not to be "lost" to her. He finally makes tender eye contact with Regan and returns the light embrace, Ooo Ooo music swelling to the point where I was expecting to see the camera pan away to a crackling fireplace, or curtains blowing in the wind, or other such thing. They would have even had the perfect excuse to show a train rushing into a tunnel
Since the camera now cuts to the inside of the airplane (see above) and shows all to be well again, we assume that Lamont has decided not to make it crash after all. Or maybe it was Regans goodness interceding. Or maybe it was all coincidental in the first place.
Or maybe Id rather be pouring myself a glass of that nice pinot noir I found at the wine shop a few days ago and sitting down to re-read a Harold Pinter play by the fireplace right now. Yes, that seems more likely, I should think. But no, duty calls. <sigh>
Incidentally, the extra seated next to Jean would go on to play Jerry Fallwell in The Pepople vs. Larry Flynt years later. No, I dont know his name, and no, Im not about to look it up. Hes one of those "oh yeah, him" guys the ones you wouldnt recognise in a million years by name, but recall having seen thousands of times once you see the face.
After some sloppy little scenes with both groups, Regan and Lamont find themselves seated in a parked bus, waiting on the driver whos working at finishing his sandwich. After a few seconds of utter silence, alpha-male Lamont barks out "Get going! The girl has to get home!", and Ill bet that it took at least a dozen takes or more before he could bleat his lines this way without sending the extras seated around him into fits of laughter. It does have its desired effect within the movie, though, as the driver slowly turns to the wheel and heads out.
After more filler scenes of both parties making their separate ways to the old MacNiel house we end up inside as Lamont bursts his way in the front door, cue #1 doing its best to rise professionally above all this garbage. Lamont purposefully (well, you know) mounts the stairs and walks to Regans old room. As he opens the door, thousands of locusts burst out of the room and engulf Lamont, none too convincingly realised by what seems to be off-camera grips tossing heaps of damp leaves in front of a gardener's blower.
In actuality, the swarm was simulated in this scene and a few others by painting a few thousand Styrofoam packing peanuts brown and shooting them out of a large air blower. Boorman had experimented with a number of techniques to get actual grasshoppers to swarm around (including clipping their legs off so they couldn't land!), but none were convincing enough for him, so they used the peanuts (nicknamed "Larrys" by the crew, by the way). Since the "Larrys" ended up looking like wet leaves, one can only wonder what the less-believable attempts were like.
Back in the film. At that same moment Lamont is attacked, Ms. Battle gives us a quick bar or two, and we cut to the inside of Jean and Sharons cab as its front windshield becomes opaque with spider cracks from some unseen impact. In quick back and forth cuts we see the cab careen about blindly as Lamont struggles against the leav-, er, locusts.
The cab has the good fortune to smash into the front yard of the very house they were headed to (thus neatly breaching the outer defenses we saw earlier), and we go inside the MacNiel house where all is suddenly quiet.
Okay, from here things get even harder to follow, so Ill do my best. Try and keep up, but dont worry if you cant make sense of any of this, because its not supposed to.
Regan hovers over Lamont, whos slumped against a wall (no signs of insects, packing material or foliage anywhere, by the way). She implores tenderly "Let me reach you", and he points silently to the door to her old room by way of answer.
Down at the wrecked cab, Jean is struggling to free herself, while Sharon slowly drifts away from the car to the front door, an eerily placid (well, you know) expression on her face. Jean mutters odd lines like "We have to help Regan", apparently oblivious to the motionless cab driver in the front seat, not to mention her own predicament.
Back inside again, with Lamont still pointing at Regans door. To give equal time, Id like to mention how convincingly Burton does this. Not even Olivier could point at a door and make you really believe it the way Burton does here. Ahem. Regan slowly pulls away and heads for the door.
Down at the wreck again, with Jean pleading "At least help Regan" to Sharon, whos now shifted into full Spooky Chick mode by standing there and smiling slightly. When Jean begs her to help Regan "fight this thing", Spooky Chick Sharon demands her to name it. Jean spits the name "Pazuzu", which elicits a slightly broader grin from Spooky Chick Sharon, which Im sure would scare the wits out of me if I had even the vaguest clue as to what the hell was going on at all with this little plot detor.
We now see Regan slowly open her door. There, sitting upright on the bed, is the gruesome form of Possessed Regan, which causes Busty Regan (which, remember, means the real Regan) to recoil in horror, shrieking as she does.
Jean has managed to extricate herself from the wreck at this point, but Spooky Chick Sharon is blocking the door to the house. The camera pans down to a murky shot of what looks to be a hose dripping water with one of the detached headlamps from the cab sitting near by. Apparently this is supposed to be some sort of fuel line and were supposed to get it that Spooky Chick Sharon is going to immolate herself, as Jean suddenly reacts with a series of "No! No!"s and hand gestures toward Spooky Chick Sharon (though the shot of the headlamp and puddle itself in no way what so ever suggests anything potentially harmful).
Back at Busty Regans reaction shot to her own possessified form, Lamont looms over her shoulder, turning his face up slightly and wearing a goofy sneer that quite precisely (and rather uncomfortably) presages the quirky-in-a-dumb-way facial contortions of John Voights character Sarone from Anaconda. How Lamont manages to maintain his grip on Regan as he buffets her against the wall with all that sweat dripping off him is anyones guess, as it defies belief at a Newtonian level.
Regan pleads with her unexpected assailant to remember Father Merrin, which seems to get through to Lamont in much the same way as Laurie Strodes plaintive whine of "Michael" halted the killers approach ever so briefly (sincerest apologies to John Carpenter for in any way comparing one of his films to this mess). The off-screen Possessed Regan starts up some pointless little twaddle of a speech, saying how Lamont has made his choice , and that "Pazuzus Regan is the only Regan". As she says this, the camera cuts to show her de-possessifying and morphing slowly into Lolita Regan (hair done up like a tramp, lots of slutty makeup, slinky nightgown, etc.).
Lolita Regan slowly lays back and calls out "Be joined with us, Father" in a breathy voice which would be highly erotic in any film but this. Lamont jumps on top of Lolita Regan on the bed making ridiculous animal grunting noises, and we see some equally ridiculous looking vamping expressions on Lolita Regans face over his shoulder as Busty Regan whimpers in the doorway. Just as were getting to that Spanking the Monkey level of discomfort as we watch a perspiration-drenched priest maul a tarted-up teen, Lolita Regan adds another distasteful element to the mix by whispering "Kill her" in Lamonts ear as seductively as if she were asking him to repeat that neat little trick with the strawberries and the loofa sponge he surprised her with the night before
We come up for some air briefly as we rejoin the Jean / Spooky Chick Sharon drama outside. As if she were getting up the nerve to dive into an icy cold swimming pool, Spooky Chick Sharon slowly brings her foot down upon the headlamp, ignoring Jeans vague pleas to stop. As her foot breaks the lamp, flames engulf her so quickly and to such an extent that she must be wearing a dress made out of flash paper soaked in white gas. As sheets of fire roar up, the childrens choir is joined by adult voices now, as if that will some how make all this suck any less.
Slow motion shots of Spooky Chick Sharon amidst the flames suddenly remind me of the Hispanic Briquette from the opening scene, but perhaps this was only because I had taken off my glasses, was squinting fairly hard, and was suffering a sound pummeling from two of the friends that I had talked into watching the film with me at the time.
Back to Regans bedroom now, for some more things that will makes us long for a nice hot shower when the film is over. As Lolita Regan vamps about clumsily on the bed, a manic Lamont is rhythmically bashing Busty Regan against a wardrobe in a way more than slightly suggestive of the sex act. Our disgust at this display is slightly mitigated, however, by Lamonts over the top bellowings of "Your wings are brushing me! Your wings are brushing me!"(?).
I cant say why, but my second time through this scene I felt compelled to shout out "Father! The sleeper has awakened!" over Burtons din, and damn it if I wasn't secure enough in my own masculinity to do just that. No reason, really. Lets just chalk my outburst up to a defense mechanism and move on, shall we?
Nearing unconsciousness from her beating, Regan looks into Lamonts eyes and speaks, Kokumos voice accompanying her own as she says "We like to call her the good locust. She was evolved to resist the brushing of the wings."(?) . As Lamont pauses to digest this, Lolita Regan retorts with "No, once the wings have brushed you, youre mine forever."(?).
Countering this assertion is Kokumo/Busty Regans answer of "she will break the chain reaction", which is followed by Lolita Regans rebuttal of "Killer her! We command you!", which sways Lamonts internal jury into resuming his metaphorical rape.
Look guys, I know how you must feel right now, but I didnt write this film, Im just telling you about it, okay?
Back down at the Spooky Chick inferno, Spooky herself doesnt even appear to be singed despite the conflagration consuming her. You dont suppose this was just a poorly staged effects shot, do you? In any case, the camera doesnt bring Spooky Chick Sharon into focus for the shot, probably to keep the four people still left in the theater at this point from picking up on this.
Up again in Regans room, Busty Regan now tries a new tactic : she looks longingly into her attackers eyes and whispers "Why me?", first in English, then in Spanish, and to get this over with quickly Ill just grant the movie that this is suggestive of the Hispanic Briquettes pre-immolation cries. This (or the now-swelling Ooo Ooo music on the soundtrack) apparently breaks through to Lamont, who affectionately clutches Busty Regan to him, I think more from a desire to sop up some moisture than from any genuine affection.
Turning to the bed, he leaps upon Lolita Regan, this time in attack mode (this guy has some serious issues with women, by the way hes just the kind of man Catherine McKinnon goes on about, and for once shes right).
Throttling Lolita Regan, Lamont bellows out "Reeaggaaan!", which Lolita Regan answers with a strangled cry of "Paaaazzzuuuuuzzzzuuuuu!" (and just for fun I shouted out a "Khaaannn!!" of my own). An exterior shot of the sky shows a swarm of animated dots descending on an area near the capitol building (no, really).
Back in front of the MacNiel house, Spooky Chick Sharon still hasnt managed to catch fire, though she does succumb to something or other, and falls in slow motion to the ground as Jean looks on, impotently repeating "Sharon". At this point Jean rushes up and down the street (which is suspiciously vacant of any automobiles) crying for help. In the middle of the one of the nicer areas of Georgetown, just after a loud car wreck, followed by a fire and some screaming, no one so much as even looks out their window to see what might be amiss. Not that this entire street is all just a set, you understand, just that everyone values their privacy. Ahem.
After trying to rouse assistance for five whole seconds, Jean casually makes her way back to the Spooky Chick Sharon-kabob on the MacNiels doorstep as she catches sight of the poor special effects shot making its way toward the house.
And we go into Regans bedroom again. As Lamont struggles on the bed with a prone Lolita Regan, grunting with the exertion (just keep piling it on, movie; I really didnt want to feel like having sex ever again anyway), the windows burst in as some more bags of packing foam (looking more like wet leaves) are dropped in front of blowers to simulate a locust swarm. To kick things up a notch yet again, the entire house starts to quite literally come apart, huge cracks opening up in the walls, portions of the floor dropping away, and other nigh-apocalyptic <cough> misfortunes besetting the building.
Even after Lamont rips out Lolita Regans heart (which was supposed to end it all, we were told) everything still tumbles down around Lamont and Busty Regan. The cacophony builds, more and more locusts swarming about the house as it shakes to its foundation.
And yet again I must repeat myself by swearing before all I hold sacred that I did not make this part up : Busty Regan slowly rises to her feet, lifted by the strains of the Ooo Ooo music on the soundtrack, and begins to twirl her empty hand above her head in much the same manner as the vision of young Kokumo would swing his Anti-Locust String above himself in Regans hypno-synched visions, complete even with the whistling of Kokumos little toy, even though, as I said, Regans hands are empty.
Without the reader actually seeing the shots of Busty Regan twirling her arm over her head (spinning around in place like The Sound of Music gone horribly horribly wrong) and the close-ups of dead locusts piling up at her feet, music normally accompanied by talk about menstrual cycles and alternate uses for cranberry juice playing in the background, there is tragically little Yours Truly can do to describe it all as would do any semblance of justice to it.
After all the locusts have fallen dead to the floor, they quietly vanish and leave a clean - albeit destroyed - floor behind (apparently Evil is susceptible to the forces of Scotchguard). Jean is shown holding on to the limp form of (now no longer Spooky Chick) Sharon, whos wrapped in a blankey to keep her from dripping anything too gooey on Jeans smart little pantsuit. As our mind is still trying in vain to process the previous spectacle, we give little thought to the reasons behind Sharons tortured croakings of "I chose evil" (or even why she did what she did just now), and even less to Lamonts pop-theology response about her hunger for belief being her truth (just dont even bother). Lamont blesses her, but she snuffs it (does this mean Lamont botched the blessing, and can be sued for malpractise now?).
Lamont stands before the ruins of the MacNeil house, framed dramatically <coughcough> by the Georgetown skyline. In what is in fact a re-shoot of an original ending never used in the release of the film (even the one-night-stand first cut), Lamont gives a quick little speech : "The time has come [authors note : <insert Enigma reference here> ]. Now we are saved and made strong. The enemy of the human race <glancing back at Regan (???)> has been subdued."
Well, you see, he learned too late that man is a feeling creature
Jean walks over to Regan, saying that she "understands" now, and in the movies one and only moment of perfect lucidity, adds "But the world wont.".
Can I get a "well, DUH!" here, oh my Brothers?
In a move of questionable legality, Jean hands Regans guardianship over to Lamont, telling them both that they must go now, though she doesnt bother to offer any reasons why. As Regan and Lamont walk off into a dim sunset, arms clasped about each other (and, for the last time, no, I did not make that up!) a tearful Jean turns around as police cars and inquiring neighbors suddenly burst from out of nowhere upon the scene in one massive wave of confusion. Apparently they were simply held back from the scene until the artistically correct moment - after Regan and Lamont exited, - had come (c.f. the statue of Arthur Dent in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series).
I promised myself that I wasnt going to conclude the play-by-play by telling you that we fade to closing credits with a close up of Jeans face as the synchronizer strobe lights her up, its attendant tone and the Ooo Ooo music playing in equal parts on the soundtrack, so Ill end on this sad note instead : the credits list the special visual effects as having been done by Albert J. Whitlock. If you know the mans work, youll know why theres a tear in my eye right now, and why its not from the fondue fork I thrust in it earlier to take my mind of the pain the film was smothering me in.
Youll pardon me as I start this off on a cathartic note, wont you please?
Okay, now that thats out of the way ...
When it comes to Bad Movies, this is one of the true titans, my Brothers. While we Bad Movie aficionados can (and quite regularly do) disagree as to which film deserves to be called "The Worst", its safe to bet that E2 will show up somewhere on most (if not all) of our individual top ten lists. This is one of the few films that I actively urge others to see for themselves, just so they can appreciate its shining Badness beyond the simple shadows any mere second hand description would give them. Of course, I bear no responsibility for any lasting emotional scars you might get as a result.
Shortly after completing the first draft, a friend of mine who knew I was working on this review sent me a tape of the re-cut version, as well as a 208 page paperback tie-in on the making of the film. While the re-cut version removes a considerable number of the goofy moments, the film's failings are so deep-rooted that no mere editing could possibly have saved it. In this case, the ugly truly does go down to the bone.
And as I mentioned when discussing the African Red Shirt's unrealistic falling scene, everyone involved was quite serious about the project. For example, an early section in the paperback details the extensive discussions between Boorman, Kitty Winn, and three stylists to figure out how to do the hair for Winn's character Sharon. If anyone thinks I might have read too much into what I saw as attempts by Boorman to be arty, let me point out that at one point the look they wanted for Sharon's hair (just her hair, mind you) was described as "Like Falconetti's Jeanne d'Arc ... Peter Pan and Joan of Arc.".
When a film takes itself this seriously, yet still contains lines like "Your machine has proved scientifically that theres an ancient demon locked within her", ... well, it just doesn't get much better than that.
Review by Douglas Milroy
Jabootu Correspondent Jeff Cramer writes: "While I don't think that screenwriter William Goodhart's original script would have been good, he ultimately isn't the final author on that version and shouldn't take most of the blame for that film. (Whether it was good or not that he didn't do much films after or before Exorcist II is another matter.) The book, The Making of Exorcist II: The Heretic, shows Goodhart only wrote the original script, it was John Boorman and his frequent partner Rospo Pallenberg were the ones who made a lot of the unintentionally funny moments in that film.