Exorcist II: The Heretic (Blu-ray Review)

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18 – 117mins – 1977


 

CALL ME BY MY DEVIL NAME

Cynically made on-the-cheap by a new creative team after the two Williams (original Exorcist director Friedkin and author Peter-Blatty) flat-out refused to be involved in a follow-up, The Heretic was also beset by a mountain of production problems (its script was rewritten FIVE times DURING filming by uncredited writers; the final product scarcely resembles the first draft) and – rather predictably – it garnered near-universal derision upon release. Frankly, it’s a miracle that the franchise survived such a monumental blunder, but clearly the power of Pazuzu conquers all set-backs!

… Keep Scuttling!

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Ghostbusters II (Blu-ray Review)

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PG – 108mins – 1989


 

NEW YORK, SLIME SQUARE

“Sometimes shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?”

Five years later and Reitman, Aykroyd, Ramis, Murray, Hudson, Weaver, Potts, Moranis and Slimer are all back for a second love letter to their beloved Big Apple. Since we last saw the spook-zapping saviours of the city they’ve been sued, left broke, dismissed as phoneys and largely forgotten. “I thought you were going to be He-Man” one disappointed birthday boy informs his ‘special’ guests.

Following a brief romance, walking sarcasm machine Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) pushed Dana Barrett (Weaver) away, but now she’s back in New York as a single mother following the break-up of her subsequent marriage. When some spectral shenanigans nearly see her baby son wheeled into traffic, Dana calls upon her old friends to recharge their dusty proton packs.

Can the re-suited and booted Ghostbusters save young Oscar from Dana’s pesky, Renfield-esque boss, Janosz (Peter MacNicol), who is possessed into stealing the child as a sacrificial vessel for the tyrannical spirit of portrait-bound 17th century conqueror Vigo the Carpathian (Willhelm von Homburg; dubbed by The Exorcist‘s Max von Sydow)?

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With a river of pink slime flowing beneath the streets and feeding off of irate New Yorker’s negative emotions, pliable puppet Janosz’s spooky stint as a red-eyed phantom nanny, the docking of the Titanic and Peter back to his dry best (“You’re not going to get a Green Card with that attitude, pal!”), there are plenty of quotable lines and memorable scenes in this second supernatural adventure. The camaraderie amongst the chummy cast is still strong.

Alas, there is also a niggling feeling that this is simply more of the same, with the Scalari Brother’s courtroom breakout highly reminiscent of Slimer’s ballroom destruction in the iconic original, and Lady Liberty’s climatic march of hope another attempt at a large scale finale, akin to Stay Puft’s city stomp.

You’ll still laugh (“Do…” “Re…” “Egon!”) and the characters are still adorably endearing (“One time I turned into a dog and they helped me!”), but there are a couple of moments when the humour veers a little too close to overegged (that Judge seriously needs to keep his bile in check). The plot, too, plays it a little safe, making Ghostbusters II an entertaining if unevolved beast. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Am I right, Ziggy?” “Yo!”

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

The Exorcist (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 122mins – 1973


 

BEDROCKS & ROOMTRICKS

“That thing upstairs isn’t my daughter.”

Known by all and considered by many to be one of the scariest films of all time, this seminal adaptation of novelist William Peter Blatty’s fictionalised account of a purportedly real 1949 demonic eviction was levitated to infamy courtesy of mass hysteria, group faintings and cinema walk-outs. Murmurs of a curse on set added to the uncanny allure, while the catholic church was none too happy at such devil-peddling obscenity.

Conversely, the industry was ecstatic, as William Friedkin’s unassumingp domestic horror (which initially only opened in 26 theatres across all of America!) went on to cement its place in cinema history by grossing nearly $450million from a $12million budget, and becoming the first horror ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

It’s fair to say that The Exorcist’s lofty reputation precedes it. Heck, I was scared before I’d even pressed play! Settling down last night (with the lights on!) to watch this blu-ray presentation of the original theatrical version (there has been much Lucas-esque tinkering over the years), I was surprised at how measured and unterrifying the film is for prolonged stretches! There are hints at the obscene vulgarity to come, but Father Merrin’s (The Force Awaken’s Max von Sydow) sombre excavation while surrounded by the dusty hustle of Northern Iraq makes for a deceptively innocuous introduction.

Even when the drama shifts to the Georgetown home of actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and her tweenage daughter, Regan (Linda Blair), there are long periods of status quo-establishing mundanity (rats in the attic, “When can I get a horse?”) before some disturbing out-of-character behaviour from the usually well-behaved 12 year old raises questions about first her health, then her soul…

“Mother, what’s wrong with me?”

While the dog-collared veteran from the start of the film belatedly returns to perform the titular ritual on the inhabited, bed-bound girl, he is assisted by a second priest in psychiatrist Father Damien Karras (John Miller), who actually has more screen time and character development than Merrin’s sidelined catalyst. Karras has recently lost his faith following the death of his mother, and the weight of this holy doubt makes him weak in the eyes of the bullying beast possessing Regan.

“He will lie to confuse us.”

While the film will be best remembered for Linda Blair’s ghoul-faced, vomit-spraying, profane portrayal (“Your mother sucks cocks in hell,” “lick me, lick me!” etcetera), the power of the demon’s psychological provocation adds a considerable extra-dimensional heft to The Exorcist’s superficial revulsion.

Before the unclean spirit is cast out in an act of sacrificial tragedy you begin to question whether Chris’ strained relationship with Regan’s out-of-town father, or the actresses stifling attempts to make up for her time away from her growing daughter haven’t contributed to the domestic distress just as much as Pazuzu’s possession. I was drawn in by this enthralling subtext and much like “Father Paranoia” in the film I was double guessing every scripted utterance… And you thought The Exorcist was just crucifix masturbation, head-spinning and profanity? You simple-minded cu–

CR@B Verdict: 5 stars