Exorcist II: The Heretic (Blu-ray Review)

See the source image

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!

The Exorcist (Live Review)

See the source image

18+ – The Phoenix Theatre, London – tickets from £30.00

Official WebsiteBox Office (until 10th March 2018)


 

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT REGAN

While the easily-petrified may turn their noses up at the very prospect of seeing a theatrical adaptation of one of the most chilling books/films of all time, there is no denying that with the bulk of the action taking place in a single location (a simple bedroom), that William Peter Blatty’s horror masterpiece lends itself remarkably well to the stage.

… Keep Scuttling!

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.5 (TV Review)

BBC One – 26th July 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Peter McKenna

Series created by: Ashley Pharoah

Directed by: Sam Donovan 


 

CHAOS BEFORE CLARITY

Following last week’s leftfield cliffhanger, this penultimate episode in Ashley Pharaoh’s chilling period mini-series intensifies the “supernormal” activity, but does away with the story of the week template in favour of a more all-inclusive village-wide assembly of incidents.

It is All Hallows Eve in Shepzoy, and the farming community and out-of-town railway workers are uniting to mark the pagan tradition with typically folksy gusto. The date also marks the anniversary of the All Hallows Massacre, which centuries earlier saw the sword-slashing Roundheads ride on Shepzoy, hunting and gutting all in their way, “the ground sodden with blood…” Lovely.

It is gruesome visions of this historic bloodbath which this week manifest themselves to the fearful villagers, with the city-dwelling railway engineers driven out by the superstitious hauntings, after “townie” Smith (Harry Peacock) is terrified by the ghost of a hanging victim in the copse.

Maud Hare (1.3’s Elizabeth Berrington), meanwhile, is growing increasing concerned about living side-by-side with evil, as the mark of a noose grows more pronounced around her neck, and Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) is so consumed by his belief in the presence of his dead son and glimpses of a woman in a red coat carrying a book full of moving pictures, that he drags poor Harriet Denning (1.1’s Tallulah Haddon) back into the hot seat for another session of doctorly hypnosis.

“They’re coming for you, Nathan, they’re coming for you.”

Harriet’s father, village priest Father Denning (Nicholas Woodeson), is furious at Nathan’s ungodly meddling in the occult, until the whole village witnesses both a blazing tree which leaves no ash and a spirit army of Roundheads charging translucently through the forest. Reluctantly, he agrees to an exorcism, but Nathan is less than keen when his pregnant wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), reveals some startling evidence in the background of one of her photographs…

The hauntings intensify, the visions more frequent and the truth harder to ascertain in episode five of The Living And The Dead. A lot occurs in this busy hour of drama without the plot ever really progressing or the mystery becoming any clearer. Colin Morgan expertly portrays a spiral into insanity, while Peter McKenna’s screenplay is an effective exercise in tone and atmosphere. I suspect we are in for a spectacular finale next week, but if you aren’t binge-watching this as a boxset and catching it in weekly instalments then this is less satisfying as a standalone story, with no palpable beginning, middle or end.

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