Horror sequels are tricky, there’s no denying that. More often than not, they fail to recapture the magic of the original and in the worst case scenario, they’re nothing more than a shameless cash grab. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but unfortunately, Exorcist II: The Heretic was not one of them.
Then again, following in the footsteps of The Exorcist – arguably one of the genre’s finest achievements – was always going to be a tough task. But to say that the sequel dropped the ball would be a massive understatement. With horrible plotting, weak acting and lame scares, it was certainly a bit of a train wreck and it turns out that the original film’s director, William Friedkin, feels the same way.
Speaking to Indiewire in a recent interview, he was asked for his thoughts on the several sequels to The Exorcist and surprisingly, he revealed that he’s never seen any of them. Well, he did watch five minutes of The Heretic, but was not at all pleased with what he saw.
I never saw any of the Exorcist films, not even Bill’s [William Blatty, author of The Exorcist novel]. I saw a few minutes of Exorcist II, but that was only because I was in the Technicolor lab timing a film that I had directed — I forget which one — and one of the color timers at Technicolor said, hey, we just made a print of Exorcist II, would you like to have a look at it? I said OK. I went in, and after five minutes, it just blasted me. I couldn’t take it. I thought it was just ridiculous and stupid. But that was only five minutes, so I can’t make an ultimate judgment about it. It just seemed to me to have nothing to do with The Exorcist.
While Friedkin’s words may be harsh, he does have a point. Exorcist II was pretty horrendous and the films that followed it weren’t much better. Admittedly, the third installment was at least watchable, but still, nothing ever lived up to the original, and we don’t imagine anything ever will.
After all, The Exorcist’s magnitude, profanity, and violation of the laws of nature are the stuff of nightmares, and while many stories of possession have hit the big screen since this multiple-award-winning sensation swept the collective American consciousness, none have ever reached its level. It’s without a doubt the best entry in the exorcism genre and is an absolute horror classic. So really, anything that came after it was always going to be doomed, right?