Over 45 years later, The Exorcist is still remembered as one of the all-time great horror movies, while the sequel has yet to escape its reputation as a colossal disappointment. In fact, William Friedkin, director of the classic 1973 original, seems to have more disgust than ever for Exorcist II: The Heretic, sharing his recollection of the 1977 film when he appeared on The Movies that Made Me podcast.
Though Friedkin has never seen the follow-up in full, he did catch some footage while the sequel was still in post-production, and to say that he wasn’t impressed would be a serious understatement:
“I tell you, I did see a great deal of Exorcist II, under the following circumstances. I was at the Technicolor lab, color timing something, and one of the timers said, ‘We just finished Exorcist II, would you like to have a look at it?’ And I don’t know why, but I went into the room and I sat through maybe 40 minutes of it. It’s the worst piece of shit I’ve ever seen. It’s a fucking disgrace.”
Friedkin’s claim from a couple of years ago that Exorcist II was “ridiculous and stupid” seems almost gentle by comparison, but he wasn’t done yet, going on to lament how the feature tried to “reverse” the work of author William Blatty, who wrote the novel that the first movie was based on. What’s more, for the French Connection helmsman, the fact that the film had an impressive cast made the project even more of a wasted opportunity.
“And God, what a cast it had — Richard Burton, and Max von Sydow, and Louise Fletcher, plus Linda Blair. James Earl Jones. That’s the worst 40 minutes of film I have ever seen, really, and that’s saying a lot.”
Incidentally, Linda Blair mentioned in an interview just last year that the film’s cast was one of the reasons why she doesn’t regret returning for the sequel, claiming that working with Richard Burton remains one of the highlights of her life.
Evidently not everyone is as bitter about the pic as Friedkin is, and despite the movie faring poorly with critics and underperforming at the box office, the franchise has continued to find paths onto screens big and small. And if the series can survive for this long after The Heretic, surely last year’s cancellation of The Exorcist TV show won’t be the last we see of this Satanic saga.