Conventional wisdom suggests that watching Exorcist 2 is a big waste of time. Eventually, some people just have to forgo the reviews and see things for themselves. Much to my surprise, this is one time when I am glad I chose to do this.
This film has AT LEAST one major thing working against it, and that is that it's attached to the original film. It probably does not matter what film this would be, as long as it has "EXORCIST" attached to it - it's doomed for failure. Lets look at some other issues this film has:
The acting: The casting choices for this film are completely fine. Linda Blair was still a fine young actress at this point, and you would think Richard Burton would deliver a good performance. I believe the directing of the actors leaves a lot to be desired, and the script certainly didn't help either
The editing: This really bugged me during this film. In the hands of a more skilled director - I think this is where the film could have become something more than it is. There are several sequences where I feel like the film is trying to do something different and interesting. Whether it's flying on the wings of a locust or it's the expertly crafted dream/hypnotized sequences (the one thing this film does exceptionally well) I feel like the director couldn't quite figure out how to make it work... Almost like he was holding back in a way. If this film would have been handled by someone who might have embraced the more bizarre aspects of the film, I think it could have made this a more interesting picture.
The music: Another failure here, the sounds is weird and has too much tribal throat singing and screaming in it. The sounds of the locusts is frequent and does it's job, but other than that, it doesn't really help set a mood properly like the first film does.
Why bother? As I said before, I like what they TRIED to do with some of the sequences, I just wish they would have gone all in and changed the music a bit and maybe spent a bit more time in the editing room to make it more visceral. I feel like you can go one of two ways - Have dream sequences make sense or have it be completely fantastical. They went for the middle ground in this movie which doesn't work, but I give them credit for the attempt. I also really liked their use of "science" in this movie. Their hypnotize machine concept is interesting. It comes off hokey by today's standards, but it is one thing in this film that really does set a mood and build some tension.
Closing thoughts: My main thing with this movie is watch it if it's convenient. Don't go out of your way and certainly don't slap someone if they say "Hey, want to watch the second Exorcist movie?". You might just see something you like. I wouldn't even be opposed if they tried to give this movie another shot using modern technology and a crazier director. Had David Lynch had the reigns on something like this (Eraserhead came out the same year) we could have had a completely different movie and one that would have lived up the legacy a bit more like Exorcist III.
Also please note: This movie isn't scary - not in the least, nothing at all will give you nightmares in this film. It's more interesting than scary as it tries to add to the original.
I'm giving Exorcist II: The Heretic, 2 Pazuzu's out of 5.
Here is the trailer: