Cinema: Pazuzu Rides Again

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So you thought the demon was finished off at the end of The Exorcist back in 1974? Nonsense. The old fiend, Pazuzu by name, has been lurking in Linda Blair's subconscious, waiting until the market seemed right for a sequel.

In Exorcist II: The Heretic, Father Richard Burton arrives from the Vatican to search out Pazuzu in Linda's soul, and meanwhile have a religion-science face-off with Psychiatrist Louise Fletcher, who wants to do the job by hypnosis. Pazuzu gets mad as a hornet — or rather as a locust, the guise in which he usually appears. He makes Linda's eyes glow and flings her postpubescent body about like a beanbag. Soon she is back in that bedroom in Georgetown, where Burton tries to rip the heart — literally — out of her possessed alter ego.

Most sequels offer more of the same. This one offers less of the same. William Friedkin's original was well enough made to be offensive. Here we are spared many of Friedkin's cheap shocks — the mutilations, the vomiting, the bestiality.

But what remains is twaddle. The supernatural antics are dressed up with a notion vandalized from Teilhard de Chardin: the film suggests that Blair's character is one of a vanguard of human mutations evolving toward a synthesis of man and God, and thus is a target to be headed off by Pazuzu.

In truth, the only synthesis in the film is between the ludicrous and the unintentionally comic. Locusts swarming over the Capitol dome, an Ethiopian church ceremony that looks like a Coptic version of Regine's, James Earl Jones brooding in locust headdress — the choice moments are many. The question raised by this fiasco is whether Burton is going to go down like John Barrymore, hamming his way through unworthy vehicles that feed off travesties of his talent .

Christopher Porterfield