One can almost see the studio bigwigs sitting around and trying to fathom how to make a sequel to the original film, which was a top box office grosser of 1973:
First they would need an intense director and it was a sure thing to hire John Boorman, who was fresh off the controversial classic film “Deliverance,” never mind that his film drew its power from a more realistic premise.
Next they realized that an established actor could act as a pitchman to help sell this turkey, so they hired Richard Burton, who epitomized the notion that a vocally gifted actor could make reading the phone book interesting. That theory gets decimated here as even the melodic tones of Burton's pitch-perfect delivery are insufficient to breathe life, or conviction, into what passes for dialogue here.
The studio tries to insure a box office home run by bringing back the original cast, but there they fail miserably. They do manage to rehire (and repossess) Linda Blair and they are able to get back Max Von Sydow, even though he died in the first one, but Ellen Burstyn and Jason Miller wisely avoided this reunion.
The film opens with Father Lamont (Burton) given the assignment of investigating the death of Father Merrin (Von Sydow) who perished while exorcising Linda Blair in the first film. Here the movie takes the first of many stumbles when it gives a name to the demon who had possessed Reagan (Blair). Lamont finds out that Merrin had run the demon, now called Pazuzu, out of an African man years before. Lamont tracks the man, who he finds out is named Kokumo (Hey, wasn't that a Beach Boys song?) and now played by Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones. Kokumo informs Lamont that the demon Pazuzu lives inside a swarm of locusts and uses them to travel.
Meanwhile Reagan is being treated by a psychologist named Tuskin (played by Nurse Ratchet herself, Louise Fletcher). The doc uses a device right out of a 1950s sci-fi flick which induces hypnosis. The machine is a bust, however, and allows Pazuzu to reenter Reagan and we're off to the races with another exorcism, a swarm of locusts and a pulse-pounding score which try to top the exorcism scenes from the original but only manage to induce laughter.
This one's a stinkburger all right, but there are plenty of laughs here if you get into the spirit of things. The worst offender is screenwriter William Goodhart, who shovels dialogue into the actors that nobody can pronounce with a straight face.
The film also had a troubled history, with Boorman threatening to quit on two occasions, while Richard Burton reportedly started the film sober but remained drunk for the final six weeks of production. All this and the movie was yanked from theaters on two occasions for reediting, which still couldn't salvage anything of merit from it. There was talk (or threats) that a three-hour director's cut may surface on DVD in the future. However, in the wake of the abysmal failure of the two Exorcist prequels (now out on DVD), that proposition is becoming less likely. Still this is worth seeking out if you enjoy Hollywood train wrecks.
Best line: There are a ton of awful lines here so I'll leave you with a few samples so you can judge which is the best of the worst:
“Pazuzu, king of the spirits of the air, help me find Kokumo.”
“Satan has become an embarrassment to our progressive views.”
“I was possessed by a demon. It's okay, he's gone.”
‘Pazuzu's Reagan is the only Reagan.”
“Your machine has proved scientifically that there's an ancient demon locked within her.”