So I’m scanning the Video Section of the PlayStation store on my PS3 and debating whether to rent something. Now since I have a Netflix account that allows me both streaming and Blu-Ray, I’ve never had a reason to avail my self of the service.
But when I see John Boorman’s nut ball sequel to “The Exorcist” available in HD for only four-fifty with a Blu-Ray release not forthcoming, I’m thinking “Yeah, I gotta get me some of that”.
However, I do have something to say to both Sony and Warner Brothers.
Seriously, if you are going to bother to put a movie in HD, it might behoove you to, oh, I don’t know…properly encode the transfer! There are whole scenes marred by digital artifacts and strobing. There’s one close up of Linda Blair’s face that looks like a moving pointillist painting.
I know it’s “Exorcist II”. I know it has a limited audience of coo-coo birds like me who dig failed John Boorman films. I know that it’s a stretch to hope for a full restoration. But given that I was willing to spend the money (Not to mention a three hour wait for the download to finish.) the least you can do is make an effort to come up with a transfer that wouldn’t be embarrassing on a standard DVD, let alone an exacting format like HD.
Seriously, guys. Step up! Okay, end of rant.
As for the film itself, “Exorcist II” stands not so much as a sequel but as an artistic repudiation to the first film. Where the Friedkin film succeeded in giving the horror film a documentary immediacy, Boorman seemed determined to infuse his film with a thick layer of fantasy, complete with stylized sets and fancy schmancy special effects. No wonder audiences were confused. Boorman’s film isn’t even in the same universe as Friedkin’s. It’s as if after “Star Wars”, Lucas made a kitchen sink sequel where Luke and Leia stayed on Tatooine and ran a small shop that sold power converters.
As if the tone shift wasn’t unsettling enough, the other major problem is that the film just isn’t all that scary. Boorman seemed to have no interest in creating any type of suspense. No moment where you feel a ratcheting of tension or raising of stakes. It doesn’t help that none of the central performances are just not that good. Linda Blair who was wonderfully natural in the first film is a cipher here. Louise Fletcher looks totally lost. And Richard Burton has only two modes here, numb and overwrought. (One moment when he starts screaming “I’M NOT OBSESSED!”, he looks like a bug eyed Dave Thomas doing Burton in an SCTV sketch.)
It’s a bad movie but it’s far from unwatchable. There are some interesting ideas at play involving the concept of a group mind and some of the sequences are quite lovely. (The scenes where Burton is searching an African city has some of the exotic beauty of Powell and Pressburger’s “Black Narcissus”.) And there’s never not a sense of Boorman half assing it. Even in the hysterical finale involving locusts, an earthquake and an evil slutty Regan, you get the feeling, he’s giving it all he’s got. He may be flying off a cliff but he’s going down doing a triple lutz.
And in that sense, you have have to give Sony and Warners credit for making the title available at all, even when they fall down on the picture quality. Hopefully, they’ll make more catalogue titles available. I just hope they improve the quality control.