Sequels are notoriously hard to make. In 2016 alone we have had movies like Zoolander 2, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and Blair Witch come and go without making a dent with the audience, with critics, or with the box office. This isn’t a modern problem. People have been trying to make follow ups to cherished and long beloved movies for years to varying degrees of success. There are accomplishments with movies like The Godfather 2, Spider-Man 2 or more recently with Magic Mike XXL or Mad Max Fury Road, but for every one of those films you get twenty Blues Brothers: 2000’s, movies that are just re-hashes of the first film with more of the surface level details filmmakers mistakenly thought were what drew audiences in the first place. That is why my favorite type of sequels are the ones helmed by directors with specific visions. The Alien franchise is a famous example of this. It takes directors who have a very specific style and has them inject it into the property. James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean Pierre Jeunet all took Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon’s concept and story and refracted it through their very specific lenses. It is not “more of the same” but “left of the same.”
Unfortunately sometimes people don’t like taking that left turn when the right turn leads to something more familiar. This is the position Academy Award® nominated filmmaker John Boorman found himself in when he made Exorcist II: The Heretic, a movie that not only takes a left turn from William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece The Exorcist, but directly challenges it. John Boorman is no stranger to bringing a left of center approach to his genre filmmaking. For his film Point Blank he took a hard boiled crime drama and turned it into a psychedelic fever dream that examines past trauma. He took the Arthurian legend in Excalibur and, instead of just making it a straight forward swords and sorcery adventure flick, he made it about the complex and fragile relationships with the people we love and the hardships of wielding power of any kind. Exorcist II is a 4 years later follow-up to The Exorcist starring Linda Blair reprising her role as Regan, the demonically possessed little girl from the first film, in therapy for what was inflicted upon her in the original film. The evil force of the first film is waiting to rear its ugly head and reek havoc again. Boorman didn’t want a reprise of those events, so he challenged the very conceit (evil winning out) of the first film. For that challenge it became an almost universally despised movie. It even took the runner-up spot as the worst film of all time according to the 1980 book, “The Golden Turkey Awards.” First place went to Plan 9 From Outer Space.
I sat down with John Boorman, during his recent visit to IU, to interview him for WFIU’s Profiles program. The full interview will be available later this year, but you can listen right now as John Boorman talks about Exorcist II: The Heretic in his own words. He lends some insight and background into how the movie came into existence and why he made the choices that led to such a harshly judged film.
Visionary filmmaker John Boorman visited IU Cinema in October, 2016 for a Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture and film screenings in a series entitled John Boorman: Conjurer of Cinema. He also participated in events related to the Lilly Library’s recent acquisition of his collection of papers, artifacts, and reel-to-reel films. Directed by John Boorman: An Introduction to His Collection at the Lilly Library exhibition, displaying a sampling of the Boorman collection, runs through December 17, 2016.
David Carter is a film lover and a menace. He plays jazz from time to time but asks you not to hold that against him. His taste in movies bounces from Speed Racer to The Holy Mountain and everything in between.