Friday, October 13, 2023

MANDY (2018)


Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwn Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke, Line Pillet, Clement Baronnet, Alexis Julemont, Stephan Fraser, and enough depravity to make a Cenobite blush. 

More details here



Red (Cage) and Mandy (Riseborough) are a couple deeply in love who dwell peacefully together in a cabin in the woods.

He's a hardworking lumberjack whose only solace after long laborious days is coming home to her.  She's an exquisite artist who also works as a clerk in a co-op grocery store where she reads dark fantasy paperbacks to pass the time. You get the feeling that both have been through some shit as Red's haunted, exhausted look and Mandy's physical scars hint at tragic pasts.

But as long as they have each other and their placid surroundings, nothing else matters. Unfortunately, this contentment is disrupted when one day Mandy encounters some shady characters while on a forest walk. 

Transfixed by her unconventional beauty, vile pervert and cult leader Jeremiah (Roache) becomes obsessed with having her join his menagerie of lost idiots.

 He commands his scumbag followers led by Brother Swan (Dennehy) to kidnap her.

Unable to do the job themselves, they enlist the aid of the Black Skulls, a roving band of drug-addled bikers who may be literal demons from Hell. 

They incapacitate Red and bring Mandy before Jeremiah's congregation where he waves his limp wimpy pee-pee at her. She understandably laughs her ass off.

Unfortunately, that would be the last act of defiance in Mandy's life and she's murdered before Red's eyes. Jeremiah's cultists depart and leave him for dead which is the biggest mistake of their lives.  They awakened something deep, primordial, and drenched in hatred as Red is soon in pursuit, armed only with a crossbow, a badass axe, and the intensity of a newborn sun.

Mandy came and she gave without taking but death took her away. Oh Mandy! And although Mandy was fine girl, and what a good wife she could have been, Red's life, his love, and his lady is now vengeance and a ton of LSD.


A few years ago, I watched the documentary Murder Mountain on Netflix, a series that chronicled the history of violence, crime, and corruption in a remote location of Humboldt County in Northern  California. The show focused on one specific murder shrouded in the imposing weirdness that permeates the area and reminded me of just how bonkers a reputation this section of the golden state has long held and earned. In fact, a close friend of mine had a run-in with an infamous pair of Northern Californians during a trek in the area in the 1970s and can confirm that life there, even if you're just going for a walk, can be harrowing.  From open drug cultivation, gang wars, serial killers, cults, and even goddamn Bigfoot, who was a main suspect in the series, this place is truly the last frontier of the United States.  This lawless land is better known as the Emerald Triangle due to being the largest marijuana producing region in the country that drew fringe characters, organized crime, deadly biker gangs, mystic new agers, sun-ravaged hippies, and the occasional murder spree or two.  If America has its own equivalent of Mordor, you can find it here.  

Mandy is a hate-fueled phantasmal head trip of a revenge flick firmly set in the midst of the Emerald Triangle, which after witnessing the bloody insanity portrayed in this movie, could have been renamed the Crimson Triangle. Panos Cosmatos, son of George P., maker of Rambo: First Blood Part II, rolls out a similar rampage of ferocity for a major Hollywood star as his father's, only this time the proceedings are not marked by Reagan-era anti-foreigner bloodlust but an acidic medieval journey into senseless victimization, pseudo-spiritualism, and the horrid void created by loss. Cage is remarkably restrained as the anguished Red and Riseborough is both hypnotically intense and relatable as the titular Mandy. Roache doles out hefty vibes of Richard Lynch despicableness as the sniveling jerk-off Jeremiah and his slimy crony Brother Swan played by Dennehy reaches new levels of creepdom. And the rest of the cast from Fouere's Mother Marlene to the fifth grader band names Fuck Pig and Dog the Dog as the Black Skulls contribute unforgettably to Red's cathartic carnage. Rife with prog rock, heavy metal, and literary horror references and borderline Lovecraftian aesthetics, Cosmatos' tale is a county fair black light poster come to life, and much like the memory of a lost loved one, it will linger if you allow it.

The reviews I've seen for this film appear wildly divided, with some calling it gruesomely transcendent to sophomorically pretentious. But from its uber-saturated coloring scheme to its undeniable admiration for the arcane, Mandy is an intense viewing experience and could pose a challenge for those seeking  kooky hijinks and wacky chuckles and not chainsaw impalements in their Halloween night movie marathon.   

As of 10/13/23, Mandy is streaming on Shudder.

Monday, October 9, 2023



James Morris, Michael Ballif, Emily Broschinsky, Karlee Broschinsky, Charla Bocchiccio, Belle Warren, Stevie Dust, and an eBay's worth of vintage Halloween decorations. 

More details here



Five spooky Halloween tales unfold starting with:

Killer on the Loose

A young woman is stalked on Halloween night by an unseen lunatic. She breaks into a home to evade her pursuer.

But the killer is close behind and breaks into the home and continues his pursuit as the woman frantically tries to find a place to hide.  His motivations are unknown but then again so are hers!


A single mom and her young daughter move into a new home in a new city to start a new life. The girl is not happy that she needs to adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

She finds solace when she stumbles upon a treasure trove of toys and dolls left by the prior residents and goes all Donnie Darko and befriends a creepy ass rabbit doll.

The laws of horror demand that any toy manufactured during the Toys R Us era must be possessed by a murderous demon and so the bedeviled bunny prepares to go all choppy-choppy on the young family with only the little girl standing in its way.

Not Alone

A man trying to catch some Z's is distracted by weird lights surrounding his house and scary shadow beings in his bedroom.

But is it all an insomniac's waking delusion or a full-scale alien invasion? 

They Live Inside Us

A horror screenwriter plagued with writer's block seeks inspiration to complete his script. So he breaks into a rumored haunted house where a recent brutal murder occurred to spend the night.  

He cycles through various horror tropes like masked killer, murder clown, and undead scarecrow with each scenario vividly coming to life in his mind.

Each story idea involves the same mysterious woman as the victim, the identity of which might be his key to stardom or a lonely doom. 

Is That You?

A teenage girl on Halloween night texts her friends to go do something but all she receives is laters and the dreaded ellipses. Frustrated with her flaky pals, she starts to hear weird noises around her house.

Something is skulking amidst the holiday fun outside and it's made its way inside her house.

Setting up either the greatest scare prank of all time, the meanest trick or treat, or the last Halloween night of her life. 


Watching horror anthologies is like sitting around a summertime campfire and regaling scary legends, ghost stories, and other tales of woe.  They’re the perfect type of movies to watch on a Halloween night, a mini-marathon in and of itself if you need to hit the hay early. Much like the classic anthologies like Creepshow, Trick r Treat, the criminally underrated Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, and many others, The Witching Season succeeds in providing a lineup of clever, unnerving stories featuring unexpected twists.  The makers do a commendable job leading a cast with natural talent, avoid references to other films and franchises and try something new, and do not exceed an ambition beyond their financial means, an unfortunate quality I've encountered with horror shorts in the past which is why I tend to avoid them.  The strongest entry is They Live Inside Us which has been expanded into a feature film released in 2020 and The Witching Season 2 is in the works.  Much affection towards the season is on display here despite the challenges of low budget filmmaking.  Especially worthy of note are the homages to the Beistle company, creators of the finest vintage Halloween decorations of yesterday and today. 

The Witching Season makes for a perfect short night of Halloween night marathon fare along with one or all of the other films mentioned above if you need your scares short, sweet, and to the point.

As of 10/9/23, The Witching Season is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sunday, October 8, 2023



LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chae Dillon, Jared Leto, the mark of the beginning of the end of my adult childhood, and 999 unhappy yawns and there’s room for so much more.

More details here



Gabbie (Dawson) and young son Travis (Dillon) move to an area outside New Orleans to open a bed & breakfast in the old Gracie Mansion, a dilapidated crumbling dwelling sitting in the bucolic splendor of Goddamn This Shit Creepy County. 

Big shocker that the place turns out to be infested by otherworldly specters who feed on the attention and pant-shitting of potential inhabitants for as yet unspecific reasons.

Having nowhere else to go, Gabbie and Travis are forced to live with these ghastly phantoms the best they can, but the spooky goings-on are just too much for the young family. 

So Gabbie turns to local priest and self-described ghost eradicator Father Kent (Wilson) for help, but he may be a few crackers short of a communion basket.  

Sensing a plumb opportunity to spread the good word and make a few bucks on the side, Kent enlists the aid of Ben (Stanfield), a former budding scientist turned local depressed New Orleans History tour guide. In his prior academic life, Ben developed a device that can photograph invisible energies which could provide evidence of the paranormal. 

In desperate need of quick cash, Ben agrees to investigate the home and participate in the charade but he's 100% skeptical, that is until the Gracie manor ghosts hitch a ride home with him.

Meanwhile Kent gathers a team of other ghost "experts" including Tulane University professor Mr. Davis (DeVito) who has written books on the history of Louisiana haunted houses and by the looks of it maxed out his FSA benefits on mental healthcare. 

Also in the lineup is kooky medium Harriet (Haddish) who could out-Whoopie Whoopie on her day off with an impressive display of sassy psychic power. 

Gabbie's ghostbusters gather to confront the unruly spirits and so the Haunted Mansion stars come out to shine: 

Professional Widow and Axe Tossing Champ Constance Hatchaway

Melancholy Organ Player Herr Victor Geist

Mystical Powerhouse Madame Leota (Curtis)

And My Ex.

After facing their own personal issues with fear, guilt, and remorse, the gang finally comes together as a team and discovers that something far ominous than simple spirits at unrest is at play within the halls of the Gracie Mansion. And it all has to do with world-threatening desires of the Haberdasher from Hell Alistair Crump (Leto), aka The Hatbox Ghost.

And it's going to take more than a Genie, Magic Key, or $150 Popcorn Bucket to get them away from this ghastly but dapper demon.


I have often been described as a “Disney Adult”, a label placed on grown-up fans that have strong opinions about Disney products from films, toys, TV series, and amusement parks and have put their fanaticism out on display whether at the parks, in social media, or at their therapist's. At first fun, the term has turned out to be somewhat pejorative and maybe unfairly applied to some. My opinions are not as fervent as your average belly-aching Disney fan, but I have invested in annual passes for the park, spent more than I should on unique merchandise, and maybe shoved a kid or two on my way to the Peter Pan ride. But I’m certainly not the type that goes to the Disney parks every day, live streams every minute detail of my visit, wanders around childless gushing at popcorn containers and cheap plush, or publicly melts down on YouTube at any hint of the tiniest of changes to a beloved ride, overpriced food item, or dress code.  But yes, despite the overcrowding, the screaming brats and doofwad parents, the terminally eternal wait queues, and good god the walking and sweating, I love the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA.  My ardent affection for this specific piece of Disney property and its rich history has forged lifelong friendships, stronger bonds with family, and abject financial ruin.   

As a kid, the Tremendo fam would make every effort to visit Disneyland each summer and so many  memorable impressions were made: the smells of orange groves as you enter Main Street, the swampy waters of the Pirates of the Caribbean, and the clouds of buttery goodness wafting through popcorn stands around Sleeping Beauty Castle, the sounds of the Billy Hill and the Hillbillies Band’s  pun and poverty-fueled hilarity at the Golden Horseshoe, the electronic joy of the Main Street Electrical Parade theme, the jubilant but migraine inducing It’s a Small World song, and the sensations of the shadowy rolling terrors of Space Mountain, the toe-tapping bodily fluid bliss of the Country Bear Jamboree, and that crunchy first bite of The Plaza Inn Restaurant’s fried chicken.  But nothing beats the nervous gulps and goosebumps felt as you hear that gloomy organ music approaching the line to my favorite Disney attraction of all: The Haunted Mansion. This ride had everything that pleased puny Halloween-obsessed Tremendito: ghostly howls, spectral chaos, gloomy décor, catchy tunes drenched in dread, a threatening but alluring undead bride, and a delightfully dark and twisted sense of humor. Makes me want to go bankrupt and visit the park now!

So, before I watched Eddie Murphy’s The Haunted Mansion way back in 2003, I experienced the same anxiety I felt while easing into a Doom Buggy, because I fully expected a miserable movie that would fail to capture the spirit of the ride and ruin it for me forever. But I didn’t get that. I got something worse: a completely forgettable but harmless and dopey Disney comedy that barely scratched the surface of its source material. (If you disagree, dear four readers, please leave a comment below!). 

Did the same happen 20 years later with this 2023 version of the ride as a movie? Not really, but it suffers most of the same problems as the previous. And the issue might lie within Disney's determination to make a film franchise out of all their attractions, a strategy that is churning diminishing returns like the bloated Jungle Cruise (2021).  Haunted Mansion seems like a rushed effort as is evident by moments of obvious post-produced dialog and a couple jarring cuts.  This appears to be a problem with all post-2020 movies lately and I don't know whether to blame it on expedited production schedules, creative laziness, or my increasing aging-related lack of focus.  As plot points unravel and we have to introduce so many characters, we're never given a chance to just soak in the eerie atmosphere, character and set design, and plentiful references to the ride's lore which are the standouts of this movie. Also, the movie runs too long with an added side plot that could have been shortened or exorcised.  

Besides the design, effects, and ride references, another highlight is the cast which includes the always luminous Dawson, always dumpy and dependable DeVito, always congested Owens, always giving Curtis, always unsettling on and off the screen Leto, and the always ear-piercingly outrageous Haddish. Also, Dillon gives a likeable, endearing, and believable performance as Travis, avoiding the usual Disney trend of casting bland and irritating young actors. The only cast member who seems out of place is the normally outstanding Stanfield who appeared a bit stiff and out of touch with the scary wackiness but recovers with a heroic turn in the last act.  The theme of loss and mourning is well handled with emotional payoffs for the living and the dead.  But it is the plethora of references to the ride and effort to meld all of its elements into one story that kept me engaged and smiling for a mostly good time.  

Personally, I would have preferred an more sinister and/or cynical story that still retained the ride's backstory added with some pitch black humor and horrific fun leaning towards an R-rating. Maybe someone like Guillermo Del Toro, who was actually attached to this project for many years, could have accomplished that like his own haunted house tale Crimson Peak with a tad less bleakness.  As long as these movies keep making money, we'll continue to see Disney attractions as film, but I urge the Disney overlords caution and plead them to make better movies.  That being said, I for one cannot wait until Bathroom Next to Autotopia is released.

Haunted Mansion's scares and tone are pretty light and despite and over 2-hour running time, the movie might be best shown first or early in your Halloween night movie marathon. Just don't invite some blathering Disney Adult who will complain about the lack of including the Coffin Occupant.  Seriously what the Hell???

As of 10/8/23, Haunted Mansion is streaming on Disney+

Thursday, October 5, 2023



Florence Pugh, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Celia Imrie, Scott Chambers, Georgina Bevan, James Cosmo, Niall Greig Fulton, and some spooky scary foster kids. 

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In late 80s Scotland, Angela (Pugh) and Jackson (Lloyd-Hughes) are a brother-sister pair who run a business in which they investigate haunted houses and help the owners rid their homes of scary ghosts for a fee. Angela is a psychic who can seek out entities and help them find the light. Jackson, his girlfriend Beth (Bevan), and his buddy Elliot (Chambers) assist with the technical set-up which involves lighting and filming the investigation.

Unfortunately, it's all a con job which they inherited from the their late mother who ran an identical business in the U.S.  The scammers seat the victim in another room with a live camera on Angela while cameraman Elliot plays spooky voices on a tape recorder and fakes other sounds and rigs objects to move. Their methods are pretty innovative and I hope the bazillion paranormal YouTubers can try this one day.

On one particular investigation, Angela has a chilling encounter with a screaming mannequin that's not Kim Cattrall and starts to realize that maybe this ghost stuff might be real after all. A bloody nose and another encounter with a spirit at her school confirms her belief, so she informs brother Jackson that she's done busting ghosts because it doesn't make her feel good. Meanwhile, shifty Jackson is in deep shit and in debt to some devious characters.

Desperate for cash, he begs Angela to do just one more swindle. This new case comes from the mysterious Ms. Green, an elderly owner of a huge mansion that is bedeviled by the spirits of little girls who were murdered by her psychotic son (Fulton) decades prior. They were her foster children whom she took in and now wrecked with guilt, she seeks solace and an end to the torment of these tragic events. She also needs a Kleenex.

Angela who learns from her grandfather (Cosmo) that her mother also had the ability to see and communicate with ghosts which may have manifested by guilt from ripping off so many innocent people and contributed to her untimely death.  Angela eventually agrees to help Jackson and the team travels to Green's remote home where they soon discover faking evidence may not be necessary.

Although Angela sees the little girls everywhere, nothing is caught on film, leading Green to suspect that Jackson's crew are not legit.  Meanwhile, suspicions rise amongst the crooked investigators over Green's true motive in calling them to her home. As the night goes on, everyone encounters the ghosts as the 60s novelty tune Beep Beep echoes creepily throughout the halls. Somebody call Dr. Demento!

The cute little specters who look like they've dived into the cherry pie seek vengeance for their early demise and the team is attacked one after the other.  They rush to escape only to be stopped by Green and her very alive son who have sinister plans for our conniving scammers.

Cornered and left to the malevolent (aha!) and sadistic thirst of Ma and Junior Green, Angela and the gang have to fight their way out. And after long in denial over her powers, Angela is forced to use them to get her and her friends out of this torture mansion alive, even if it means making a deal with the dead.


I’ll admit that I’m not very good at describing actors and their approach to performance and sorely lack the ability or qualifications to critique or wax poetic on the fine art of acting.  All I can comment is how they make me feel and what they make me think about when I watch them play pretend up there on the big screen. And I can say this for sure, Florence Pugh has never failed to make me like her.  From the first time I saw her in Fighting with My Family to her heroic turn in Black Widow to the exercise in tedium Don’t Worry Darling to her full glory in Oppenheimer, she has never disappointed.  To say nothing about her folk horror turn in Midsommar!  Despite the breadth of genres she has worked, she appears both down to earth yet inaccessible, and I’m not talking about her looks, sashay, or superhero landings. She’s someone you could sit down and tell fart jokes over a beer and nachos and later attend a hoity toity celebrity cotillon with living fart jokes.  Her natural acting qualities and unique and endearing personality evoke the same way I felt about Jennifer Lawrence before she started acting like a phony goof at award shows and faking pratfalls like a footballer and making an awful X-Men movie.  But FloPu just…sigh… 

Goddamn it, I just spent a paragraph admitting to my Florence Pugh crush. Oh well. 

This is all to say that Pugh carries this well-shot and tautly told tale of ghosts, grift, and guilt with a fine supporting cast and some decent jump scares. Her aura of soon-to-attain-stardom is evident in every shot and the rest of the cast including classy film veteran Imrie can only try to keep up.  Lloyd-Hughes is completely unlikable as the shady and selfish Jackson up until the heartbreaking end which I won't spoil here.  What's missing is the ghostlyness of it all, for lack of another better made-up word. The little girl spirits are seen here as solid beings and not suffering horrifying gossamer phantoms or the unseen threat they should be and as a result true scares are few. Nevertheless, director Olaf de Fleur crafts a economical story while retaining an air of mystery and builds the tension effectively with the resources at hand. 

Malevolent is a slow-burning but commendable ghostly thriller and its running time, story pace, and opportunity to gaze upon the wonder of Ms. Pugh would make for a relaxing comedown after a truly scary movie in your Halloween night marathon.

As of 10/5/23, Malevolent is streaming on Netflix

Wednesday, October 4, 2023




Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Paul Henreid, James Earl Jones, Ned Beatty, the kitchen sink, and a roster of talent more stacked than my last Tinder rejection.  

More details here



Father Lamont (Burton) is an exorcist who may or may not officially work with the Vatican to travel around the world saving kiddies from that nasty old Satan and his many minions. Unfortunately, his efforts, which includes sweating and looking nervous, go sideways and he loses one said kiddie.  Whoops!

After this latest failure, Lamont is summoned by the Pope (Henreid), not to discuss losing a gal to Ol' Scratch but to investigate the death of Father Merrin (von Sydow) who passed away during Regan MacNeil's (Blair) exorcism in Washington, DC years ago. Suspicion has been raised that the child-possessing demon Pazuzu may still be lurking in the real world, remaining a threat to the dollar droppers in the coin basket every Sunday. 

Meanwhile, Regan now lives in New York independently from her mother, attends musical theater school, and sees therapist Dr. Tuskin (Fletcher) at a clinic for the young and physically challenged, special needs children, and the former tormented by the hoary hosts of Hell. Regan is quickly approaching adulthood and is blossoming into a beauty, and honestly she can trickle down my economics anytime. 

Tuskin experiments with hypnosis technology in the hopes of unlocking Regan's lost memories of her possession which piques the interest of Lamont who arrives at the clinic and wants in on the fun. 

But things go haywire yet again when the experiment unleashes all-too real illusions of Merrin's encounter with Pazuzu-possessed Regan, the truth behind Merrin's death, and scenes from a better movie.

Lamont suspects that Regan could be the key to finding and eradicating Pazuzu's influence and recommends continuing Tuskin's treatment, though Tuskin herself remains skeptical.  A side effect of the therapy is also Regan's incessant Calvin Klein-inspired dreams.

Unfortunately, distrust and turmoil disrupts the proceedings and hinders Lamont's investigation. He then decides to literally and metaphorically venture to unknown territory to unravel the mystery of Pazuzu's power. He arrives in an African and/or Middle Eastern location searching for one of Pazuzu's prior and also failed possessions, a person or spirit known as Kokumo (Jones). Cue the Beach Boys here. 

Lamont discovers that there may be a link between rampant clouds of locusts attacking the area and the demonic influence of Pazuzu who may be in fact the source of the plagues. His search for the surviving boy Kokumo unravels the horrors of these attacks and the will of faith against evil. Or maybe they have some really good Raid. Lamont begins to hallucinate recklessly and is afflicted by delusions. Or maybe he had some really good hash

Lamont finally stumbles upon the lair of Kokumo in a cave and proceeds to hear his own pursuit of eradicating evil, erasing doubt from his mind on the power of belief, or the advice to not take any film role to make a mortgage payment. 

Lamont awakes from this strange string of weirdness and encounters the real Kokumo - Dr. Kokumo as a matter of fact - who is an entomologist who studies locusts and has discovered a way to control them by genetically engineering a "Good Locust" that influences the behavior of the other ones. Finally getting the author's message, Lamont travels back to Washington to the site of Regan's possession with Regan herself tagging along. 

There they confront a duplicate of possessed Regan controlled by Pazuzu for some reason and all shit breaks loose and somehow it all makes sense.

But very much like the greatest insect hero Mothra, a plague of "good" locusts arrives and goes all J-6 on Washington, DC and that demonic brat with the cute name. 

In the end, when all the crispy insect wings, half-eaten scenery, and bottles of bourbon are left strewn all over DC, it's curtains for Pazuzu!

Or is it???

(Yes, it is.)


If you know me IRL, you know that the original Exorcist is the one movie that has haunted and terrified the living piss out of me for decades. I was too young to watch it in theaters during its theatrical run so it wasn’t until the movie’s heavily edited TV version aired that I experienced just the tip of the trauma it would afford me as a kid. I would lay awake in my bed wrecked by worry, but not about whether or not I would get that Snoopy Good Grief Glider for X-mas, or whether Nana Tremendo’s albondigas would make my pants squishy, or whether Jaclyn Smith would prefer a church wedding over eloping to Vegas.  Naw, man, my big worry was whether Mama Tremendo would be able to afford to bring in an exorcist to help avert the inevitable consuming of my soul by El Diablo. Those were some sweat-soaked nights, my friends. And after watching the full unedited version on video later, things got worse.

To this day, the late, great William Friedkin’s demonic epic echoes vividly in my brain whenever I wake up in the middle of night lost in fright having imagined faint but harsh whispers of Mercedes McCambridge uttering “Your Mother sews socks in heck!”, “What’s a Weebles Marina, you moron?” and “Whatever it is you are doing, you are doing it wrong”. I did not dare own a copy of the film until very recently and I think it’s somewhere in my home still sealed, un-played, and probably lying under a pile of crucifixes. Friedkin’s film is a reminder that though I may have become jaded by all the horror films I see now, there is still one that will make me squirm, shudder, and fatly weep despite the passing years.  The Exorcist is a monumental piece of cinema that elevated the horror genre to the Academy Awards and critical acclaim, impacted the cultural psyche with that haunting score and vivid terrifying imagery, and widened the path to dare future horrific works to keep up with the scariest film ever made.

So why in the hell does The Exorcist II: The Heretic exist?  Good question. Consumer demand? Money grab? Capturing the zeitgeist? Coke bill? I have no specific answers, but I will say this: am I ready to declare that this generally despised film considered to be among the worst sequels in movie history is tragically underrated? To put it mildly, FUCK NO, but with some exceptions.  What we have here is a complete 180 degree turn from sophisticated terror and a study of faith to a ponderously stylistic psychic archeological mystery that blows up like a Burger King bathroom in Hell. The production is stacked with talent from director John Boorman (Deliverance), cinematographer William Fraker (Bullitt), master film composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), returning stars from the first movie Blair, Winn, and von Sydow, screen legend Burton, Academy Award winner Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), and cameos from the great James Earl Jones and Ned Beatty. Plus Boorman brought in writer and frequent collaborator of his more stellar works Rospo Pallenberg, perhaps the greatest real fake name of all time.

But in the end, all this immense potential churned out a confusing, stiff to the point of amateur, and overly ambitious 117-minute spectacular fail. Blair is cute as the nearing adulthood Regan but her bubble headed, never fully explained psychosis muddies the story. Burton appears fully committed and because he's Richard Burton he commands his every onscreen moments of nonsense. The normally outstanding Fletcher is unbelievably bad, shambling from scene to scene like a soap opera zombie. Winn returns as Blair's assistant and shouty confidant who gets a fiery bum deal in the end. Morricone's ethereal score cannot mesh with the mess on screen. Fraker's imagery may have looked great on the big screen forty years ago but every digital and DVD copy of this film I've seen is grainy, dark, and is as pleasant to look at as (Insert obligatory pea soup reference here). Although the third act is menace to all that is decent, the movie is nearly saved by the always dependable Jones who briefly classes up the joint.  Oddly and most frustratingly, Father Karras (Jason Miller) from the original film is never discussed or mentioned despite that his actions saved Regan in end. But - aha! - that's another story for the next installment in the franchise. 

A hugely scandalous and/or sad story may lie behind this production, one too long or boring to reprint here.  A more compelling story could have evolved out of what was attempted as there are some interesting ideas at work that expand the notion of faith in the modern world and myth versus science. But whatever happened behind the curtain certainly killed that subtext with a spray of holy water.  The Exorcist II is so bad it's avant garde. It is a repudiation of the squirms, shudders, and tears that the great horror movies deliver. It's someone's murky memory of a movie recalled after waking from a Richard Burtonesque three-day bender. And it could have been something better had they listened to Ms. McCambridge's raspy volcanic voice whisper "Do better" in the middle of the night. 

As far as your Halloween marathon, I completely do not recommend watching this one. Not a single scare to be found unless frustration, boredom, and confusion makes you shit your pants.

As of 10/4/23, The Exorcist II: The Heretic is streaming on Max