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Exorcist Ii The Heretic Ennio Morricone Main

Exorcist II: The Heretic Album Review

Written by Richie Corelli

Released by Jackpot Records

exorcist ii the heretic ennio morricone poster large

Composed by Ennio Morricone
1977
Released on April 1st, 2021

Review:

Ennio Morricone died on July 6th, 2020. In memoriam of the maestro, I’ve written reviews on four of his horror scores (I malamondo, What Have You Done to Solange?, Exorcist II: The Heretic, and The Thing, respectively). It’s a minuscule look at a mountainous career; a sliver of sound to represent Morricone and his expertise as a master horror-composer.

The third score I’m assessing is for the 1977 movie, Exorcist II: The Heretic. It is a soundtrack that was overlooked upon its initial release due to the crummy movie it supported. And this is music that deserves to be celebrated.

With a cast of talented actors, a brilliant screenplay, an impressive special effects crew, and a spine-tingling score, William Friedkin directed a supernatural masterpiece. Released in 1973, The Exorcist was a phenomenon. The movie was an instant hit and ticket sales went far beyond initial expectations. So it was no surprise when a sequel went into production. But while the original The Exorcist went on to become one of the all-time classics of contemporary horror, Exorcist II… did not.

Exorcist II: The Heretic came out on June 17th, 1977, to overwhelmingly negative reviews. This bloated, directionless sequel is built on a ridiculous script with wooden dialogue and a meandering plot. The story is nearly incomprehensible. The pacing is painful. The effects are awful. Exorcist II is a failure in all but one area: the music. Fortunately, this past March, Exorcist II: The Heretic was reissued on vinyl, giving fans an opportunity to revisit one of Morricone’s Hollywood horror gems.

The tracklist on the album is rearranged and does not reflect the chronology of the film. So the record begins with the ending, which is actually a great place to start. “Regan’s Theme (Finale)” drifts with sad elegance. Gentle vocals sing a sweet, wordless melody as they hover above a naked, acoustic guitar. A bed of strings massages the underside of the track until they shift to the front for the song’s final movement. There is something tender about this song. It’s melancholy, but soothing.

Pazuzu, the spirit in Exorcist II, is based on a demon from ancient Mesopotamian theology. Accordingly, Morricone infuses a slight Middle-Eastern influence into the second track, “Pazuzu (Theme from Exorcist II).” Complex polyrhythms chatter beneath lean, wiry lead instrumentation. Androgynous vocal chants fill the track with terror.

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Both “Regan’s Theme (Finale)” and “Pazuzu (Theme from Exorcist II)” feel dark. The reorganization of the tracklist gives the record a one-two punch where the first and the second song, which are so different in style but so similar in theme, set up a motif for the rest of the album. It’s a theme that is tightened by moments of reprised melody, which weave into other tracks throughout the score, and with a singular tonal ambiance, which holds steady for the entirety of the work.

So, from here, everything else falls into place. On “Interrupted Melody (Suspended Sound),” a violin cries with a lovely, vulnerable timbre. “Rite of Magic” is a patient build in force and atmosphere where a peaceful front-half grows to a more sinister backend. “Seduction and Magic” is a low tonal track backed by horrific, inaudible whispers.

“Magic & Ecstasy” is a standout. It reprises the “Pazuzu” chorus, but here, it blasts with an Italian horror prog-rock aesthetic. The approach is similar to what bands like Goblin and Libre were doing with their soundtracks that same year; slamming the listener with drum-pounding, head-nodding, guitar-rocking music. The groove catches from the first riff and doesn’t let up. Frantic keys support the reprisal of those Pansusu vocal chants, giving the track an evil, devilish flavor.

The score for Exorcist II: The Heretic is less than thirty minutes, so the final track, “Exorcism,” comes a little too quickly. But the short playtime doesn’t diminish the quality of the music. “Exorcism” brings the record to a close with one of the creepiest moments on the album. An atmospheric track, “Exorcism” stalks forward with eerie, high-pitch strings twittering beneath a lonely howling voice and sparse instrumental accompaniment. It ends with a fade, and when the record needle rides the label, its rhythmic scratching, a noise which is normally so innocuous, sounds unnerving because of the music that came before it.

Jackpot Records is a store in Portland, Oregon, that doubles as a record label. They specialize in reissues and are responsible for this release. It’s the first time Exorcist II: The Heretic has been issued on vinyl since its original 1977 run. Jackpot did a good job with it. The LP is fluorescent green and looks nice spinning on any turntable. It’s sourced from the original master tapes and pressed at Record Technology, Inc. for maximum fidelity. In other words; the wax sounds great.

The artwork is left as-is. This means that there is no gatefold, no liner notes. This might disappoint people who are looking for a new experience, but purists and those who want to embrace nostalgia should be content. The artwork is simple; a centered, high contrast, black-and-white headshot of actress Linda Blair takes most of the space. She is gazing forward, blank-faced, with empty eyes. Beneath her, in red, is the title. Below that, at the very bottom of the cover in a small white font, sits the maestro’s name: Music Composed and Conducted by Ennio Morricone.

While he was already an icon of Italian cinema by 1977, Morricone still hadn’t made much of a dent in the United States. Exorcist II: The Heretic was one of the first times he composed a big-budget, Hollywood feature. And while the movie itself comes up short, Morricone’s music does not. Of the four Morricone albums being reviewed for this series, Exorcist II is the most outwardly scary. The unearthly chanting, the cultish whispering, and the sinister strings are genuinely terrifying. With Exorcist II, it’s Morricone who sounds possessed. And the music is better for it.

Grades:

Music: Fourstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Cover
Buy Amazon Uk
Art: Twoandahalfstars
Physical Quality: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Richie Corelli
Staff Reviewer - USA
Richie isn’t ignoring you. He just can’t hear you over the music. He’s been plugged in to his headphones for decades, diving into the zine culture of the 90s, blogging relentlessly through the 00s and beyond. He knows more about certain bands than he knows about himself. His love of music is rivaled only by his love of horror. If it’s creepy and spooky, he’s into it.

Horror DNA sutures his two passions together, giving him a platform to analyze and express his feelings on horror scores, soundtracks and live performances. It’s a celebration of all that goes bump in the night.
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