It is reported that the audiences lost it the moment the pragmatic doctor (Louise Fletcher) introduced the hypnotic "synchronizer" used to extract dreams (the movie camera, in other words), though fans of the first movie may have been already at sea as early as the segue from the Mexican healer engulfed in flames (a Jodorowskian vision) to Linda Blair tap-dancing to "The Lullaby of Broadway" (which is, as anybody who's watched Gold Diggers of 1935 knows, about death). People wanted shocks, and John Boorman did himself no favors by offering complex art instead, an abstruse portrait of a quivering consciousness ("a locust mind, if you will"). The original's demon has its origins examined in a wondrous sequence (Max Von Sydow in dust-hued flashbacks, a possessed traveling shot capped by James Earl Jones decked in grand insectoid robes and leopard's roar) which ranks with the Murnau who spread the world in Faust, and has proven to be exceedingly influential (The Evil Dead, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, There Will Be Blood). Religion versus science is the point of departure for a commodious structure that's gradually elucidated as a glittering riposte to the original's earthbound viciousness, shaped as a return to the Georgetown bedroom where the young heroine earlier braved abuse from ancient evil and directorial gloating. Richard Burton marshals all his sodden theatricality (and, when faced by a demonic temptress, memories of The Night of the Iguana) as the priest lost "in the valley of darkness," Kitty Winn returns for a climactic self-immolation that destroys and purifies her ("your hunger for belief was your truth"). A work of flights and connections, reflections and superimpositions, a swarm of golden locusts descending upon African fields while Blair sleepwalks through her mirrored Manhattan penthouse. Martin Scorsese, who knows how to watch a movie, saw the brilliance in it; contemporary reviewers, who don't, didn't. Cinematography by William A. Fraker. With Paul Henreid, and Ned Beatty.
--- Fernando F. Croce