“Night Flight” is perhaps the scariest and most effectively ambient of the thirteen tracks offered by Ennio Morricone on the soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. It moves slowly, echoing beautifully thin strings and pads beneath an atmosphere that evolves into full-on soundscape, incorporating the various “post-exotica” elements with which many of the album’s other songs are befit: There comes the whip cracks and babbling, the moans, chanting, and simple skin-drum sequences. It builds over five long minutes into an orgiastic climax, finally including hints of the film’s coda, sounding much at its denouement like the filmic satanic cult of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), preparing to defile and ravage. This track is interrupted in its playlist sequence by “Interrupted Melody”, a tune elsewhere examined in this series, followed by the closing song, “Exorcism”, a 58-second queue in which George Crumb’s threnody “Night of the Electric Insects” is channeled for the last time on the soundtrack. There is a flute sequence, a woman’s aria, bells do chime. It concludes The Heretic and tells us something: This is not over.
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Save for “Magic and Ecstasy”, “Seduction and Magic” is perhaps the most Goblin-esque of the thirteen tracks on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. It is, however, conversely so. Much like the legendary giallo prog-rockers’ “Sighs” from their 1977 release Suspiria (released the same year as The Heretic), in “Seduction and Magic” there is a thematic cue coupled with voice, sighs and creepy whispers of sorts. Each piece is more functional than it is musical; each track itself is not simply foley, rather each is an ambient process outputted from the composer’s more tuneful efforts. These amalgamate selections seem common to giallo films, always included as if the listener, having never watched the film before listening to its soundtrack, would never be able to perceive its full mood without being given two-minutes or less of what an outside perceiver might consider haunted house music. And I don’t mean witch house.
The second inclusion of this sort of cue comes by way of “Dark Revelation”, the more interesting of the two, including both the soundtrack’s coda and a strange vocal ambiance that could remain at home on the next Burial album. “Dark Revelation” is less post-exotica and more traditional film score, but its a reusable piece that transcends much of the other coda-based pieces in The Heretic. Like a quick rendition of the Jaws theme played in under two minutes and with significant emphasis on mood, tempo, and dynamic control, “Dark Revelation” is simply a taste of more busied soundtrack inclusions like “Great Bird in the Sky” or even “Magic and Ecstasy”.
Reedy and sustained, “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird of the Sky” both make for Ennio Morricone’s most focused coda-laden contributions to his soundtrack for the ill-received 1977 horror psychedelia sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. Guided by bells, tensely shuffling percussion, and a soft lone voice representative of Regan, the film’s possessed protagonist of sorts, “Rite of Magic” first delivers the film’s coda on the 1977 soundtrack—second in the film to “Great Bird of the Sky”, which plays only 20 minutes into the film and at its first dramatic point, a moment when Richard Burton, sweaty and orange-faced as ever, is handed a portrait of himself illustrated by a not-so-little Linda Blair as Regan.
“Flames… Flames. They’re getting bigger. We’ve got to put the fire out”, he says. Morricone’s piece begins and the weird aria starts amid buzzing strings like George Crumb’s Black Angels gone soft.
“Take it easy. It’s probably an after-effect of the hypnosis”, Louise Fletcher tells Burton.
They’ve been experimenting with a remote-viewing device, and when they do find the fire, somewhere in a basement and to the tune of silence—Morricone’s piece drops out after the soloist’s first few bars, Fletcher sees Burton standing before it, crowned with flames, and the film gets a little sillier. But the coda returns in a scene almost an hour later, emerging again with Burton in Ethiopia, praying to God in, remotely speaking to Blair who lays in bed, possessed and sweating like Burton, speaking to him: “Call me. Call me. Call me by my dream name.”
Mimicking the naming convention for Morricone’s opening track on the Exorcist II soundtrack, and irrespective of the 1955 American film of the same name, Ennio Morricone’s “Interrupted Melody (Suspended Sound)” is a simple, almost processional piece, a highlight of the composer’s encapsulate work on the soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. Considerate enough to run beneath the title sequence of a less conceptual film, its motif is repeated once more on the album, playing more slowly and with the earnest of a Disney film in “Interrupted Melody”.
Morricone’s naming convention, “(Suspended Sound)”—and, for “Regan’s Theme”, “(Floating Sound)”—seem to be implications of each respective piece’s dynamic timbre. “(Suspended Sound)” plays at a higher velocity, more within earshot of the listener. Its strings and slow piano are recorded and compressed at an almost pop-music level, sounding more literal and akin to something more fit for television. “Interrupted Melody” is cathartic and a logical antonymous motif to the shadow of Mike Oldefield’s “Tubular Bells” from the series’ first film.
It’s difficult to mention anything musically related to The Exorcist series without first recalling prog-meister Mike Oldfield and what his theme from “Tubular Bells” did for the series’ antecedent entry. Oldfield’s excerpt did something honest for the horror genre; it delivered a clear mood, one clear of the tense strings that mired many soundtracks then to-date. Ennio Morricone, prolific trafficker in beautifully sleazy lounge and synth-funky giallo soundtracks in the 1970s, did something different for the Exorcist series’ second entry: he brought us clever smatterings of Les Baxter; he brought us surf-jazz funk, he brought us atonal clusters. The man brought everything he could bring.
Morricone’s name is not quite a household one, but his music, through its influence, reuse, or appearance in Grammy-winning soundtracks, is instantly recallable and nearly a filmic entity unto itself. Recently, Morricone’s music was sourced for use in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and other films. And just over ten years after Morricone’s landmark work on The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and the rest of the Dollars trilogy, he wrote music for John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), featuring a vinyl-only release often shadowed by Morricone’s thin margin of spaghetti western work.