“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.
“Night Flight” and “Exorcism” are closely related, despite their separation on the album. “Night Flight” is very much the quintessential Heretic track. It performs more cleverly as a theme to the film, sounding with much more aesthetic, much more traditional in the sense of score. Were this album to surmised, “Night Flight” would be its sole explanation. All of this, I suppose, for the simple reason that the track is not truncated in anyway—it plays longer than most of its ilk; and it includes all of the thematic elements one might aurally associated with the film: the darkness, mania, slow build, and downright strangeness that is John Boorman’s film. Consciously, it isn’t representative of Morricone’s other contributions to the rest of the giallo-influenced soundtrack. However, its counterpart (which I’m suggesting) “Exorcism”, is enough of an outro and enough of a simple piece to be paired with “Night Flight” to complete Morricone’s otherwise progressive and flirtatiously horror-centric pieces that the two songs might equate to a single. They form the a- and b-sides to the 7” single that could have come from this soundtrack.
Now it would have been a short record, but the pair of song encapsulate the composer’s artistic purpose. Where he was commissioned to create something evident of the film’s elements, he was also bound artistically to create something interesting and representative. Tucked within the rest of his work for the film, Morricone’s nearly seven minutes of work in these songs defeat the rest of his score. Elongated, “Exorcism” might have worked as the film’s title sequence, recurring theme, and closing piece. Used sparingly in full and only when needed by part, “Night Flight” could have made for an entire album of exotica howling, atonal strings, and bars of beaten drum. Continuing with my fantastical recommendations for electronic music producers, were one to have access to the multi-tracks of “Night Flight” and “Exorcism”, the ultimate horror soundtrack could be composed. And this is what Morricone has left us with. Throughout his work, we find consistency. Broken down and microscopic, his scores are micro-scores and his micro-scores could be brilliant. The Exorcist II is not a brilliant film, and its soundtrack is not necessarily brilliant, but it does effectively execute its purpose, and it does so with art.