I’ve done a lot of these versus articles, but I don’t think I’ve ever done one concerning which movie is actually worse.
I did, of course, write about whether Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter was the better “bad” video game movie. But, as somebody who loves “so-bad-they’re-good” films, like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, I didn’t mean bad as in “bad.” I meant bad as in good, because I genuinely enjoy all of those movies, even if I know they’re not great.
But, Exorcist II: The Heretic, and Highlander II: The Quickening, are not so-bad-they’re-good movies. They’re just bad. Like, really, really bad. But, which one is worse? Well, let’s discuss…
The Quality Of The Movie That Preceded It
All second movies have a movie that preceded it, but which of these two original movies was more impactful?
Exorcist II: The Heretic’s Movie That Preceded It
The Exorcist really doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s one of the only horror movies to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and it’s definitely the best of the 5 Exorcist movies that we have at the time being.
Basically, it’s the story of a girl who gets possessed by a demon, and the two Catholic priests who have to save her. Revolutionary at the time for just how graphic it was, The Exorcist may not be the best horror movie of all time, but it’s definitely near the tippy top.
Highlander II: The Quickening’s Movie That Preceded It
Some may argue (myself included), that there really is only one truly great Highlander movie, and that’s the original. When I ranked all of the Highlander films, I noted how Highlander: The Source, may in fact be the worst Highlander movie, but that film didn’t follow one truly great film. It followed three bad or mediocre movies, instead. The first Highlander, though, is pretty awesome.
It’s about an immortal (played by Christopher Lambert) who is in a centuries old war with other immortals. This first movie set the groundwork for an entire series, but it has mostly had a cult following since the very beginning. So, no nominations for Best Picture here.
The Quality Of The Movie That Preceded It - Winner: The Exorcist II: The Heretic
While it still seems like there can only be one good Highlander movie, the heights that Exorcist II: The Heretic fell from after the original being nominated for Best Picture feels a lot more staggering. So, The Exorcist II: The Heretic is the “winner” in being a bigger disappointment of a sequel.
Every bad movie needs a bad plot. So, which bad movie has the worse one?
Exorcist II: The Heretic’s Plot
Okay… so Exorcist II: The Heretic is a really strange follow-up. First of all, there really isn’t any exorcizing involved. Instead, we’re back with Regan (Linda Blair), who’s grown up and going to a sort of therapy for her trauma from the first movie, which she doesn’t remember.
She’s hooked up to this device, that allows people to share wavelengths (I think), and a new priest, played by Richard Burton, is trying to exonerate Father Merrin from the first movie, as the church has him under heresy charges since it’s trying to claim that the devil doesn’t exist.
This new priest mentally goes back in the past through Regan’s shared wavelengths, and we find out that the demon that possessed Regan in the first movie, Pazuzu, possessed another person in the past, and there are these locusts, and psychic powers, and… I’m getting a headache from all this nonsense. The point is, the plot is a complete mess, and a far cry from the beautiful simplicity of the first movie.
Highlander II: The Quickening’s Plot
My colleague, Dirk Libbey, recently wrote about how Highlander 2 got the “Snyder Cut” treatment with the Renegade Cut, and yeah, that version is better since it doesn’t concern ALIENS. That’s right, Highlander II basically said, screw it to everything awesome in the first movie about immortals, and made our heroes aliens from a planet called Zeist. They end up getting banished to Earth where they have to have their battles here.
There’s also this whole subplot involving an artificial ozone called the Shield, which is being controlled by a corporation. Honestly, it’s just as messy as Exorcist II: The Heretic, but at least with Exorcist II, they didn’t have an entire TV series that retconned the lore like they did with Highlander. That takes a whole different kind of panic.
The Plot Winner - Highlander II: The Quickening
Keep in mind, when I say “winner,” I mean “loser.” Highlander II’s plot is SO bad that it not only got a TV series to clean up its loose narrative threads, but also an alternate cut just to wash away the stink. Now that’s bad.
All bad movies have bad characters that guide the narrative. So, which characters are worse?
Exorcist II: The Heretic’s Characters
Linda Blair returns as Regan, and we get clips of Max von Sydow from the original, and Kitty Wyn as Sharon Spencer, but the rest of the cast is new, and not much better. Our protagonist is Richard Burton’s character, Father Lamont, and he’s pretty bland. The most interesting new character is played by James Earl Jones, where he spends some of it as a scientist, and other moments as a witch doctor in a locust suit. It’s… interesting to say the very least.
Highlander II: The Quickening’s Characters
We get Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery back as Connor MacLeod, and Juan Sanchez-Villalobos Ramirez, respectively, but they’ve been re-contextualized in this movie as aliens, so not as cool. We then have Michael Ironside as the main villain, and all the Shield stuff, and I really don’t want to go down this road again. All of the characters are bland, or obnoxious, and they all suck. At least Exorcist II: The Heretic has James Earl Jones in a locust suit. We don’t get anything fun like that here.
The Characters Winner - Highlander II: The Quickening
Some of the characters are at least interesting in Exorcist II: The Heretic with their ridiculousness. We don’t get any of that fun in Highlander II: The Quickening.
The Way It Led Into The Sequel
All bad movies try to right the ship with sequels. So, which sequel tried harder to right the ship?
Exorcist II: The Heretic’s Way It Led Into The Sequel
The Exorcist III totally ignores the events of Exorcist II: The Heretic, and really only brings back one character from the original in Father Karras, played by Jason Miller. Honestly, The Exorcist III totally feels separated from The Exorcist series as a whole, and probably should have just been called something else.
Directed and written by the original novel’s author, William Peter Blatty, and based on his novel, Legion, you really get a sense that the movie wants to just pretend like Exorcist II: The Heretic just didn’t exist at all, which is probably for the best.
Highlander II: The Quickening’s Way It Led Into The Sequel
Similar to The Exorcist III, Highlander III: The Sorcerer ignores the existence of its predecessor. But, unlike The Exorcist III, Highlander III seems to want to get back to basics, making for an uninteresting, but ultimately, safe sequel after the mess that was Highlander II: The Quickening. In that way, I kind of give it props, since it was fine enough that it ultimately led into arguably Highlander’s second best movie, Highlander: Endgame.
The Way It Led Into Its Sequel Winner - Exorcist II: The Heretic
Sure, Highlander III: The Sorcerer is kind of bland, but Highlander II had been bad in a way that its sequel managed to course correct the series, whereas Exorcist II: The Heretic had been so irredeemably bad, that the series kind of lost its identity with its sequel.
All bad movies leave a stink, but which sequel left the bigger one on the franchise?
Exorcist II: The Heretic’s Legacy
We’re getting The Exorcist: Believer in the not too distant future, and a lot of people likely don’t even know of Exorcist II: The Heretic’s existence. So, did it totally destroy the series? Nope, not at all. If anything, it remains an interesting curiosity with horror fans.
Highlander II: The Quickening’s Legacy
We’re supposed to be getting a Highlander reboot with Henry Cavill, but given that Highlander is already pretty niche, its few (sorry!) fans will never forget Highlander II: The Quickening. Even if this Highlander reboot is awesome, it doesn’t have the benefit of having a premise like The Exorcist, so that you could make any movie in the franchise, and the others can be forgotten. Highlander II: The Quickening will likely always be remembered as the little sequel that could… almost destroy a franchise.
The Legacy Winner: Highlander II: The Quickening
Highlander II sucks, and it will always suck. It is a blight on the franchise, and it will likely never be forgotten amongst its fans, while Exorcist II: The Heretic has been forgotten by pretty much everybody.
The Overall Winner: Highlander II: The Quickening
It doesn’t help that Highlander’s future looks a lot less promising than The Exorcist’s. In every way, Highlander II: The Quickening is the worse sequel since its stink has lingered longer.
But, what do you think? Have you seen either movie? For more news on The Exorcist and Highlander, be sure to swing around here often!