Blatty will always be best known for writing 'The Exorcist' but this is his far more ambitious project. The film is a flawed but fascinating work that touches on the meaning of faith, psychosis and sacrifice in its tale of a makeshift madhouse. The lead turns by Keach and Wilson are quite good as is supporting turns by Ed Flanders and Neville Brand. Chock full of quotable dialogue and a barroom brawl for the ages.
What starts off like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" if it had been directed by Guy Maddin, morphs into a "Catch-22"-esque tragi-comedy, before a bleak but redemptive and transcendent final third, A serious study of faith in a seemingly insane and godless age, it is a more mature film than the head-spinning antics of "The Exorcist" -and I feel it's a better one, too.
An utterly bizarre film with so much to say. Bursting with fantastic images and ideas. It's a clear influence on a certain Scorcese film but to say which one would give away something in the film. Particularly great is Jason Miller, who played Father Karras in The Exorcist. Thematically an infinitely better follow up to The Exorcist than the infamous sequel The Heretic.
I kept waiting for whatever it was that made me love this so much 20 something years ago... All I found was the affected weirdness of some high school drama club and an overly literal messianic treatment of issues of faith and redemption. Certainly it must've made waves in the mainstream for its genre-meld and overwrought whimsy... Not much in it for me today. 2.5
3.5. A real oddity, compelling for its bizarre tone & interest in theological/moral dilemmas, even though I feel it's ultimately undone by a weak resolution. Almost Tarkovskyish in places & overall a very intriguing piece of writing (& acting & directing) with moments of great depth. Plus a Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reference, bikers used for parabolic purposes, & Jason Miller attempting to stage Hamlet w/ dogs.
I wish this film were more well known than it actually is. It is a unique blend of religion, black comedy, morality with superb acting and excellent acting from Keach and scott wilson. Not an easy film to define (which genre is it?) which may have been among the reasons it was not a success
Where is the intersection between PTSD and Christianity? This is an odd war film, perhaps more psychological than any other one that emerged from the period. The US involvement in the war is viewed as essentially the battle for man's soul after the atrocities committed. Dense, strange, I went in expecting 'The Exorcist' and got 'Shutter Island' by way of Beckett. A little too long in the dark, I must revisit.