on 12 March 2005
Seeing the Exorcist again now after nearly 30 years, I'm struck by how it stands out from its genre. Friedkin had already shown himself to be a master of characterisation and ambiguity with the extraordinary French Connection, and the Exorcist is definitely as good. The scenes between Karras and his mother are beautifully and subtly scripted, as are J Lee Cobb's scenes. Maybe the shock value of the possession scenes has faded a bit over the years, but the encephalogram scene is still incredibly powerful and affecting, showing the terrible ordeal Regan has to go through. Friedkin's commentary track is a bit disappointing, being little more than a step outline, but it is nonetheless interesting to hear his very personal confession of faith.
Horror movies (and genre movies in general) are fascinating when they step outside of the boundaries set by their genre, and the Exorcist - probably because it was written by the novelist himself - shows a depth of characterisation that few horror movies ever reach or even attempt to. Compared to the rash of stereotyped and unimaginative exorcism movies in recent years, the Exorcist has lost none of its power and stands head and shoulders above the rest of the crop. You don't have to like the horror genre to appreciate and be moved by Regan's suffering and her mother's desperation, and, for me at least, this is what the movie is about.
on 29 September 2013
I was torn between purchasing a version of the Blu-ray that was £17.99 and this version £6.50. Reason being, the latter did not state whether it had the extended director's cut version along with all of the extras. However I chose to purchase this version [ASIN: B00BMVCYYG].
Now that I own this copy, I'm extremely satisfied and thought I'd do those who would like to know what's on this Blu-ray, a favour and list the details of what's on this version as it may prove helpful to some. I won't review the film as I don't think it needs one - it's The Exorcist and an excellent transfer considering original film stock.
Region Free + UV Copy
Extended Director's Cut (2000 Version) 132 minutes
Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist (Documentary)
The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now (Documentary)
Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist (Documentary)
Commentary by Director William Friedkin
Original Theatrical Cut (1973 Version) 122 minutes
Commentary by Director William Friedkin
Commentary by Producer/Writer William Peter Blatty
Feature Length 1998 Documentary - The Fer of God: The Making of The Exorcist
Interview Gallery Covering the Topics: The Original Cut, The Final Reckoning and Stairway to Heaven
on 12 July 2006
Without question The Exorcist has to be the definitive horror movie, if you only get to watch one horror film in your whole life make sure this is it.
I've seen alot of horror over the years but I can honestly say that only The Exorcist has everything, a chilling story based on true life events (the real facts of which are yet to be fully uncovered), stomach turning special effects, brilliant acting and of course features the ultimate villain: The Devil.
The reason I titled this review "Perfect Horror" is because that's what this movie is. Even if you don't look at The Exorcist as a horror movie but instead study the film for what it really is you'll inevitably find that this is movie perfection. The casting is spot on, personally I can't imagine anybody but Linda Blair playing the possessed character of Reagan. All of the characters are well rounded and interesting, Father Karras (played by Jason Miller) being one of the more memorable as he battles with his own personal torment resulting from the death of his mother. The makeup and special effects are excellent and very cleverly done, making the young girl's gruelling ordeal all the more believable.
The Exorcist has always been hailed as being the most disturbing and terrifying movie ever made, and I would probably have to agree. The film deals with some very sensitive subject matter that even today is rarely touched upon, the thought alone of a defenseless young girl being possessed by Satan is a difficult matter to deal with - but when the grim reality is thrust in your face with all the subtlety of a freight train, its not pretty.
Although this movie was made over three decades ago, it still remains as shocking and frightening as ever. I would highly recommend that you take the time to watch The Exorcist, even if you're not a fan of horror you will still find this to be a thought-provoking and deeply moving piece of movie history.
on 9 April 2009
We were struck by a last-minute urge to watch The Exorcist with friends we were visiting in their remote house: candle-lit communal spook-out with the windy dark outside, you know the sort of thing. As they had no copy and this was a Sunday afternoon, we had to "do a Bullitt" to get to a store due to close in a nearby town. Two of us waited in the getaway vehicle whilst the other two raced into the shop to fingers-crossed acquire. This was the version they emerged with - actually, we got the reduced-price anthology whilst they went for this updated cut - so our viewing also had an element of surprise to enjoy, in terms of any new material and the hopefully improved quality in this later version. We planned to relax and absorb the revised version and maybe compare with the original cut (which we all reckoned we remembered pretty vividly in any case) from the anthology afterwards: nice mix of cinephile connoisseurship and shared horror-thrill evening.
First of all, then, let's note that the revised cut still delivers all the power of the original. Not easy to disagree entirely with the "Greatest Film Ever Made" tag on the box, in many ways. But you probably all know the immense virtues of the original film, so let's concentrate on this latest edition. The print is absolutely beautiful; indeed, having seen this first in a 70s cinema, with the technology of the time, and subsequently on video-tape and the earlier DVD transfers, I have to say that the visuals here are breathtaking all over again and even truer to what must have been the original cinematography - the Iraq scenes are gorgeous and the later domestic and urban traumata play out with new vivacity on this disk.
The sound, meanwhile, is skilfully mixed to surround, so that scenes like Karras in the subway and his disturbing visit to his hospitalised mother (with those shrieks and murmurs from the other women) are especially effective - note those sounds are brought back later into Reagan's chilled bedroom when the demon impersonates the priest's mother: spine-chilling. There's also one particularly good bit of jump-out-of-seat intrusion from the rear speakers, when the demon blasts out Merrin's name from upstairs just after he arrives.
On the downside, there are a few too many unnecessary music cues brought in. These are never especially jarring in context, just superfluous - so we shouldn't be too put off by them. Also the extra "subliminal" flashes tend more towards distraction than enhancement of what is already a sphincter-relaxing essay in suspense. This stuff only really serves to remind us what a fabulous job Friedkin originally did in staying in the "authentic, character-driven-thriller, documentary" mode he'd made his own with French Connection for this genre-busting "horror film" (indeed, I'd certainly go with "best horror film ever made" on that basis alone). So, in many ways, it's the absence of "spooky" cliché that helped to make this film such a stunner: and these extra little images aren't necessary, mere novelty... but, again, nothing to trouble us too much.
The Spider-Walk is back, of course; but in a form truncated from the one many of us will have seen from documentaries and such. This is probably the best solution to the "double-climax" problem - Dennings' death followed by the extended "spider/snake" appearance of the daughter - of Ellen Burstyn having to react in depth to both. Here, we get a sudden shock and quick cut away that actually reminds us how "modern" the movie is in terms of cutting and narrative agility. So this bit is just past "take it or leave it" and into "take it."
Overall, then: this is the version I'd probably play with film-loving friends - as above. The clincher for me is the reinstatement of the gentle scene at the end between detective and priest as the latter turns from the fatal stairs, a favourite element of the novel and one which does make sense (despite Friedkin's known wish to "leave it to the audience" after the action). The scene works beyond simply defusing the tension - it allows the patterned repetition from earlier of a great bit of tenderly sarcastic shtick around film-buffery ("Othello? Who's in it?" / "Ophelia, Debbie Reynolds!" / "...I've seen it" etc.). Look, anything that puts the wonderful Lee J. Cobb on screen for a little longer is all right by me!
on 20 April 2006
I did not find this scary, well, in fact I lie, I did at the age of seven where I accidentally watched five minutes with my grandmother, before she realised what it was! But now, watching it fully and being able to appreciate its brilliance, this film makes you think long and hard, especially as I am not atheist. And entirely by the way, watching this film if you have any belief in God, then it is best not to take it seriously as it is terrifying. I am not decided about religion and I watched it not as a scary film, but a tragedy. Regan, played by Linda Blair (who is alive and well if anyone has heard the rumour she killed herself after filming it) and an array of other cast, bring the ideas behind the Devil to life. If you laugh through this film I think you are denying your true understanding of it as in no way is it funny, it is horrific to see how the Devil forces the girl to some controversial things, still controversial today, come to that. Being 16, I still have a lot left to understand about how the world works, but it is still enough to make you realise how precious life is, and I assume when you are older to respect the film even more. It is one of those films that sticks with you for a long time, one that you will never forget, and if you are in a thinking mood you can go to it to question the motives of living things.
The music, Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' makes a recurring rendition in your mind as the eeriness of the story evolves. The most shocking scene is where the priest enters the room and sees his sick mother in the place where Regan should be; the clever change in colour makes it all the more startling. Many refer to the more famous parts, like the 360-degree turn of the head, but its fame makes it less scary. Another upsetting scenes is where Regan has not been possessed fully, but is being flung about on her bed as she screams for her mother, this is emotive and therefore scary as it is not so far from reality. I wont give away any more parts of the film, as you must enjoy it for yourself.
It is a masterpiece, beautiful in idea and visually, if ever you get the chance to watch it then watch it, the trouble is, today's society doesn't appreciate it as apparently gore is scary and all the horrors that come out today are filled with it, so if you have an appreciation for adrenaline, then go to the oldies.
on 16 September 2015
A lot of reviewers judge this movie by present day standards of horror films and criticize it for not being the blood fest modern slasher movies are. Modern audiences equate horror with blood guts and gore, the higher the body count, the more inventive the manner of slaughter the better the movie. Well this predates that butchers shop mentality. This film played on ones ideas of hell and religion, something we seam to have lost now. The special effects were gross yes, but it wasn't that that freaked the audiences out back then. It was the idea that there just might be a Hell, that Hell might really exist. This was the first mass media movie to explore that idea in away that was believable and when coupled with the urban legend of the time that it was a true story gave it some credibility. Religion was taken more serious then to the extent Churches campaigned to have this band. Which just add to it's credibility. The effect worked far more effectively than any slasher could today. It worked so well that cinemas stopped showing it because they claimed the building was being haunted and possessed because of the film. Weekly there was reports, it the papers and on the TV, of people committing suicide after seeing the film. Samaritans uses to stand outside the cinemas handing out helpline leaflets to people who might be affected, St Johns Ambulance first aiders were stationed in the foyer for people overcome by it. There was talk of an outright band of the movie. In some states of America it was and some local councils in this country wouldn't give it a licence. Not for any censorship of content but for the disruptive and dangerous effect it was having on society. But now we have less of a fear of religion, we have become desensitised to it's effects from all the imitations of it that have been produced since. today we can watch it and wonder what all the fuss was about and that is because so many have tried to reproduce the effect we have got jaded to it's impact and familiarity as bread contempt for it's kind. But this was the one that started it. Oh there had been devil movies before it, but, by comparison, they had been fairy stories set in mansions on the moors or castles in far of lands with larger than life heroic characters. This brought the devil into a urban home of normal everyday people, and employed doctors and priest who were people we might pass every day in the street. It was the normality of it, and that the people were normal, they could be our neighbours they could be us; that the devil wasn't just for fantastical lands or religious tomes. For a while back in 73/74 it really had people scared far more than any movie ever as before or since and that is why when ever there is a pop pole of horror films this always rates number one.
'the Exorcist' is probably one of the most talked about films of
all time, certainly one of the most controversial.
it will be seen by a brand-new audience over and over again down
the years, with the advances in cinema will it still have the same
profound effect ?
I would like to tell you a little of my first memories of going to
see the movie back in the early 70's.
outside the cinema a group of people, probably a religious group
handing out leaflets asking us not to go in.
the film started quite slowly, a few happenings in the local church
and a growing number of noises in the loft, I think some of the audience
thought that was as bad as it was going to get, however when it became more
intense you could have heard a pin drop.
medics patrolled the isle's in case it became too much for some.
after the film had finished it had troubled my partner so much I had to
take her onto a club to try and ease the effect the film had had on her.
such was the films impact at that time, we'd never seen anything like it
like many films of that time which were indeed pushing the boundaries of
what was acceptable at that time, the film was banned for several years.
I think the impact was greater because of the subject.. the possession--
of a young girl.
in the extended version we have the crab/spider walk down the stairs, it
was considered too bizarre for the theatrical version, in my opinion the
film was more scary without it, but that's me.
whilst I suspect the advances in cinema enjoyed today will lessen the impact
of the film, I still feel there is enough to shock even today's hi-tec audiences.
of course they did make a few sequences to the film, they all fell well short
of the brilliant and intense presentation of this effort.
if you are about to see it for the first time.......enjoy ?
The Exorcist - The Version You've Never Seen is also the version you probably shouldn't have, adding almost nothing to a fine original but running time, some clumsy additional `subliminal' images digitally grafted on with all the subtlety of a 1980s New Romantic music video and a poor new sound mix that adds music cues and sound effects far less effective than the original mix.
Most of the restored footage is taken up by an extended additional medical tests sequence that feels a little out of place since Regan hasn't been acting particularly oddly at that point in the film, as well as the odd bit of padding in the run-up to the exorcism and a redundant scene of Karras listening to a tape recording of a pre-possession Regan. Worst of the new additions by far is the infamous spider walk, a scene abandoned during shooting and here accounting for two rather laughable shots that take the film too far too soon. Other additions are somewhat more esoteric - a brief pretitle shot of the Georgetown house and street, Father Dyer keeping the St Christopher at the end after Chris hands it back and the disastrous addition of a screeching airplane sound effect in the segue from Iraq to Georgetown that makes you think Pazuzu must have travelled to Washington by Pan-Am (although this does echo Lalo Schifrin's far more effective rejected scoring for the sequence). What's most curious is what's still missing: despite including the weak Hollywood ending with Kinderman and Father Dyer, the exchange with Chris over whether she still doesn't believe in God is gone. The big bone of contention between Blatty and Friedkin, the idea that if you believe in the Devil because of all the terrible things that happen, you must also believe in a God even if he, unlike the horned one, doesn't advertise, seems the only justification for extending the section at all, but as if to spite the writer it's still pointedly removed. Only the brief discussion about the Devil's motives for possessing Regan in a break in the exorcism feels like it adds any substance to the proceedings (although it could be said the possession is more disturbingly arbitrary if left unexplained), the rest being motivated purely by the need for a marketing hook to secure a US reissue.
The end result is a film that feels much longer and slower but still eventually grips. Aside from the overlength, the strengths and weaknesses are much the same: the at times almost documentary style of film-making grounds the events in a recognisable real world, the shock effects are fairly sparingly used and only after a long build-up, the characters well-drawn and their despair convincing: the real horror in the film doesn't reside in its special effects or horrific set pieces, but in a mother's anguish over being powerless to help her child.
Few extras on the extended edition, especially compared to previous editions - another one of Friedkin's audio descriptions masquerading as an audio commentary ("and now she's walking through the door... and now she,'s turning the handle..."), 2 radio spots, 4 TV spots and a couple of trailers - but the widescreen transfer is good.
on 22 January 2004
Ellen Burstyn is Chris MacNeil, a successful actress living in a swanky house in Washington, D.C. with her 12 year old daughter Reagan (Linda Blair). They have the perfect mother/daughter relationship, and everything is hunky dory until one evening when Chris throws a party for a group of her friends. At that moment, strange things begin to happen. Reagan makes a disturbing comment at the party. Beds start shaking. Weird noises come from upstairs in the attic. And heads, literally, start turning. In what happens to be a mother's worst nightmare, it is revealed that Reagan is possessed by the demon Pazuzu who can be cast out only through the ritual of an exorcism. I've watched "The Exorcist" at many times during my life, and it never loses its potency as one of the best movies of all time. What made it a hit was not its fright factor or its then-groundbreaking special effects. It became a critical and commercial success because it vividly illustrated the battle between good and evil unlike any other movie before or since. It pressed spiritual buttons and made some people ponder the validity and depth of their own faith. If you've never been scared before in your life, you probably haven't seen this film (or its parodies on "Saturday Night Live" or "Scary Movie"). Director William Friedkin does wonders as he brings to life William Peter Blatty's novel and extracts solid performances from Burstyn, as well as Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller as Father Merrin and Father Karras respectively. "The Exorcist" was re-released with additional footage and special effects, and while they don't hurt the movie, they do take away some of its effectiveness and dramatic subtlety. The version to get is the 25th Anniversary edition, which has the movie in its pure and original form, as well as an excellent documentary with interviews from the cast and filmmakers. But regardless of which version you get, one thing is sure: you won't be the same person after you watch "The Exorcist." It's still a hellraiser even after 30 years.
on 27 June 2008
35 years on and this film still has the power to shock. Often panned by critics, this story of good vs. evil is gripping from beginning to end, if one can bare to persist with the graphic depictions of vomit, bile, urine, and the foul language and hardcore blasphemy coming from the mouth of a 12 year old girl complete with vulgar acts performed with a crucifix! These depictions are far from subtle and the viewing experience can hardly be described as comfortable.
The main character, a priest (Jason Miller) is faced with a huge test of faith, one that he admits that he may be loosing partway through the film. Of course, the most important thing to note is that good triumphs over evil, although unfortunately at the sacrifice of our main character. Max von Sydow (the exorcist), performs his role to the level of perfection that can be seen in all his performances. The young Linda Blair is dynamic and does not always receive the credit she deserves due to the fact that it is not always her that we see playing Regan. However, when she is on-screen, she skilfully convinces us that this is not a girl who is simply mentally disturbed, but a girl truly possessed by an evil force.
Not a pleasant film and despised by many, but it has to be said that this Oscar-winner was one of the most important landmarks in cinema history.