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Very disappointing box set
on 25 October 2015
The Exorcist is one of my absolute favourite movies, both the original version and the 2001 re-cut version (also included in this set). I also love Exorcist 3, and the prequels are somewhat entertaining. Exorcist II: The Heretic is an absolute train wreck of a movie but an interesting piece of cinematic history at least. When I saw that the entire series was coming to Blu-Ray I had to pre-order, if not just to add Exorcist III to my Blu-Ray collection (having previously owned the original film on Blu-Ray and Exorcist III on DVD). Hell, as much of a silly mess as The Heretic was, it'd be interesting to see those aerial shots of Africa in HD.
The box set does indeed contain Blu-Ray prints of all of the films, the two versions of the original film being the exact two-disk set we got a little while back of the original film, and Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion are decent HD transfers which I assume are the Blu-Ray disks previously released in the US only, but, much to my disappointment, Exorcist II and III appear to be straight up DVD transfers. They're blurry, murky, noisy (not cool HD 'film-grain', just noise) and lacking decent special features. If you already had the DVDs of the two sequels, there is absolutely nothing to be gained here, which is a real shame considering what an under-appreciated gem Exorcist III is. I can understand why nobody would bother creating a new HD transfer of Exorcist II, but the third film deserved an upscaling at the very least.
The box arrived crushed, I had to re-shape it, and the disks all fell straight out the moment I moved it. Yep, it's one of those flimsy folding cardboard sets which I thought were on their way out, and a bad one at that. It just has small slots cut in the card which you slot the disks into, no proper holders, so the disks all just slip right out if you don't hold it upright. The disks themselves are plain silver with the film titles printed on in a nasty baby blue (they didn't even reprint the disk designs from the first movie, even though the content is identical). The disks are oddly slightly translucent, I dunno if that comes from cheap materials or if that's just how a Blu-Ray disk looks when it's not been printed on or what but it's interesting. On top of all this, its dimensions are slightly off, so if you have a nice, tidy Blu-Ray collection, this one won't fit right, having a thinner spine but wider sides than other Blu-Rays - that's a nitpick but I know what some collectors are like!
I've added some photos so you can see the flimsy card and cheap design.
I'll very briefly go over the films themselves, though.
- The Exorcist, the movie you really don't need me to tell you anything about, has a gorgeous HD transfer, as it was before, it's like owning the original film reel, absolutely beautiful. 2001 re-edit is the same.
- Exorcist II: The Heretic, famously a disaster of a movie, the "Blu-Ray" is a straight up DVD transfer, no improvement at all. Not even slight. Sure, it's one of the stupidest sequels you'll ever see, but it's amazing what an HD transfer can bring out in a film's artistic direction sometimes, I was looking forward to seeing some of the nuances in John Boorman's visuals in higher resolution (and admittedly I wanted to see the grown-up Linda Blair in HD, I have something of a crush!)
- Exorcist III, a hell of a film, with a cult following, let down only by studio meddling (and the infamy of Exorcist II), deserves better. Like Exorcist II, you might as well be watching the DVD. There's no perceptible difference at all here.
- Exorcist: The Beginning is pretty fun, it's corny but as a distraction it's a decent horror film, with some great nods to the original. The HD transfer is adequate; it's better than a DVD at least, but the film itself has a strange look, a lot of soft-focus shots, crappy matte shots and what appears to be airbrushing (did they do that in 2004?)
- Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist is an alternate version of Exorcist: The Beginning, not a followup to it. In fact it's the original version of The Beginning, which the studio didn't like and thus had a different director re-write and re-shoot the whole thing. It's much less dramatic, and lacking in pretty much any scares, but it's a much more intelligent and interesting film than The Beginning. Its HD transfer is similar, but it has always had some very cheesy visual effects. I'm not sure if the cheesy effects are the result of the film being canned and re-shot, or if they are effects which were added later on no budget in order to get it released. Either way, they look even cheesier in HD, but it's still amazing that a studio actually released the original version of this.
So all in all a disappointing box set. In general I'd say it's only truly worth owning an Exorcist box set in order to have Exorcist III, but here it's such a poor transfer that it offers no improvement over the DVD. Also, it's a crime that the studio would release, in its entirety, the director's original vision for Exorcist: The Beginning (as Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) but not a Director's Cut of Exorcist III (or "Legion: Sequel to The Exorcist"?), famously brought down by similar studio meddling and reshoots.
Overall, unless you're a big fan of The Beginning/Dominion, you'd do better to just pick up the original film on Blu-Ray (it does contain both versions), if you're a fan of Exorcist III, you're not missing out by just having the DVD, and the same goes if you are (for some reason) a fan of Exorcist II. I'm considering returning it myself.