MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Hollywood actress and divorced mother Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is in Georgetown, filming her latest film. However, her attention is pulled from the film when her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) shows signs of mysterious and scary behavior. After a barrage of medical tests that show no abnormality, Chris makes a desperate plea to the Catholic church to allow an exorcism of her daughter. With the help of a local priest (Jason Miller), experience exorcist Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) arrives to help cast the demon out of Regan’s body.
WHAT I LIKED
The cover to the newly released Blu-ray book of “The Exorcist” declares this film to be “The Scariest Film of All Time.” And I can’t argue. Even 37 years after its original release, “The Exorcist” is a brilliantly constructed, chilling tale of demonic possession and medical torture. It’s a slow burn from the beginning with moments that will make you cringe and shudder.
My first experience with “The Exorcist” came when I was only two years old during its initial release. My father had taken me to a kids movie… some cartoon I don’t even remember. We were in the theater bathroom afterwards, and while he was washing his hands, he heard a loud crash. My dad scrambled to see if it was me that caused it, only to discover a grown man who had come out of “The Exorcist” had fainted and knocked over the trash can.
Now, I’m not passing out when I see this movie, but I understand why this happened, especially to someone in an audience in 1973. Sure, the movie is a work of fiction, but the relatively subdued shooting style and the eerily realistic special effects makes the movie hold up even by today’s standards.
I have loved this film ever since I first saw it in high school. It has never been equaled by its three sequels (one of which is okay but the other two are downright awful). The acting is superb, from the highly experienced Max Von Sydow to the newcomer Linda Blair. The almost non-existent soundtrack (because it was rejected by director William Friedkin) is chilling and punctuated perfectly by the off-kilter “Tubular Bells” piece. And the pacing of the film, while seemingly slow to a younger audience, is perfect for the tone of the film.
It may have lost some of its luster with the wacky 70s clothing and the antiquated technical conventions, but “The Exorcist” still remains a favorite of mine. Even the remastered and extended director’s cut doesn’t cause me any problems. This version of the film has some very subtle changes which enhance the film, as well as some deleted scenes that fit very well back into the big picture.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Nothing. Such a fantastic classic movie, I have no complaints.
The new Blu-ray book comes with both versions of the film (the extended director’s cut and the original theatrical version) in high definition, which look great and sound great. The theatrical disc includes previously released features, including two commentaries, one with director William Friedkin and the other with producer/screenwriter William Peter Blatty. There’s also an introduction by Friedkin, an interview gallery, the original ending and a feature-length documentary from 1998 called “The Fear of God: The Making of the Exorcist.”
The director’s cut disc includes commentary by Friedkin, plus a three-part documentary about the making of the film, its production and its legacy. The three parts include “Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist,” “The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now” and “Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist.”
Particularly interesting is how the anti-Friedkin sentiment is toned down in the new documentaries. Where Friedkin was portrayed as a bit of an ass in the original documentaries, he’s presented with a much warmer feel in the new versions. I’m not accusing anyone of revisionist history, but it’s neat to see how emotions have leveled out over the past couple decades.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who want the shit scared out of them.