One of the most feared films in American cinematic history is getting the digital and Hi-Def treatment, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. It also happens to be one of the most influential and groundbreaking films ever made for the horror genre. As it so happens, the film is also closing in on its 40th anniversary and – even today – there are people who are simply afraid to sit through it. Probably the best mark a horror film could hope to achieve. That being said, those people simply do not know what they are missing.
Essentially, the story of The Exorcist, based on the classic novel by William Peter Blatty, revolves around the multiple-demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl named Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and the fight for the recovery of her soul at the hands of Father Lankester Merrin (Max Von Sydow) and Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller). With such spiritual figures at play against the many agents of the devil, one would think that this film is purely a work of Old Testament horror. That’s not the case here at all.
This might be the first supernatural whodunit of the modern era. It’s pacing suggests a character study – which it kind of is with regard to its handling of Father Karras – but its subject, when the two opposing forces meet, plays with weighty matters of lost innocence and lost faith that tousle the idea of the character study with a smattering of religious-like realms. Yet, The Exorcist never alters in its steep climb to the ultimate pay-of it promises between Good vs. Evil.
With a haunting score by Steve Boddacker and Jack Nitzsche, The Exorcist practically drips with saturated atmosphere. The print, freshly remastered for release in theatres (one day only), retains some of the original grain of the film, making it a real cinematic treat to see all over again. It is still twisted in tone and still controversially disturbing with its unholy legion of curse words (dubbed by Mercedes McCambridge), pea-soup filth and crotch-ramming crucifixations that no 12-year-old girl has the right to use with such…command and legitimate understanding. Ultimately, The Exorcist is about the recovery of faith when faced with such ungodliness.
Dazzlingly dark at times and poignant with an ending that suggests a burgeoning hope, The Exorcist is one hell of a scary movie that – in spite of its age - tingles the five senses without the “gotcha” endings that plague modern horror stories. In fact, even the film’s original head-spinning effects hold up to modern day gloss and sheen, giving The Exorcist a realistic flare due to their practical and their physical properties.
The Exorcist is bigger and better than you actually think it is. It’s worth a re-visit, too. This is a true classic of The Golden Age of American Cinema.
Available on Blu-ray/DVD and On-demand - October 5, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Single disc (1 DVD)
Synopsis: A visiting actress in Washington, D.C., notices dramatic and dangerous changes in the behavior and physical make-up of her 12-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, a young priest at nearby Georgetown University begins to doubt his faith while dealing with his mother's terminal sickness. And, book-ending the story, a frail, elderly priest recognizes the necessity for a show-down with an old demonic enemy.
Presented with a fully fleshed-out story and digital transfer to the public this week is the version of the movie released way back in 2000. It was billed then as the “Version You’ve Never Seen” and included an extended opening in Iraq, the fantastically creepy spider-walk scene, moments added to the ending, and some other scenes – shocking and revealing – added to the original; a total of 11-minutes. The end result was not disappointing. In fact, that release was one of Warner Bros. best handled re-releases to date. It makes sense then that that version is the “official” version nowadays and the only one being offered to own.