Back in the late 1980's I came into possession of The Exorcist on VHS. My local video store had been paid a visit by the BBFC (or some such organisation) and had been told to dispose of a number of uncertified titles, The Exorcist was one of those video's. I saved up for two weeks and bought the video, and for a short time became everyones best friend. Technically The Exorcist had been unavailable in the UK since 1984, so having a video that nobody was able to see made me very popular. Of course it also had a negative effect too, I was not prepared to let The Exorcist out of my sight, so whoever wanted to see it, had to have me present too. I honestly believed that my repeated viewing of the movie would alienate me for life. To a degree it did, from 1989 to 2012 I never watched the film, I was so over it.
Few movies that become part of a franchise manage to keep a sensible head about them Halloween, Friday The 13th, Saw, Phantasm and Scanners all got a little bit tongue in cheek as the story continued, while Scream started tongue in cheek. The Exorcist started with a dark first chapter, and too some degree got far darker with each movie, the reason behind it presumably is that each sequel wanted to create the controversy and scandal of the first.
The original Exorcist released 40 years ago looks into the home of a Hollywood actress played by Ellen Burstyn. Her daughter Regan while looking around in the basement finds a Ouija board and uses it to communicate with a character called Captain Howdy. Unknowingly Regan has released an ancient demon unto a modern day world. At the same time a local priest called Damien is battling a series of demons of the mind, and is bought into the house to exorcise the demon.
The Exorcist remains forty years on a fairly intimidating movie, it runs though several taboos and creates a slow burning tale of terror. It features a number of startling scenes, from a rather bloody crucifix masturbation, to the slow demise of a young innocent girl. It's musical score is disturbing and created somehow powerful by the addition of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. It's shot in a very matter of fact way, a little like watching a fly on the wall documentary, you feel like you are really looking in on the events like an intruder. It's agenda of swipes at the church mean that the film remains controversial t this very day.
Exorcist II: The Heretic
One could argue that things did get a little tongue in cheek in 1977, but it's only because of the preposterousness of what happened. Warner keen to cash in on The Exorcist's success decided upon a sequel, but with the exception of a couple of the acting cast could get nobody involved in the process. So warner assigned Deliverance director John Boorman to breathe life into the project, the result was nothing like anyone expected.
Regan now a young woman has dreams of flying, under counselling with Dr Gene Tuskin she tries to get too the bottom of past events and the ones bothering her in the present. Things get out of control when a priest played by Richard Burton is sent in by the church to investigate a death related to the events of Regan's exorcism.
Exorcist II is a very hit and miss event, it essentially has little to do with it's predecessor, and many consider it to be quite silly. It does have silly moments, but in other elements it's a fairly dark affair. The battle of good and evil is a little more bloody, the soundtrack is utterly compelling but often in stark contrast with what is happening on the screen. Exorcist II in many people's books is one of the most offensive sequels of all time, but view it as an individual entity and you may find much to enjoy.
Novelist William Peter Blatty was one of the offended individuals who took great offence to Exorcist II. The Exorcist author really was displeased with what had happened, and immediately set to work on a proper sequel to the original. Unfortunately the box-office flop that was Exorcist II (although initially it was a big draw for audiences, till the news got out) inspired few to invest in another Exorcist project. It took until 1990 for Blatty's vision, which he also directed to hit the big screen.
George C. Scott replaced Lee J. Cobb as Lt. Kinderman a cop nearing retirement who suddenly finds himself embroiled in the most terrifying serial killer case of any cops career. When the killer hit's close to home Kinderman cannot get his head round the nature of the killing. Then as if matters were not dark enough, someone who everyone believed died the best part of twenty years ago returns.
The above image is probably one of the most striking and shocking images from Exorcist III, it comes literally out of nowhere, at the end of what is otherwise a overly long scene, it's the ultimate rewind image you will ever see, a real "what the fuck?" moment.
Exorcist III is a really dark chapter in the series it's very violent in it's storyline, with a determined killer that you never really get too see. While it clearly ties more in with the first movie, it is more of a murder drama than a film about demons, exorcism, and the possessed. George C. Scott's portrayal of Kinderman is amazing, with a cutting edge comment for everything.
Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist
Director Paul Schrader took a dark view of the Exorcist's roots back in 2004, creating a twisting tale of horrific creatures and the devil in this wartime drama. Despondent with the church Father Merrin heads off to Africa to investigate the discovery of a church that pre-dates the birth of Christianity. But rather than finding a church, he finds a tomb, a place of terror, a warning to those who do not believe.
When Morgan Creek (financiers of the project) saw the rushes of Dominion they were horrified, but not in a good way. They felt that Dominion lacked the essence of the other movies and rather shockingly for the first time in motion picture history ordered a complete restart to the project. 98% complete Dominion had literally completed, and all that was needed was some special effects, when it scrapped.
Thankfully one year later in 2005, Morgan Creek allowed Dominion to be seen by the public, prior to releasing it some very rushed special effects were thrown in. Ironically much of the public that has seen Dominion preferred it to what followed.
Exorcist: The Beginning
Having been cast from the temple, director Schrader gave way to Renny Harlin who took over at the helm. The story is essentially the same but with a little more blood and gore, being the second cash investment cuts were made, but the majority of the cast returned, some to cary out more or less identical scenes.
While much more polished and without a doubt more pleasing to the producers of the movie, this offering failed to hit the right note with the public, many of whom felt there were many dropped story threads.
You can purchase various DVD releases of The Exorcist and box sets from Amazon by clicking the links below.
The Exorcist Trailer
Exorcist II: The Heretic Trailer
Exorcist III Trailer
Exorcist: Dominion Trailer
Exorcist: The Beginning Trailer