The Exorcist is one of the few movies the genuinely scares me, no matter how many times I watch it. I’m among that group of people that believes that William Friedkin’s masterpiece is among the scariest of all time. I’ll even go so far as to admit that while I have watched the film in the dark, I much prefer to see it in the light of day. Of course, as someone who has watched countless films, I know this is the mark of a truly genre changing project; I’m sure most of us know at least one person who refuse to sit through The Exorcist to this day.
William Peter Blatty based the screenplay on his own best-selling novel, which in turn found inspiration from a newspaper article about a real-life exorcism. Under the direction of William Friedkin, the films account of young Regan’s demonic possession is likely a lot scarier than the actual experience, as a work of fiction should be. But it’s that element of “what if” that makes the movie more plausible, and thus, more alarming.
Regan, played by Linda Blair, begins the film as a seemingly normal kid. For unknown reasons she becomes possessed, not only by subordinate demons but by the Devil himself. At first, she just acts strangely; then she starts uttering weird noises and making her bed shake. Before long she is disgorging green slime and rotating her head 180 degrees. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn), takes her to the best doctors in the area, but they are puzzled. At last resort, they suggest an exorcism. Understandably, the mother is discontented by the thought, but willing to do whatever it takes to save her daughter.
She calls a local Catholic priest at Georgetown University, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller); a psychologist who doesn’t believe in exorcisms. Karras, who is questioning his own faith, soon becomes convinced of the devil’s power when Regan spits green slime in his face, starts speaking in tongues, and materializes words on her stomach. To assist the good Father, the Church brings in Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), who apparently has lots of experience at exorcisms. Together the two priests exorcise the demon, but not without a terrible price.
The film is downright creepy from start to finish. Nearly every shot is dark and shrouded in mystery, ending with a terrifying final scene. The whole story is more terrifying because of the characters involved. Mom is just your average everyday mom, and the possessed one is a little girl. I mean, how are you supposed to really get your head around that?
What are the differences in the Extended Director’s Cut and the one that originally played in movie theaters? First, the filmmakers distribute the ten minutes-plus of added scenes a few minutes at a time here and there throughout the movie. While the scenes don’t change much, they do provide a bit more insight into the character of Father Karras, offer more on the “nervous disorder” diagnosis for Regan, and give the film a slightly different ending. Probably the most important addition is the famous “spider-walking” scene, a five-second segment that has Regan walking down a flight of stairs upside-down. The scene was in Blatty’s novel and in the initial screenplay, but director Friedkin had at first thought it came too early in the story and was just “too much,” thus, omitting it. You get to be the judge, since both versions of the movie are available in this package.
While not quite reference quality, it goes without saying that the 4K presentations of both versions of the film are distinctly better than any previous version, especially in terms of detail. The daytime scenes in Georgetown look crisp throughout. The indoor footage is well lit when needed and appropriately dark on other occasions. Every small issue that plagued the Blu-ray release—occasional crush and so-so contrast—has been improved. Color distribution remains a highlight, particularly greens and reds.
The Dolby Atmos TrueHD audio mix is immersive in every way. Bass is strong, as are the panning between all channels and dialogue separation. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English SDH subtitles are available.
Along with a digital copy, the following extras are included:
DISC 1: THEATRICAL CUT
- Introduction by Director William Friedkin (2:11)
- Audio Commentary with Director William Friedkin
- Audio Commentary with Writer William Peter Blatty (with special sound effects)
DISC 2: EXTENDED DIRECTOR’S CUT
- Audio Commentary with Director William Friedkin (different from theatrical commentary)
SaleThe Exorcist 50th Anniversary Edition - Theatrical & Extended Director's Cut (4K Ultra HD + Digital)
- William Friedkin directs one of the most horrifying movies ever made
- When a charming 12-year-old girl takes on the characteristics and voices of others, doctors say there is nothing they can do
- As people begin to die, the girl's mother realizes her daughter has been possessed by the devil--and that her daughter's only possible hope lies with two priests and the ancient rite of demonic exorcism