There are very few horror movies that are classics but The Exorcist by director William Friedkin based on the William Peter Blatty horror novel is one. I distinctly remember the hullabaloo when The Exorcist came out. It was in part caused by religious nuts going nuts over the topic of the movie but it was mostly caused by everybody saying "You have to see The Exorcist it is the scariest, creepiest, weirdest movie ever made." Though nothing will replace seeing this movie on a big screen, watching The Exorcist The Version You've Never Seen Before on a big screen TV helps the heebie jeebies come out again from The Complete Anthology box set
The Exorcist The Version You've Never Seen is just as creepy and scary as the original if not more. It is ten minutes longer than the original and includes a couple more scenes involving doctors trying to find out what is wrong and a very short scene where Regan -the possessed girl-crawls around like a spider. Of course, what makes this horror movie so effective is how innocent and cute Linda Blair is.
If you question the importance of The Exorcist, just look at how many horror movies then copied its elements. Formulas stolen from this movie include the opening scene with the discovery of some creepy looking object by a bunch of Arab-looking diggers at an archeological site run by some madman like archeologist before cutting to a nice, safe family scene in the United States.
Not that The Exorcist does not follow the basic rules of a horror movie. Someone must open a door for evil to enter and Regan does that by playing with the Ouija board. The horror does not come in one fell swoop, there are more and more hints that something is going on. The one thing that does not quite make sense is why Regan's mother brings her to the doctor for a whole bunch of tests the first time around. The Exorcist is also the first movie where Ritalin is prescribed to a possessed child.
This movie is also the story of Father Damien, a priest whose faith is severely tested by his personal problems and is basically having a burn out. The scene where he visits his mother in a hospital's public ward is just an indication of the trouble to come. In many ways, it is his own descent into hell and part of the genius of director William Friedkin. Friedkin also notches up the horror a bit with very medically accurate portrayal of the brain scan Regan undergoes before he cranks it up past the red zone a few minutes later.
The movie boasts a stellar cast though, amazingly, this is Jason Miller's (Father Damien) first. Ellen Burstyn is excellent as the overwhelmed mother and Lee J. Cobb very good as the detective investigating the strange death of the director of the movie the mother is starring in. Strangely enough the actor playing the director, Jack McGowran, died the same year The Exorcist was released.
The Exorcist The Version You've Never Seen features a very interesting -and that is rare-director's commentary. Friedkin really gives a play by play of what the movie, the scenes mean and what the characters are thinking. This director's commentary is the best I have heard so far.
The Exorcist The Complete Anthology includes, in addition to this version of the movie. The Exorcist includes special features such as a documentary on the making of the movie, a commentary track by novel and screenplay author William Peter Blatty, and the original ending of the movie. Exorcist II The Heretic (panned by everybody), Exorcist III and the two prequels, Exorcist The Beginning and Dominion Prequel to the Exorcist.
Look for a prequel to the two prequels coming to a DVD shelf near you?