Extended Director's Cut, Director's Cut
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Exorcist, The: Extended Director's Cut (DVD)
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.]]>
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The key element of this hallmark is that 'The Exorcist' is so convincingly real. Reinventing horror, it relies on revealing the nature of a possessed demon inside of its innocent young host, Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). The way the drama unfolds is not unlike an investigation, complete with medical exams, psychiatry, and a police detective. All of the inquiry gives the whole horror a plausible presentation. For who would not be struck by the contrast between the skepticism of the modern world--including from Catholic priest, Damien Karras (Jason Miller)--in all its attempts to explain an irrational phenomena? The demonic revelation sneaks up on its main players as well as the audience with a tension that only increases over time. Needless to say, it doesn't rely a whole lot on the element of surprise with terrible malevolent beings jumping out at once. As expertly as the sound and special effects are rendered, there is little for the audience to guess at what times terrible things will happen. The presence of the demon inside of Regan makes its menace present to the audience as well. We can feel the full force of the ordeal.
'The Exorcist' takes place mainly on the Georgetown campus where Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is lead actress for a film she describes as "Walt Disney meets Ho Chi Min". She has three helpers, including two German immigrants, and her director, Burke Dennings, provides an important part of the plot's direction. Her loose connections with the priests at Georgetown provide some needed solidarity. It is mostly Chris's story, and her struggle to find some solution to her daughter's developing problem, but it is also the story of two priests (including, the exorcist, Fr. Merrin [Max Von Sydow]) whose determination and struggles give more meaning to the main plot and how it remarkably develops.
'The Exorcist' was directed skillfully by William Friedkin who has a host of classics under his directing belt, including 'The French Connection'. Based on William Peter Blatty's modern bestseller and a screenplay adapted by him, 'The Exorcist' is still a masterpiece of modern horror meant to make one look for a reality beyond the senses.
(The "version you've never seen before" doesn't do much to help or harm. A couple of added scenes provide some poignancy; some of it is extraneous, but none of it really ruins the effect.)
However, my younger friend who watched it with me found it too slow for about two thirds of the movie. For that reason I am giving it four instead of five stars. Perhaps I am biased because I have loved this movie ever since I first saw it. Perhaps he is too immature to appreciate it. I can't be sure.
Now to the effects. Remember that this film is decades old and special effects have grown leaps and bounds. Here we get all of the scenes with Reagan totally cleaned up and let me tell you none of the frightening aspect is gone. The only thing I noticed was how the blood was obviously red paint. Otherwise this film is in no way dated and the blu ray version in fact raises it to another level. I was amazed at how my perceptioon of the film changed due to this amazing version. I think it is a huge gift that both the original theatrical version and the later extended director's cut are presented here in blu ray glory. I prefer the theatrical version so that is the version I am speaking of. I think that The Exorcist often gets misconstrued being described as a pure horror film. It is so much more than this. It is true that film makers have been trying to duplicate the effect of this film ever since. From Scream, Halloween and Friday the 13 directors are trying to reach the same effect. But by doing this they are missing the whole point.
Viewing the film this time was the first time I saw how obviously it is a film of good versus evil and each viewer will have a different perception. The Catholic Church plays a huge part and obviously represents the good and it works so well. The viewer must see the Church as a religious presence and the nurturing it represented before all the tragic issues that would later arise within the church. The priests here are good men, some troubled but all wanting to do their best. Regan is perfectly displayed as an innocent without rubbing it in the viewers face. From the beginning scene it is obvious that evil is being shown and as it wraps itself inside Regan it is terrifying. The special effects still work for they are used to add to the story and meaning of the film. They are not meant to be gratuituous. In a world with such trouble this films clearly shows that there is good and evil. The viewer is left with much to think about after viewing this superb blu ray version.
I know people have double and triple dipped on The Exorcist but I cannot praise the blu ray release highly enough. And it is handsomely presented in a hardback booklet with 38 pages of history on the film inside. And there are special effects galore. There is a new 3 part documentary on the film's production and legacy plus a feature length 1998 documentary on the making of the film with so much more. The Exorcist is indeed a horror film but it is so much more. It is one of the best movies made of any genre and deserves to be in any film collectors library. And this blu ray version does immense justice to a classic. Highly recommended.