Top positive review
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Great Value. You Get the Classic Original in 2 Versions Plus All of the Inferior Sequels/Prequels.
on October 11, 2013
For fans of the series, this is a great box set. It includes all of the films and the price is good. The set itself is worthy of 5 stars because it is complete. The films however vary in quality and the only one that is worthy of 5 stars is the original.
The Exorcist *****
Regan (Linda Blair), the sweet & lovable daughter of a famous actress (Ellen Burstyn) is suddenly struck down with an unknown cerebral disorder and her clueless doctor's are unable to determine what's causing her ailment. It becomes apparent that the poor child is possessed by an evil demon who is determined in destroying the poor child's soul. The monstrous entity takes total control of her body and transforms her from a sweet 12 year old into a violent, cussing, bile spewing creature with a bad temper and who likes to do bad things with holy relics. A young, troubled priest (Jason Miller) and an older, more experienced priest (Max Von Sydow) are called in to exorcise the demon. A highly original & disturbing film that makes the unbelievable subject of demonic possession believable. This classic film, when released back in 1973, was controversial. People in the audience reportedly screamed, fainted and vomited when presented with the film's grisly spectacle. Despite the passing of the years, "The Exorcist" remains engrossing and an effective thriller and time has done nothing to diminish its impact. The performances from the cast are excellent and many received Oscar nominations. Despite the material, they pull off their roles successfully, never resorting to over-acting and the characters are given an emotional depth that is rare in horror pictures, at least the horror films of today. You get 2 versions of the film here; the original release and the "Version You've Never Seen". I happen to like both but I do tend to lean towards the latter as the "Spider walk" scene is a favorite of mine and the added embellishments are great additions to the film.
Exorcist II: The Heretic **
A love it or hate it type of movie... actually, judging by the reviews, most people simply hate this film but I find it rather interesting. Not awful but definitely inferior to its predecessor and it doesn't even remotely resemble the original in style and tone; it's worth at least a view. Several years after her demonic episode, Regan MacNeil, who is living with Sharon (Kitty Winn) and under the care of a therapist (Louise Fletcher), tries to confront the evil that may still be living inside her with the help of Father Philip Lamont (Richard Burton). Lamont, a troubled priest who is investigating the mysterious death of Father Merrin, is confronted by the demon Pazuzu through one of Regan's visions, and is directed to the stone churches in Ethiopia, where decades prior, an exorcism was performed on a holy child. Linda Blair has commented that the script in its earlier incarnations was very good but was rewritten several times and the visually splendid mess it is today is the end result. I do not know if this is true but there are many issues with the "Heretic". One being the constant use of the demon's name, Pazuzu. If I remember correctly, the demon was briefly named in the original novel but not in Friedkin's film (although a Pazuzu statue is seen in certain shots despite the possessed Regan claiming she is the "Devil" to Father Karras) and I liked it better this way. Not knowing the demon or to think that Regan could have been possessed by Lucifer himself is indeed frightening. And let's be honest, Pazuzu may be a powerful, ancient deity with an interesting back-story (not included in the film) but the name itself sounds rather funny and it doesn't help that the whimsical name is repeated ad nauseum. Also the addition of that silly machine, the synchronizer, is just plain silly and the many scenes involving this laughable piece of hardware are made even more unbearable when seeing the main characters wear cheesy, plastic, glowing head-bands. All of that said, there is a lot in this film that makes it a worthy view. For starters, the special effects and cinematography are excellent and there are some visually stunning set pieces. The cast is decent overall with performances ranging from good to unbelievably bad. Surprisingly the one bad performance comes from veteran actor Richard Burton, who practically sleepwalks throughout the entire movie. "Exorcist 2" is definitely not for everyone. Those that cherish the original will most likely, religiously hate it. It is not perfect, but definitely not the worst movie ever made; I wouldn't even call it the worst sequel ever made, "Jaws: The Revenge" anyone?
Exorcist III *** 1/2
Although this sequel was not a major hit when released back in 1990, this film has developed quite the following. It is competing with the original which is a shame since that one is very hard to beat, however "Exorcist III" is above the other inferior sequels, with the exception of (maybe) Schrader's prequel. Despite some continuity issues, this film manages to get under your skin with its chilling atmosphere and psychological terror. Lieutenant William F. Kinderman (the late great George C. Scott) is investigating a series of gruesome murders that resemble the killings committed by "The Gemini", a killer who was executed in the electric chair. During his investigation, Kinderman discovers a mysterious patient in a psychiatric ward - Patient X in cell 11, who bears a striking resemblance to his good friend Father Karras, the fallen priest who was involved in the exorcism of Regan MacNeil 15 years prior and the day the Gemini was executed. There are moments in the film that are truly great and the performances are solid. The film drips with atmosphere and dread despite providing very minimal gore. A definite improvement over the "Heretic" and it remains, arguably the best sequel in the series. The film's biggest let-down however, is surprisingly, the exorcism scene; it was not needed but the film, up to that point, is deeply chilling despite its obvious continuity and pacing issues.
Exorcist: The Beginning **
Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) is summoned by a collector of rare antiquities and asked to find a mysterious statue of the demon Pazuzu in a poverty-stricken African village. Once there, Merrin participates in an archaeological excavation which unearths a Byzantine church. This mysterious temple dates back to a time before Christianity arrived to the region and evidence suggests that the perfectly preserved church was buried as soon as it was completed. Panic among the townspeople soon follow and evidence of a demonic force gives reason to suspect that something else was unearthed. "The Beginning" is not that bad as a horror film but as a prequel to one of the greatest horror movies ever made, it is extremely disappointing. If you view this with your expectations set low, you may be surprised by it and if judged on its own terms, "The Beginning" has something to offer the horror film fan but I guess you can say the same about the first sequel - "The Heretic" and we all know how that one turned out. I guess execution is key and it is in the execution where both films lose it and collapse. The film's biggest disappointment is in its weak and extremely cheesy exorcism scene. If shock value was what the film-makers were aiming for, they failed and the end result is a laughable imitation of the original film and the lame, sexual dialogue had no real purpose other than to try to achieve what Friedkin achieved back in 1973. Casual horror film fans may find something to like here but if you're a fan of the original, you will most likely hate it.
Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist ***
The story is very similar to "The Beginning" with Skarsgård playing the role of Lankester Merrin. This feature was the original prequel but apparently it wasn't shocking enough for studio executives. For this reason, they ended up asking Renny Harlin to take over. The end result was the inferior "Exorcist: The Beginning". Admittedly, this version is not as graphic as Harlin's but "Dominion" has other qualities that are superior; since this version concentrates more on the story than scare tactics, there is more character development and overall, is more psychological. The exorcism scene for instance differs greatly from Harlin's vision. It is not as grotesque (or as lame) but this exorcism disturbed me more. The demon played more with Father Merrin's head; it was less destructive physically but not emotionally. Schrader set the mood to a different level here and cheap shocks would have changed it's tone and would have seemed out of place. "Dominion" does not rely on cheap thrills to torture its main character and its target audience and for this reason, I proclaim it the winner of the two. It is not perfect though. Despite good performances and some tense scenes, the film moves along slowly and its running time of nearly 2 hours doesn't help. Horror fans may also find this film disappointing as it lacks gore and it never reaches the sheer terror of the original. Despite this, it is superior to "The Beginning" and "The Heretic".
"The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology" is good value for your money, even if you're not enamoured with some of the lesser sequels. The DVD's do come with some extra's- documentaries, trailers, TV spots etc with the exception of "Exorcist III", which despite being one of the better efforts is neglected here and the only extra is the films trailer. Note that this was released several years ago and the original film has been released in Blue-ray recently but if you want the entire series, this is hard to beat.