The Exorcist

And the top horror film of the year 2000… was made in 1973

Yes, what some believe is the most frightening flick ever made has been re-released with a thundering new remastered soundtrack and a few restored scenes to play with the subtitle “the version you’ve never seen”. As a result, the competition hasn’t been able to stand the heat. After all, if Exorcist had been made a few years earlier or later – or even today – it would have been condemned and censored far and wide, and ruthless cuts would have been made to get it released at all.

Although it still raised a stink in ’73, that was a time of social rebellion in Hollywood and most other parts of the world. Can you imagine a grotesque hardcore horror film, no matter how skillfully made, gaining nine Oscar nominations and sweeping the Golden Globes? Not today, but back in the early ’70s they were nominating X-rated films for Best Picture.

And back then, William Friedkin was at the top of his game, having just scored with The French Connection. You can pick out shots that have been copied by Spielberg, De Palma, and others. The latest thing he’s directed that offered a bit of his old magic was Rampage, and that was twelve years ago. Maybe this re-release will inspire the old master to do something in that league again.

We can thank author William Peter Blatty for the return, as it’s he who has been badgering Friedkin and Warners for years to restore some scenes they took out of their original cut. The novel has always been a horror masterpiece, and the restored scenes bring the film more of a sense of dread to the proceedings, matching the novel’s pace a bit better. And there’s one brief but legendary addition that is sure to be regarded as a shock classic for years to come.

As it is, it’s wonderful to see The Exorcist at full strength again. It’s been given good treatment lately on video (and there’ll surely be another special edition DVD out after this run), but it’s amazing just to see grainy ’70s photography on the big screen again. The new sound mix has a lot of punch, and the movie still has the ability to make you jump – and not want to go into any dark attics for a while.

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