Looking At The Once And Future Legacy Of ‘The Exorcist’

by Thomas Tuna

It’s still a real head-turner.

Horror fans don’t agree on a lot about the genre, but one thing most will sign on for is that 1973’s The Exorcist is flat-out one of the scariest films ever made.

That being said, some would argue the original is so good–so frightening–that a sequel just isn’t necessary. Regardless, a sequel (the first in a planned three follow-ups)–The Exorcist: Believer–is headed to theaters Oct. 3.

But, before that sequel lands, a 4K UHD, Blu-ray and digital release of the original will be available Sept. 19 to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary.

Given all that, Horror News Network wanted to take a look back at the Best Picture Oscar-nominated original feature and maybe dig up a few reasons why The Exorcist is a true horror legend.

As all horror fans know, the original The Exorcist follows the demonic possession of a young girl (Linda Blair’s Regan MacNeil) and her mother’s (Ellen Burstyn’s Chris) efforts to rescue her through an exorcism by two Catholic priests. So, what’s not to like…and to scare the devil out of you?

So, getting back to our original premise, is all that enough to warrant a sequel? Well, the critics back 50 years ago were definitely divided.

A Variety review called the film “an expert telling of a supernatural horror story,” and Joe Dante (director of The Howling) said The Exorcist was “an amazing film–one destined to become a horror classic. There has never been anything like this on the screen before.” And famed critic Roger Ebert gave the pic four stars–praising the actors and the special effects.

And then there was the New York Times. Vincent Candy wrote that the movie was “a chunk of elegant occultist claptrap. It’s practically impossible to sit through.” A Rolling Stone review took the criticism to another level. “The movie is nothing more than a religious porn film–the gaudiest piece of shlock,” the review read.

And how about the review in the San Francisco Bay Guardian? That one called The Exorcist “simply the dumbest, most insulting anti-intellectual movie I have ever come across.”

So, is The Exorcist a classic–as most horror fans believe–or a disaster not worthy of a sequel–much less three?

Fans (and critics) will chime in this October after The Exorcist: Believer his the big screen. Little is known about the sequel, but it’s been reported that the feature follows a father (Leslie Odom Jr.) of a possessed child who tracks down Chris MacNeil (Burstyn reprising her iconic role) for help. Blair also reprises her famous Regan role in the movie.

In this era of sequels (and threequels), will this film add to the legacy of The Exorcist…or send it to hell?

Keep reading Horror News Network for all updates on The Exorcist: Believer.


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