Making an Exorcist film isn’t simple. Up till the newest entry, launched in theaters this week, each film within the sequence has suffered from a tumultuous shoot, copious rewrites, or whole recuts.
However that’s not all that particular. Many franchises, particularly horror franchises, have had messy productions all through their historical past. What makes The Exorcist distinctive is that, for all of the manufacturing chaos, all of its entries, in a single model or one other, are literally good — save for the newly launched The Exorcist: Believer.
Absolutely capturing the entire weird, horrifying, tragic, and disastrous issues which have occurred on the units of Exorcist motion pictures would rival the Bible in size. However we’re not going to let that cease us from speaking concerning the historical past of one of many strangest and greatest horror franchises there may be. With that in thoughts, right here’s a quick historical past of the unusual manufacturing tales behind the Exorcist franchise.
Picture: Warner Residence Video
By many accounts, the set of The Exorcist was haunted. The primary film within the sequence, with a screenplay tailored by authentic Exorcist novel creator William Peter Blatty and directed by the famously prickly William Friedkin, was a smash hit and an immediate horror traditional. However it was affected by issues earlier than it even bought off the bottom.
The primary of its many points was a chook flying right into a circuit field, beginning a fireplace that burned down the complete set. That’s, the whole lot aside from Regan’s bed room, after all — the place the place a lot of the film’s demonic exercise takes place. Due to this and different manufacturing points, the manufacturing schedule ballooned from 85 days to 200.
Worse nonetheless are the precise accidents that occurred throughout the making of the film. Stars Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair suffered again accidents on set that affected them for the remainder of their lives. Blair additionally suffered a number of different long-term penalties from the shoot, together with an aversion to chilly she says was brought on by the minus 20 levels Fahrenheit maintained within the bed room set.
Whereas it might be simple to attribute all of this to some curse on the set of a scary film, it’s even simpler to see how lax security requirements may have contributed to every of those occasions.
Picture: Warner Bros.
Exorcist II: The Heretic was virtually a totally totally different film. The sequel was principally a product of studio executives chasing a simple cash-in. In response to the film’s co-producer, Richard Lederer, within the ebook The Exorcist: Out of the Shadows by Bob McCabe concerning the making of the franchise, the plan was to make a low-budget rehash of the unique that principally utilized unused footage from the shoot and alternate angles. Nonetheless, the plan finally morphed into one thing barely extra formidable.
The movie’s script was initially written by playwright William Goodhart (Technology), whose concept for the movie — which neither Blatty nor Friedkin wished something to do with — was to make it about how human consciousness may finally be merged along with know-how to attach each thoughts on the planet, inflicting an existential battle for those who wished to do good and those who wished to do evil.
However director John Boorman (Excalibur) disliked Goodhart’s script and introduced in Rospo Pallenberg (Excalibur) to do rewrites. They fully retooled the film, and in accordance with Linda Blair, Pallenberg wound up directing a lot of the film, too.
Extra so than any of the opposite prequels or sequels (other than the 2023 launch), Exorcist II: The Heretic is a large number. It seems like two tales grafted collectively with out a lot of a throughline, which in flip seems like a mirrored image of its topsy-turvy manufacturing. Fortunately, The Heretic continues to be an entertaining and creepy film. Boorman might not have gotten throughout precisely the psychology meant, however he definitely nailed the scares.
Picture: Shout Manufacturing unit
That is the place issues get significantly unusual. The Exorcist III is directed and written by authentic Exorcist creator Blatty, and it’s tailored from his novel Legion. Legion was technically developed as a sequel to The Exorcist, and Blatty first pitched it as a movie that will reunite him with Friedkin. Nonetheless, after Friedkin left the mission, Blatty determined to jot down the story as a novel.
Blatty’s novel is a few sequence of deaths in Washington, D.C., that instantly match up with the hallmarks of a serial killer who’s been lifeless for years — however whose physique was by no means discovered. The novel follows Lt. Kinderman, a aspect character from the unique Exorcist novel, who’s investigating the deaths. Kinderman begins to hyperlink all of those killings slowly again to the exorcism of Regan MacNeil.
After the novel grew to become a success, Blatty began purchasing it to studios and in search of a director. Of the folks he met with, essentially the most attention-grabbing was most likely horror grasp John Carpenter. The pair talked a couple of instances concerning the film, however Carpenter had an issue with the script, which might flip right into a a lot bigger challenge for Blatty down the highway: It didn’t have an exorcism.
Ultimately, Blatty bought what he wished, directing the movie himself. Nonetheless, lengthy after he accomplished principal filming, the studio modified its thoughts. The ending, they mentioned, was now not ok, and the film wanted an exorcism. So, in accordance with Blatty, in McCabe’s ebook, he determined that if anybody was going to remodel the ending, it’d as properly be him. He went about including a brand new ending to the script, full with an exorcist launched to the plot solely for the ending.
The film’s exorcism itself isn’t terrible, however it does come out of nowhere and feels completely unconnected to the remainder of the story. Blatty didn’t hate the theatrical model of the film, however in Out of the Shadows, Blatty claimed his model was higher. Sadly, it has by no means fairly been absolutely reassembled. The closest we might ever get is the brand new 2023 Shout Manufacturing unit launch, which incorporates the unique film in a brand new 4K switch, together with a brand new lower of Blatty’s model, known as The Exorcist III: Legion, that has been assembled from VHS copies of dailies from the set — to exchange a few of the footage of Blatty’s model that manufacturing firm Morgan Creek misplaced.
Even with out the total re-creation of Blatty’s imaginative and prescient, The Exorcist III, in any model, belongs proper alongside the unique as an astounding horror movie.
Picture: Warner Bros.
This one is a bit more sophisticated than the others, as a result of technically it includes two separate however associated movies. The primary one made was Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist, however the first one launched was Exorcist: The Starting. And the story of how that occurred is much more sophisticated than you would possibly suppose.
The hunt for an Exorcist prequel began within the late ’90s with a screenplay by Terminator author William Wisher Jr. The mission went by means of a number of administrators earlier than the studio had Caleb Carr (The Alienist) rewrite the script and settled on Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, First Reformed) to direct. The movie Schrader got here again with, which he insisted was a trustworthy adaptation of Carr’s screenplay, horrified the studio; there was no blood, no gore, and hardly any scares within the film in any respect.
After a couple of recuts, the studio finally shelved the film fully. As a substitute, it employed director Renny Harlin (Die Exhausting 2) to return in and make a totally totally different model, with a brand new script and fully new actors — save for Stellan Skarsgård, who stars as Father Lankester Merrin. Harlin’s model, known as Exorcist: The Starting, was set to have extra gore, extra scares, and extra motion. Ultimately, it was an entire catastrophe.
In an interview with the Unbiased, Schrader recollects watching the film whereas sitting subsequent to Blatty, commenting, “If it stays this dangerous, I guess there’s an opportunity I can get mine resurrected.” And that’s precisely what occurred. Since Schrader’s movie was already completed, and the Harlin model was already underperforming, Morgan Creek let Schrader lower his personal model of his movie — kind of.
The studio allotted virtually no further price range for Schrader to really end post-production. Editor Tim Silano fought to have Schrader included within the closing edit of the movie. The pair even needed to do the movie’s colour timing themselves, quite than the standard means of leaving that to the cinematographer. Much more distressing, Schrader wasn’t given sufficient cash or time to fee an authentic rating, so Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti labored out about 14 minutes of a rating, together with the film’s theme, free of charge. The remainder of the music was dealt with by steel band Canine Trend Disco, or picked up from the Harlin model of the film, composed by Trevor Rabin.
Ultimately, what Schrader compiled wasn’t fairly the model of the movie he envisioned, however it was so much nearer than the Harlin model. Extra importantly, it’s really fairly good, an interesting intersection of Outdated World religion and superstition assembly the evils of recent imperialism and colonialism. Like so many Exorcist motion pictures, the ultimate confrontation feels slightly tacked on, however Merrin’s journey really does really feel like a correct setup for the character we see later within the sequence.