Beyond Fest had another stellar year and among the many wonderful screenings that they held at this year’s festival was a screening of the director’s cut of William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST. Originally, the screening was supposed to have a Q & A with Friedkin himself, but he was unable to attend because of illness. Of course, we hope that Mr. Friedkin recovers soon.
Linda Blair agreed to come and do a Q & A in Friedkin’s absence and that was good news. Of course, to watch THE EXORCIST on the big screen is great to start with, but Beyond Fest does score frequently with amazing guests for question and answer sessions which are frequently fun and thought provoking.
THE EXORCIST: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT is not that much different from the original theatrical version, in my opinion. There are some extra expositional scenes that do add some depth to the demonic goings on, but I still prefer the original and more subtle version. Yes, even with the pea soup vomit, I consider THE EXORCIST to be a triumph of subtle horror that is effective because it relies mostly on the performances of the actors rather than the usual horror movie shenanigans. You do get to see the infamous spider walk, which does look cool, but I was more creeped out by the atmospheric shots of Father Merrin arriving in the fog and the terror in Ellen Burstyn’s face when she sees what her daughter has turned into, rather than the CGI blood added to that scene. I don’t think the extra scenes ruin anything, but I would be fine without them. I think that the terror is harder to find for modern audiences which explains the additions, because the frightening aspects of the film require concentration and belief and in our world filled with cynicism and constant irony, they may have felt that something bigger was required to scare people. They should have had more faith in their creation.
Linda Blair is a legendary actress and to the audience and the moderator Ervim Ersoy’s delight, she completely took over the Q&A and totally did things her way. She spoke at length about how her career as a child model and as an actress, how she was cast in THE EXORCIST, how tough the shoot was (yes, some of her screaming was from real pain and fear), and her current work trying to save animals. It was a fascinating speech and I was honestly glad that she chose to speak about the things that really mattered to her and how she truly felt about her work and the EXORCIST shoot. I got about 15 minutes of the talk on video and it is here.
THE EXORCIST: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT is merely a more detailed version of one of the best horror films ever made and one of the greatest films ever made. Period. If by chance you haven’t seen it, please rectify that as soon as possible and throw your mind open to the world of Regan McNeil and the demon Pazuzu. It wouldn’t hurt if you were to explore the other work of director William Friedkin like The French Connection, Sorcerer, To Live and Die In LA, Cruising, Bug, and Killer Joe as well. He is one of the very best filmmakers of the 70s auteur time period and even his non horror films have a level of anxiety inducing tension that a lot of horror movies would probably kill for. You could do worse to explore the work of Linda Blair as well: Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, Born Innocent, and Hell Night are good places to start. Don’t forget, she is in Roller Boogie and no one should miss that.