Directed by William Friedkin
Distributed by Warner Home Video
In time for the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist, Warner Brothers has released a brand new Blu-ray that’s home to a couple of new extras, an ever so slight improvement on the video clarity (which was barely enough to even notice really), and an excerpt from William Friedkin’s book The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir. So minimal are the differences that it seemed kind of silly to write an all new review so we’ve taken our review from the 2010 release and used it as a skeleton for this one.
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. That’s particularly true of The Exorcist. Watching William Friedkin’s masterpiece in all its Blu-ray perfection really makes you realize how far the horror genre has fallen. There is absolutely no way this kind of classy character-driven movie would get made in the Hollywood system today. It would be quickly cast into the development hell abyss with all the great unrealized horror films to pave the way for more formulaic bullshit catering to the same demographic–namely, all those stupid teens who still call this movie “boring” while laughing at little Regan shouting curse words.
There’s nothing you can say about The Exorcist that hasn’t already been stated, examined, and dissected two ways from Sunday. It’s irrefutably one of the greatest and most influential horror films of all time, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re probably not reading this website. Even more remarkable is how it hasn’t aged one bit; it’s still every bit as effective today as it was 40 years(!) ago.
Included in the set are both the theatrical and the “Version You’ve Never Seen” cuts. Compared to the Star Wars: Special Editions or the Apocalypse Now Redux, the differences between the two are fairly minimal (although I tend to prefer the spider walk sequence and extra character bits in the longer cut) so you’ll be watching a masterpiece no matter what you pick. Both presentations look and sound pitch-perfect.
There’s no question… this 1080p treatment of The Exorcist looks a hell of a lot better than any of the previous DVD releases. For the most part the image remains on the soft side of the fence and there’s a lot of film grain present throughout the feature but the level of detail presented here is still incredible despite the softness of the image. Blacks are rich and deep, there’s no DNR scrubbing to be found here, and there are almost no scratches and flecks present. It should be noted that the extended cut is home to a DTS-HD 6.1 Master Audio track, while the theatrical version offers a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Honestly? The differences between the two are minimal at best, but it’s nice to know the effort was there, no?
For this new addition Warner Bros. has cleaned up the image a bit more by removing some of the extremely minor defects found in the original 2010 Blu-ray such as some crushing in the film’s black levels and some inconsistent contrast leveling. Again, you really wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for them.
Now let’s cut to the chase: Bonus Content!
The material created exclusively for Blu-ray isn’t particularly inspired. The 30-minute Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist” documentary reunites most of the cast and crew and uncovers some great on-set footage (particularly when it comes to the special effects) but doesn’t really give us any new information. Even more maddening is how the interviewees bombard us with numerous comments on why The Exorcist “isn’t a horror movie.” This kind of smug Hollywood talk is really getting old and it’s amazing what people will say to avoid the dreaded “H” word (“It’s a psychological thriller … no, no … it’s a supernatural detective story!”). If you’ve made what is widely considered the greatest horror film of all time, embrace it; don’t sit there and make excuses.
Also included are two lightning quick featurettes: The Exorcist Locations: Then & Now and Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist, which are pretty self-explanatory. The real crown jewel remains the feature-length making-of BBC doc The Fear of God, which tells you everything you could possibly want to know about The Exorcist. Commentaries, storyboards, interviews, and TV spots seen on the previous DVDs round out this set, and while the new material is ho-hum, it’s great to have all the archival stuff together in a high-def package.
In terms of what’s new other than the book excerpt, you’re getting two new featurettes, Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Talk of the Devil, which clock in at about 47 minutes combined. You can read a synopsis of each below. Having something new is nice, but these are far from earth-shattering.
Bottom line: If you’re a horror fan, The Exorcist on Blu-ray is a no-brainer. The amazing high-def presentation packs enough power to pump you full of good old-fashioned religious fear. If you already own the 2010 Blu-ray, this baby is kind of hard to recommend. However, if you’re a raging maniac like myself, there’s a good possibility that this is already sitting proudly on your shelf. You cannot go wrong either way though the need to double dip is truly suspect.
5 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5