Written by Senora Bicho
I love scary movies, intense, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, scary movies. Most today do not live up to my definition; they involve lots of blood, gore, and torture but little suspense. The Exorcist is arguably the standard to which all truly frightening movies must live up to.
Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is an actress raising her 12-year-old daughter Regan (Linda Blair) with an absent father. It is evident from the start that mother and daughter are very close and share a loving relationship. Regan is a very happy and normal young girl. Due to the close nature of their relationship, Chris notices immediately when Regan’s behavior changes. What starts with seizures and possible physical ailments turns into something much more disturbing and psychological. Doctors prescribe medication and therapy but nothing is working and while the behavior intensifies Regan must be isolated and locked in her room.
Chris comes to believe that Regan is possessed and her only solution is an exorcism. She meets with Father Karras (Jason Miller), a priest and psychologist who has started to doubt his faith while dealing with the guilt of his mother’s death. He reluctantly agrees to meet Regan but eventually comes to the same conclusion. He convinces the church to bring in Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) to perform an exorcism which results in the ultimate battle between good and evil.
The new two-disc Blu-ray collection includes the Extended Director’s Cut from 2000 and the original theatrical cut. There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy with the extra material except for the spider-walking scene. While they were able to improve the scene with new technology, it still feels out of place and over the top. The extended cut disc offers a new documentary broken into three parts: “Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist“, “The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now” and “Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of the Exorcist“. There is also a new commentary by director William Friedkin, which is one of the rare commentaries worth listening to because he provides interesting insights and background information heightening the meaning of scenes and the film overall.
The Original Theatrical Version disc includes an introduction by Friedken and separate commentaries by Friedkin and by William Peter Blatty, who adapted his novel for the screenplay. There is also a 1998 documentary, interview gallery, and original ending.
The Blu-ray comes in a digibook and has been given a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer displayed with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that is hit or miss. The print looks good but suffers from intermittent artifacts appearing throughout. The image shows the expected softness of its age but still offers good details. The level of grain rises to distracting levels at times, such as a scene with Father Karras and Chris walking together. Colors are strong. Blacks aren’t as consistent and suffer from occasional crush.
The EDC has a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 surround track and the OTC has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There is good ambiance coming from the surrounds and the Devil makes good use of the subwoofer. Objects are positioned well and can be heard moving through the soundfield. While the enhanced subtle sound effects are amazing and really add to the creepiness of the film, intense scenes that should draw the viewer deeper into the action do just the opposite. Those scenes are so much louder that they actually threw me out of the story. They feel less believable because the effects are so aggressive they become unrealistic, in part, because they don’t balance well with the dialogue, which gets buried at times.
While The Exorcist still offers thrills and chills, this Blu-ray package isn’t the best showcase as the Extended Director’s Cut is unnecessary and the move to high definition is problematic in some areas.