The Exorcist - The Version You've Never Seen (2000)

Directed by William Friedkin
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Kitty Winn, Lee J. Cobb.
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and disturbing images.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
September 25, 2000

Here it is: the film that Warner Bros. touts as the scariest movie of all time. Better yet, a version you've never seen before. But wait! It was the original cut that was the scariest ever, but can they continue the claim after adding over 10 minutes of footage? It's a new film, a new Exorcist, and it's in theatres now.

Ellen Burstyn stars as Chris MacNeil, a Hollywood actress shooting a film on location at Georgetown University. She has rented a house for herself, her daughter Regan (Linda Blair), and a few servants. Everything seems to be going well -- except for the absence of Regan's father on her birthday -- until Regan starts feeling ill.

Her condition worsens, and she starts acting out violently. Then her bed starts shaking. The doctors find no physical ailments, but suggest that she has psychological problems, and maybe an exorcism wouldn't hurt. Chris goes to Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), the staff psychiatrist at Georgetown, to ask for help. Like many Catholics priests from the last millennium, exorcism was not part of his training. He calls upon the aged Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), who has performed exorcisms before, to help him with the child, who now takes to turning her head completely around and speaking in tongues, while projectile vomiting what looks like pea soup.

In its original 1973 cut, William Friedkin's film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist was indeed the scariest movie ever made, and continues to hold that title. That cut would also deserve four stars, but this 2000 version, which includes footage that could only be seen in television versions until now, is no improvement. In fact, it slows down the film and lessens its impact.

These scenes, which you probably have seen before, worked well enough when interrupted by commercial breaks. They are mostly good scenes, especially the infamous "spider walk" scene (omitted originally because it was thought to be too intense), but they add no value. It's still a very good film, and far better than any horror films that have been made lately.

A good example is Urban Legends: Final Cut, which was released on the same day. It's just another falsely ironic, self-referential horror film, in the same vein as Scream, except that it fails completely at almost every level. What's so scary about killing film students? Most of them would just go on to make crappy movies, and it weeds out the competetion for other filmmakers. And yet, that film has managed to make more money over the weekend. Life just isn't fair.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Exorcist (1973)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
The Exorcist ("The Version You've Never Seen") (1973) -- VHS
The Exorcist ("The Version You've Never Seen") (1973) -- DVD
The Exorcist (Original Cut, Special Box Set) (1973) -- VHS Widescreen
The Exorcist (Original Cut) (1973) -- DVD
The Exorcist, a novel by William Peter Blatty -- Paperback
The Exorcist, a novel by William Peter Blatty -- Audio Cassette (read by the author)
Music Excerpts from The Exorcist -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan