First, let me say that I think that The Exorcist is one of the best scary movies ever made. I realize that I'm not alone in that opinion, but just wanted to make my view of the original incarnation of this film perfectly clear from the outset.
For those who have never seen The Exorcist, it is a masterpiece of terror. The story centers on a priest who is beginning to doubt his faith. The possible satanic possession of a young girl tests that faith, and how he deals with demons, both real and within his own mind, is what makes this film a classic.
I anxiously awaited the "Special Edition" of this movie. What would be added? How much scarier could it be? Would the mysteries that went unanswered in the original cut finally be resolved? Would it be an even better movie? The answers to those questions, in order, are as follows: Not much; Not much; No; and Hell no! There are no significant storyline alterations, and the majority of additional material just doesn't really serve to enhance it, either.
The first of the added scenes expands on the idea that doctors believe the girl's possession to be a medical condition. These scenes are okay, and offer enough "needles going into flesh" moments to make anyone cringe.
The next added scene is the famous "spider walk" that has been available as a deleted scene on home video. In my humble opinion, that is exactly where this scene should have remained. Its use in the film is puzzling, since there is no build up in the scene leading to it, and no mention of it in any scene that follows. The brief addition just appears to be stuck in for no apparent reason, and actually hurts the story by breaking the concept that the girl does not leave her bed once she becomes fully possessed.
The final, most questionable scene completely changes the tone of the film's ending. Believe it or not, it now ends with a joke! And a lame one, at that. Instead of leaving its audience with thought provoking ideas, daring them to contemplate the true natures of good and evil, as the original cut did, it now just leaves the audience wondering, "What the hell were they thinking?!" The new ending effectively destroys all dramatic intent.
There were a few other briefly extended scenes throughout the film, and the addition of digital imagery to some scenes, which do not really affect the story.
Also, the soundtrack has been remastered and "enhanced" with more ambient sounds. Unfortunately, the resulting aural experience turns out to be somewhat distracting.
This was the "Director's Cut" of The Exorcist, and as much as it pains me to say it, it's one case where, Heaven help us, the Studio was right in making the cuts. (You have no idea how difficult it was for me to type the words "the Studio was right"!!!)
Directed By: William Friedkin
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair
MPAA: Rated R (Scary Stuff / Profanity)
Running Time: 131 Min.
October 30, 2000
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