Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition' on Blogcritics.
With The Exorcist celebrating its 40th anniversary,
there isn’t much left that can be said about the film. I suppose the
best thing to do is to share a few personal thoughts about my experience
with the film. Warner Bros. uses the moniker “The scariest movie of all
time” in just about all of its marketing for The Exorcist. How
scary is it really? Just like every horror film, scary is completely
objective. My not being a religious person keeps the film from its full
potential I suppose, but I can see how it could scare the living
daylights out of others.
I remember the first time I tried to watch The Exorcist.
It was on late-night TV and way past my bedtime. I stayed up late
hoping to get the bejesus scared out of me, only to find myself bored
into a deep slumber. Years later, I rented the film on DVD because the
marketing machine never stops on this and it continues to make the
rounds every Halloween season. I knew if it was going to make its
correct impact, I couldn’t watch an edited for TV version. Popping in
the disc, I watched the entire movie, still not finding it exactly
scary. Again, I could see how it could have an effect on the religious
viewer and I could also see why it was considered a classic.
Putting in the Blu-ray disc this past Sunday, I finally saw The Exorcist
in a new light, being considerably older than either of my previous
attempts with it. I finally see now, William Peter Blatty and William
Friedkin’s attempts at infusing the film with a more scientific approach
about poor atheist Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) battle with what
could possibly be the Devil himself from taking control over her
helpless daughter Regan’s (Linda Blair) soul. While still not scaring
the pants off of me, I finally see what all the fuss is about. And, the
most surprising aspect is that now I see how the film feels more like a
mystery, playing with the aspects of whether her innocent daughter
really may be possessed by the Devil, or how it could be all in her
The Exorcist makes its 40th Anniversary on Blu-ray
in nearly the exact same release previously available as a two-disc set
featuring both the Director’s Extended Cut and the Original Theatrical
Release. Both versions are on their own 50GB discs in an opened up
1.78:1 aspect ratio, still packed with extras, but they never take their
toll on the picture quality. Long story short, aside from a sprinkling
of noise in the darkest of shots, the transfer looks spectacular. I
cannot confirm if this is the new 4K master that Friedkin has been
talking about having just approved, but some of the defects seen on the
previous release don’t seem to be found here.
is astounding, particularly in the dusty opening scenes in the Iraqi
desert. A case could be made of some slight DNR imperfections if you
look closely at the skies as the grain appears to be frozen in midair.
However, the banding is gone, and there are no other anomalies to speak
of aside from the faint noise. The same 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track
has been carried over and is as creepy as ever. (A 5.1 mix is on the
Original Theatrical Cut.) LFE creates some unsettling booms while
directionality makes scenes like Chris’s venture into the attic and any
scene taking place in Regan’s room after she becomes possessed. It is
suitably effective with sound effects and the dialogue is crisp and
clean. If you haven’t seen or heard The Exorcist on Blu-ray, you haven’t seen or heard The Exorcist. I can imagine this is the best it will ever look or sound outside of a 35mm projection in a theater.
The only new special features sit on their own Blu-ray disc, but only
add up to about 47 minutes of new material. While short and sweet, they
are still interesting. “Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist”
consists of Blatty roaming around the cabin where he wrote 90% of the
original novel. He spends most of the time talking about how he can’t
believe he’s back where it all started, but does make mention of how the
“Exorcist Steps” will always be the “Hitchcock Steps” to him because of their use in Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.
He also reads excerpts from his novel while scenes from the film play
over it. The second, “Talk of the Devil,” runs 20 minutes and features
interviews with Father Eugene Ghallager and Mike Siegel. Ghallager
mentions how he knows Blatty took some of his classes while in
attendance at Georgetown University, and encourages scientists to start
looking into the factual realm of possession in the form of
The remaining special features are the same from the 2010 release.
The Extended Director’s Cut includes the three-part documentary broken
up into “Raising Hell: Filming The Exorcist,” “The Exorcist Locations: Then and Now,” and “Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist.”
A set of trailers, and TV and radio spots round out the Extended disc,
along with the commentary from Friedkin. The Original Theatrical Cut
includes all the same features as well: an introduction by Friedkin; two
commentaries featuring one from Friedkin and one from Blatty; “The Fear
of God;” “Filmmaker Interviews;” “Sketches and Storyboards;” the
“Original Ending;” and finally, “Trailers and TV Spots.” Also included
is a hardcover excerpt from Friedkin’s recently published The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir.
If you already own any of the previously released editions of The Exorcist
on Blu-ray, you already have nearly all of what’s included here.
However, for anyone who’s been holding out, it appears that the 40th
Anniversary Edition has a slight upgrade in video quality, while
featuring the same stellar audio track, and all of the special features
with two new noteworthy additions. With the inclusion of the book
excerpt, this is a grand edition worth picking up if you don’t already
have The Exorcist in your Blu-ray collection, and is available October 8, just in time for your Halloween viewing pleasure.
Cover art and photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures