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Sep 4, 2020

'The Exorcist': A Priest Weighs in on News of a Reboot

Recently, Morgan Creek Films announced its reboot of The Exorcist. The company was clear the film would not be a remake, wherein the principal characters are re-cast and the story begins again from ground zero. A reboot, on the other hand, continues the storyline well after the original film (unlike sequels which follow in quick temporal sequence).

In the case of The Exorcist, filmed in the 1970s, both actors playing the priests (Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller) are deceased, as is the actor (Lee J. Cobb) playing the detective. Ellen Burstyn, still receiving significant work well into her 80s, could reprise her role as the mother of Regan, played by Linda Blair, who could return as well, I suppose.

In the film, Burstyn plays an actress renting a house in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, D.C., while working on a movie. Max Von Sydow plays an elderly priest who uncovers a little statue of a demon called Pazuzu. The demon later possesses the actress' preteen daughter, Regan (Blair), after she experiments with a Ouija board.



Upon its release in 1973, the film was truly original. Screenwriter (and author of the 1971 book of the same name the film was based on) William Peter Blatty, a devout Catholic, sought inspiration from the real-life 1949 exorcism of Roland Doe (pseudonym). More on that here.

My father once taught me horror movies should never stoke lasting fear, because you can always walk out of the theater and remind yourself, “It’s only a movie.” With this landmark demonic-possession movie, the lingering, haunting effect is that the case depicted was real.

By 2020, the novelty is a bit lost, even with those horror flicks tagged with “based on a real exorcism.” Director William Friedkin turned what was once considered at the time as an embarrassing “superstition” for the Church into one of its greatest tools of evangelization.

See, here, exorcism gaining traction in a traditional, mainstream media outlet, the Washington Post.

Editor's note #1: In 2018, Friedkin released The Devil and Father Amorth, a documentary that purported to show an actual exorcism, done by an elderly Rome-based priest who's done many. More on that here.

I’ll defer to the filmmakers, but my suspicion is that this reboot might be a bit forced.

In the extremely rare times of dealing with real-life things of this nature, I’ve discovered things go decisively one of two ways. The person eschews the Church’s assistance, and they continue with the occult, thus, only resolving things temporarily. (Or, I suppose, the if the priest doesn’t give them the time of day, the person effectively deals with these things the rest of their lives.)

If, however, the person’s case is deemed legitimate and they do receive an exorcism, the person gains freedom, they almost never again dabble in the demonic. (spoiler alert!).

The original Exorcist reminds us Regan was granted true freedom from her torments. I’d find it unlikely, the character would return to her old ways in her 60s. Roland Doe never experienced a relapse, either.

Editor's note #2: Morgan Creek was also behind Fox's 2016-2017 The Exorcist TV series, which was axed after a good first season, but a lackluster second one. The first played off the storyline of the original film, so that's more evidence that Morgan Creek likely won't go that way in a a new project. Supposedly, the reboot is due out in 2021, but owing to COVID-19 issues, that may be optimistic.

Image: Adobe Stock

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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