The Exorcist: The Real Story
With the home video rerelease of this horror blockbuster, people have found a renewed interest in the chilling story of possession and evil. From its original distribution in 1976 to today’s sale of the DVD, The Exorcist has been one of the stables of modern film horror. Projectile pea soup and twisting heads are now a part of common culture throughout the world and it all leads to true events that – apparently – actually took place several decades ago.
How true the book and movie versions are when compared to the actual known accounts puts the works in the solid realm of fiction. Many of the major, and minor, details were changed when the story was published to make the tale more exciting and heart pumping. Although nobody questions the possibility of possession, some of the more fantastic elements were fabricated.
The real account centered around Douglas Deen and began around 1949 in a rural area of Washington DC. The 14 year old boy and his family noticed strange noises coming from the walls and ceiling of his room. The suspect was thought to be mice, so an exterminator was called in but the services were unable to stop the weird sounds.
Soon the occurrences became violent. Furniture began to move, pictures jumped from their spots on the walls, and the boy’s bed began to lurch and shake through the night. The Deen family soon sought help from their neighbors. Although these persons at first tried to ignore the disturbances, one night in the house was able to change their minds.
With little else to do, the family called the minister of their local church, Reverend Winston, and asked for his assistance. Spending February 18, 1949, with the young boy, the Reverend found the happenings all too real. He witnessed the shaking of the bed, strange scratches in the walls and the movement of furniture. Afterwards, Douglas was given full physical and psychological tests but they revealed nothing out of the ordinary.
With no other solutions, the family called a Roman Catholic priest to exorcise the demons from the home. The priest performed the ceremony thirty times and stayed with the Deens for over two months. During this time, the boy would scream in strange voices and shake violently. Finally, later that spring, the family and priest felt the exorcisms had worked and the demons had been driven away.
The movie’s projectile vomit, neck-cracking head rotation, and levitation never happened and were added to heighten the suspense and evil of the story. Also missing is the direct link to Satan and the apparent evil overtones. Without these, the case appears to be a fairly standard poltergeist case. Much like similar cases, the events revolved around the young boy and stopped once he directly confronted them. Although fantastic, the movie was just that – a movie.
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For those of you that like The Exorcist and wondered if you should have seen the movie in the theaters *just* becuase it has some new scenes I can tell you it’s definataly worth it.
The added scenes improve the continuity for the most part and provide a few new shocks (as if this movie needed more).
The soundtrack is radically reworked as well, employing newly scored music that adds to the mood of the movie.
There are new sound effects that have more “oomph” for the modern six channel digital sound.
Have the 25′th Anniversary tape? Saw the Spider walk scene in the Documentary? Well, in the new release, it’s a different version and 10 times more creepy (it took a minute for the audience I was with to calm down).
It was great to see this in a theater and see people jaded by cookie cutter slasher flicks respond to this movie so well. This movie is not fast paced and that allows it to build up a foundation of dread and fear about the developing possession of the girl. Until it finally unleashes in the more horrifying scenes you’ve all heard about.
The overall color scheme of the movie is grayish and colorless, further drawing you into that fear and dread. The background music (the new and the limited amount utilized in the original version)has very little melody with a lot of sustained low chords. It doesn’t call attention to itself but does unnerve you.
The possessed girl is probabaly one of the scariest faces in movie history. It’s incredible that all that was really done to Linda Blair’s face was to add a few asymetrical cuts, cover over her eyebrows and darken her sockets (giving her eyes a skull like look). But of course, it was the makeup master Dick Smith that was doing it so it’s not too much of a surprise. The crowning feature of the scariest face was the unhuman look of the eyes, done with contact lenses.
The upcoming DVD of the “version you never saw” deserves a place in my colection and yours.
Besides a faithful transfer of the new version to DVD and the trailer, I can suggest that Warner Bros. include the tour of Washington sequence. This is another sequence that was not used in the final cut. It still exists but with no soundtrack. Putting it on the extras section of the DVD with an explanation of the missing soundtrack and subtitles would make this DVD an even better purchase for fans of the movie (like myself).