Ten-time Academy Award nominee, The Exorcist has inspired generations of filmmakers, but never has anyone done it better than in William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. The film still stands with Rosemary’s Baby and an extremely small handful of others as a horror film that won an Oscar. Named as the scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly, The Exorcist is a tried and true classic. Moreover, it is one of the highest grossing films of all time, bringing in a grand total of over $440 million dollars around the world. The Exorcist, like so many of the films it inspired was loosely based on actual events. The William Peter Blatty novel, on which the film’s screenplay was based, was inspired by the alleged possession of Roland Doe (pseudonym).
FEARnet will be airing all five Exorcist films, back to back on February 17th. The festivities begin at 2 pm Eastern/11 am Pacific. In support of the marathon, we’ve taken the liberty of revisiting some titles from the exorcism sub-genre that have followed the release of the 1973 classic.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose did something somewhat unexpected, in that it combined an exorcism style horror flick with a courtroom drama. And it did so with fairly good results. Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) excels as the titular character. Her performance makes the film. Going back and watching The Exorcism of Emily Rose after seeing Carpenter in her career-making role on Dexter, it’s hard to believe that it’s the same person. In Emily Rose, Carpenter plays the polar opposite of her foul-mouthed Dexter character. The Exorcism of Emily Rose caused a fair amount of controversy, in that the surviving family of Anneliese Michel, on whom the story was based, didn’t want anything to do with it. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is, for many, one of the most successful entries in the exorcism sub-genre to have come along in some time.
The Last Exorcism
First, let me praise The Last Exorcism for being one of the few entries in the exorcism sub-genre not to claim to be based on actual events. The premise of the film breathed new life in to the exorcism sub-genre. This film tells the story of Rev. Cotton Marcus who has lost his faith. He is smarmy and disenchanted with the church. Marcus feels that his role as a preacher is one of a showman and not the role of a holy man. He takes on one last exorcism, under the watchful eye of a documentary film crew, to debunk what he believes is the myth of demonic possession. Ashley Bell stars as Nell Sweetzer. Nell is the cause of much concern for her father, as Nell’s father believes she is possessed by a demon. The Last Exorcism was the source of much controversy amongst fans. It was a love it or hate it type of thing. Personally, I loved it. I thought it was well played and it left me curious as to what the hell had just happened? Those of like mind are in luck, as a sequel hits theaters March 1st. My contention with the upcoming sequel is that it serves to prove that The Last Exorcism was not actually the last exorcism. The previews to the sequel don’t look entirely promising, but I am absolutely keeping an open mind.
The Rite was met with both poor critical and audience reception. Despite starring the great Sir Anthony Hopkins, The Rite falls flat. It is formulaic and unconvincing. Like a lot of other exorcism films, it is billed as being based on actual events. The Rite tells the story of a student that travels to Italy for a seminary course and *surprise* gets more than he had bargained for. The Rite is too familiar. It doesn’t break away from the legions of exorcism films to come out in the years since The Exorcist. The Rite is good for a couple of jump scares and some amusing dialogue from Anthony Hopkins, while his character is possessed, but that’s about it. Apart from the aforementioned highlights, the film never really takes off. Mikael Håfström doesn’t do the film any favors from a directorial standpoint. The territory that The Rite explores is familiar and the performances aren’t enough to distract us from that. Tonally, the film doesn’t do anything to elevate itself above what we have seen so many times before.
The Devil Inside
Similar to The Last Exorcism, The Devil Inside utilizes the "found footage" style of storytelling. The Devil Inside follows Isabella Rossi on her quest for answers, regarding her mother’s exorcism related death. What a disappointment this movie turned out to be. The Devil Inside has one of the worst endings in cinematic history. The general audience consensus of the ending was that the filmmakers ran out of time or money and opted for the cheapest possible way to end the film. Paramount reportedly picked up The Devil Inside for just one million dollars; a small price to pay, seeing as it earned over $53 million domestically. After the film’s initial box office success, talks of a sequel flooded the Internet, but the scuttlebutt soon tapered off as quickly as it materialized. The film’s director has defended The Devil Inside’s ending in interviews, calling it visceral and claiming that it was an attempt at a level of realism.
This film has so much going for it and yet it fails to deliver. The Possession has a great cast and it takes a unique spin on exorcism films, using the Dibbuk Box as the means of possession. It even has Sam Raimi as its executive producer, and a talented director (Ole Bornedal). But, the end result didn’t bring anything new or noteworthy to the table. The Possession is ultimately just one of many Exorcist rip offs. The pacing was up and down, the characters are two dimensional, and in general, it just never finds its footing.
Editor's Note: We are thrilled to announce that we will be having a live hour-long Twitter chat with Linda Blair, today at 5PM ET/2p. Follow us at www.twitter.com/fearnet and submit your questions to us @FEARnet!!