According to mega-producer Jason Blum, there is a very high chance that most audiences (he believes 95%) have never seen or even HEARD OF The Exorcist franchise before. Now, that figure is extremely hyperbolic, but I do think it’s safe to say that The Exorcist movies have seen better days. Thankfully, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, has closed a deal for a whole new trilogy of The Exorcist films. Not only that, but Ellen Burstyn, who played Regan’s mother in the first movie, will actually be coming back!
The films will be directed by David Gordon Green, who handled the well-received Halloween reboot/sequel. And much like that movie, this new trilogy will ignore all of the Exorcist sequels after the first one. That means there will be no mention of James Earl Jones in a locust suit for all those Exorcist 2: The Heretic fans out there. All jokes aside, I really do think that this new Exorcist trilogy can revitalize the franchise, and I have five reasons why.
It Can Get People To Re-watch The Original, Which Is Still Great Even Today
The Exorcist is the first horror movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture. I don’t know if you know anything about the Academy Awards, but horror movies almost never get nominated. In fact, in its 92-year history, only 6 horror movies have ever been nominated for Best Picture, with only The Silence of the Lambs winning the coveted trophy. But that just goes to show how groundbreaking and amazing that first Exorcist movie was.
And it’s still amazing, even today. Now, again, I don’t think 95% of modern audiences have never even seen or heard of the first movie. But I am willing to wager that a lot of people haven’t, and this new trilogy could drum up interest in that first film again. This is a great way to get people talking about The Exorcist, making it a viable property after years and years of false starts like 2004’s Exorcist: The Beginning and 2005’s Dominion.
I actually think that The Exorcist TV series on Fox, which also ignored the sequels, was pretty good, but that didn’t catch fire and was cancelled after its second season. So, maybe this new trilogy can bring people in, and getting them to re-watch or even watch that Oscar-nominated movie for the first time is a good start.
It Can Make Demonic Possession Feel Fresh Again
As a horror fanatic, I’ve seen my fair share of demonic possession movies. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Ava’s Possessions, the excellent The Taking of Deborah Logan. I mean, yeah. I love most of them. But honestly, exorcism movies feel kind of stale these days. I think the biggest problem with the subgenre is that they all live beneath the demonic shadow of The Exorcist, so it’s kind of hard not to compare all of them with William Friedkin’s original masterpiece.
But therein lies another problem. None of the Exorcist sequels have been able to recapture that horrific spirit of the original movie, either. Look, I love all of The Exorcist sequels and prequels, especially The Exorcist III, but none of them are as good as the first movie. That said, the recent Halloween brought new life to that series and made slasher films somewhat interesting again. And hopefully, this new Exorcist trilogy can do the same for the demonic possession subgenre.
It Can Bring Back Slow Burn Horror To The Mainstream
One thing that people who watch the original Exorcist for the first time will immediately realize is that it’s a very slow-paced movie. This is not a horror film that races ahead to the finish line and just throws in jump scare after jump scare. Instead, it’s a film that takes its time and builds the tension bit by bit until we finally have a little girl puking and jabbing her privates with a crucifix.
Now, I don’t know the approach David Gordon Green is going to take with this new trilogy, but I do know that if he handles it with the care and attention that he handled the recent Halloween, then the tone of this reboot/sequel should somewhat fit with the original movie. That said, I’m not expecting this new film to be AS slow as the original, since I don’t think modern horror viewers (read: young people) would tolerate a movie that moved that slowly.
But I do think it could bring back the slower paced horror to the mainstream, rather than the constant jump scares that we have today. That would actually be really cool. Great, slower-paced horror movies like Hereditary and Midsommar are so hard to come by these days.
The New Exorcist Trilogy Can Introduce New Demons Outside of Pazuzu
Okay, so I’m not going to talk about the two prequels, Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, because even though I shamefully like both of them, they’re a big headache to talk about and I don’t want to get into it. The Exorcist III focused on The Gemini Killer, and that was really cool. But by all accounts, Pazuzu, who was the demon featured in both the first The Exorcist and Exorcist II: The Heretic, is the main antagonist that everybody thinks of when they remember The Exorcist.
Well, you know what would be cool and could get people back into The Exorcist franchise? If there were different demons in each movie, kind of like The Conjuring franchise tackled different cases by the Warrens. Maybe Azazel could be in the sequel. Or Baal. Or Belial. I don’t know, but I think people would be really interested if there were different demons possessing people’s bodies, and each one was wildly different. It could make it all feel really fresh again.
It Can Try To Outdo Itself As The “Scariest Movie Ever”
Lastly, The Exorcist has kind of built up the reputation as being “the scariest movie ever.” Now, yeah, maybe that was true back in the ‘70s, but I can name about 20 horror movies today that I’d consider to be much scarier than The Exorcist, some of them even PG-13! That’s not to say that The Exorcist isn’t still a great movie. It is. But it’s definitely lost the reputation of “the scariest movie ever.”
But maybe this new movie can help reclaim that title. The recent Halloween wasn’t all that scary, but neither—and this is just an opinion—was the original Halloween. But The Exorcist is known to be a terrifying film, and if David Gordon Green’s intention is to outdo the original in the fright department, then that could definitely get a new audience into the franchise.
I can already imagine all these young people on the internet going, “Have you heard of this new movie called The Exorcist? It’s supposed to be SUPER scary.” Because nothing gets butts in the seats like a genuine fright fest. And this new trilogy can bring those scares to a whole new audience.