Why We Don’t Need an Exorcist Reboot

There are few films in history that have had such a cultural impact as 1973’s The Exorcist. For long time it was highest grossing horror film (as well as highest grossing “R” rated film) of all time, and it is still considered by many to be the scariest movie ever made.

So it seems a bit sudden and out of left field that Morgan Creek Pictures announced a reboot of the classic film due out in 2021. At this point not much is known, as to whether this will be a true remake, or a “sequel reboot” similar to that of Jurassic World and Terminator: Dark Fate.

Either way, the reaction to this news among the horror community has been mixed at best. The fact is, The Exorcist is one of those movies that feels like it’s untouchable, or at least it should be. So in the interest of horror film purity, let’s discuss why this reboot is an absolutely terrible idea.

Plenty of “Reboots” Already Exist
Upon its 1973 release, The Exorcist sent shockwaves throughout the world, with audience members reportedly getting physically sick and some need therapy afterwards (which might be a bit embellished).

But something else it spawned was a slew of pretenders. There was a wave of now forgettable exploitation era exorcism films, but studios have been trying to recapture that magic for years with contemporary exorcism movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, The Possession, Deliver Us From Evil, The Conjuring, and many more.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose did a pretty decent job of keeping the exorcism scene feeling grounded. But every movie that followed went way too far and over the top with it.

The one thing all of these films have in common is that their exorcism scenes were increasingly over the top in an effort to outdo the 70’s classic that came before. So, in a strange way, these almost feel like spiritual remakes.

They’re going for a similar feel and they’re trying to justify their own existence by being different enough from The Exorcist. Isn’t that exactly what this new reboot will do as well?

Missing the Original Point
One of the unique features of the original Exorcist was that, according to director William Friedkin, he wasn’t setting out to make a horror film at all.

The subject matter was incredibly terrifying to many, but his tone and style aren’t trying to scare anyone outright. The film itself feels more like a character drama that explores themes of good vs. evil and faith, with elements of horror sprinkled throughout.

One could argue that he true protagonist of The Exorcist isn’t Reagan or Chris MacNeil, but rather Father Karras. He’s the one who completes a character arc, beginning the story with a crisis of faith, and ending it by rising to the occasion to save an innocent girl from evil.

The problem with a reboot is that it will inevitably lose this nuance and instead go for the lowest common denominator to frighten its audience via jump scares and shock value. We saw a similar dynamic take place with the 2019 sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep.

The original is considered a masterpiece due to its unsettling tone and almost hypnotic quality. Its sequel feels much more like a conventional and contemporary horror movie, but that elegance and style is lost.

Sure it’s an entertaining watch, but it will never attain the same levels of cultural transcendence that Stanley Kubrick’s film did. And it’s very likely that this Exorcist reboot will face a similar issue.

Already Has Too Many Sequels
Another thing that often plagues a financially and critically acclaimed movie is a roster of sequels that pales in comparison. In this field, The Exorcist is no exception.

Only a few years after it was breaking box office records, Warner Brothers sullied its reputation with The Exorcist II: The Heretic. Fans will debate whether or not the original Exorcist is scary or if it holds up today, but they will all unanimously agree that Exorcist II is piece of garbage.

The Exorcist III is something of a cult classic, but only because it came from the original author William Peter Blatty. But even with that, studio interference rendered it merely good rather than great (to be fair, we did finally get Blatty’s director’s cut in 2016).

And if that wasn’t enough, a completely unnecessary prequel Exorcist: The Beginning came out in 2004. All these sequels (except of Exorcist III) really do is cheapen the original classic.

There was even a TV series that served as a sequel. And while it wasn’t terrible, it never really justified its need to exist.

But none of them purport themselves to be a remake or reboot of the original. That would be going a step further so as to replace it in the cultural zeitgeist.

Preventing Original Ideas
We all know that Hollywood is out of ideas and that sequels, remakes, and reboots make up the vast majority of major studio releases today.

And while horror isn’t immune to this, it is the genre affected least by it. Sure there have been plenty of horror remakes in the last two decades, but there have also been a lot of original horror films that gained notoriety in the last few years.

Films like Us, Don’t Breathe, Lights Out, The Boy, The Witch, A Quiet Place, Hereditary, Get Out, and Happy Death Day all cracked the top 10 grossing horror movies of the year they were released, and none of them were based on an existing property. The same cannot be said for the top 10 grossing films of other genres.

Us was even the 2nd highest grossing horror movie of 2019!

An Exorcist reboot certainly won’t change the whole genre, but it will be just another tired old remake taking the spot of what could be an original independent horror movie with the potential to be a huge hit.

We’ll have to wait until 2021 to see what’s really in store. And to be fair, these are all just concerns that I honestly hope I’m wrong about. But when it comes to Hollywood studios, never underestimate their ability to put cheap marketability over artistic quality every single day.

What do you think about an Exorcist reboot? Are you excited? Do you think it’s unnecessary? Let us know in the comments!

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One thought on “Why We Don’t Need an Exorcist Reboot

  1. The Exorcist came out at a time when the movie going world was naive or relatively inexperienced about such things as demonic possession and separation of family and was far more religious than we are today.
    It came out at the right time and was a full on assault on our beliefs and faith and it worked perfectly.
    I was three years old when it hit theatres and I wouldn’t see it until I was about 16 years old or older. However as a youngster I remember knowing about it, hearing the stories and wanting to see it, going as far as to hide when it came on TV and watching as much as I could before getting sent to bed. I never made it too far into the Iraq scene.
    When I did finally see it for the first time it burned itself into my psyche. It lived up to the hype that it had earned and that I had believed in. I was fascinated by this movie.
    In the early 2000s I went to see it in the theatre when it was re-released only to see how that days audience would react. There were a lot of younger people in the theatre and it wasn’t packed.
    I was able to see when people got up and didn’t return. Not a lot but enough to show that this movie still had a powerful message some 30 years later.
    I have never been religious but I am able to this day to appreciate this movie for the time that it came out in. Audiences today are different than they were almost 50 years ago and we have been numbed by so many horror movies, so much torture porn and serial killer movies that it truly is amazing that The Exorcist is still widely regarded as the scariest movie ever made. I believe it is and that is why it ranks tied with only Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third kind as my favourite movie.
    To remake it would be a disservice to the original and any remake or reboot would never come as close to being as scary or as powerful as Blatty’s and Friedkin’s offering. I’ve read and watched the stories of people fainting in the cinema, throwing up, leaving and not being able to return. I heard about the lineups around the corner, cinemas selling out an entire day‘s shows. I saw the interviews with those who refused to go back and finish watching it and those who kept coming back to see it again and again. Those in religious circles condemning it and how it sent many people back to church and how it tested the faith of those who saw it. It affected our society deeply like probably no other movie before it or since.
    There are some movies that should never be remade and The Exorcist is one of those movies. It should remain untouched for all time.


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