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 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.
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.
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.
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!