When Blumhouse Productions announced David Gordon Green would be taking over The Exorcist after his success revamping the Halloween franchise, there was some confusion. The plan was initially labelled a reboot, only to be shifted into a sequel trilogy following fan backlash.
Morgan Creek Entertainment denied it’d ever try to remake the popular horror property, with the director of the original film, William Friedkin, also blasting the idea. However, given what transpired in the first trilogy, as well as the Fox TV show, the new direction should have been a reboot rather than a legacy sequel.
A major reason for a reboot is that the story of the MacNeils and their battle with the demon, Pazuzu, has been well-documented. Now, Ellen Burstyn is set to reprise her role as Chris MacNeil, Regan’s mom, which hints the family feud will continue. Granted, Linda Blair hasn’t been re-signed as Regan, or it’s just being kept secret, but either way, another rivalry with that family diminishes the stakes because they were the main target in the first two movies.
It’s worth noting Regan’s story was already wrapped in the TV series where she took on a new identity of Angela Rance to forget the traumas of old. She’d end up fighting Pazuzu when it came for her daughter, Casey, though, which meant she became Chris, bringing the mother-daughter story full-circle. It wasn’t a totally happy ending, however, because while the priests, Tomas and Marcus, helped save Casey, the demon took over Angela, who snapped her mom’s neck.
They’d exorcise Angela, who ended up in a wheelchair, damaged physically and mentally, but still hopeful for tomorrow. It was sympathetic, tragic, not without consequences, yet still victorious. This bittersweet nature has always plagued the MacNeils, so it did feel like their perfect ending. Thus, it’s hard to see any story in between resonating as emotionally. Since the TV show had Regan and Chris splitting apart for decades, with Chris never meeting Pazuzu in the interim, it’s most likely that the series will be ignored. But still, that kind of emotion and personal battle with the demon — whether it’s Chris, Regan or both — will be tough to recreate and top.
Instead, a soft reboot could have focused on Pazuzu moving on after not being fully banished in the original trilogy, realizing it needed prey weaker than Regan and Father Karras. The third film had Pazuzu putting the Gemini Killer’s soul into Karras as revenge, so even if it was a total restart, the new films could have reshaped Pazuzu as a master, once more sending serial killers back to Earth in different vessels, even as women and children.
This would have evolved the franchise, homaging movies like The Shining, The Omen and many others, with the demon controlling slashers and creating a wild, unpredictable Hell on Earth. It’d have been a great opportunity to shape a calculating Satanic overlord too, improving on the run-of-the-mill possession stories in The Rite and other exorcism movies. This way, the exorcisms wouldn’t have necessarily been the real war — it’d be about finding the puppet master behind it all; something The Exorcist series and even HBO’s 30 Coins did by having demonic overlords hiding within the Catholic Church itself.
Ultimately, nostalgia is hard to milk for a long time. Ghostbusters: Afterlife showed this with its flaws where some fans felt it shoehorned in the original cast inorganically, while Halloween Kills also felt a bit tedious. Instead, The Exorcist should have taken a page from John Wick, honoring the past and coming up with something groundbreaking, fresh and original like what those older films did in the ’70s and ’80s.
Details regarding the upcoming The Exorcist sequel are scarce, but the film is scheduled for release on Oct. 13, 2023.
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