Review: The Exorcist 40th Anniversary Blu-ray

I’ve been a fan of horror films/games for as long as I can remember. I have a lot of memories watching/playing many great, horrifying stories. One of my most cherished moments as a horror fan was when I viewed The Exorcist for the first time. My parents, never having a problem with my love for the genre, sat down with me to view the film together many years ago when I was still a young lad. I was ecstatic about seeing it, especially after them telling me how it was the scariest thing they ever saw back when it first hit theaters. My little body was ready.

After a little more than two hours sitting my butt on that couch, I came away quite scared, but with a huge smile on my face. I loved the film. And I still do to this day. It may not be my all-time favorite horror film (that title belongs to the The Shining), but it’s definitely up there in second place. It’s truly one of the best¬†horror films in the history of cinema. Now, it’s available in a new 40th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray. To celebrate the milestone, Warner Bros. has packed the film with a selection of old and new extra features to complement both the theatrical and director’s cut versions of the film. This may just be the definitive version of the film to date.

Made the 360 popular before Microsoft.

Made the 360 popular before Microsoft.

I’m sure many of you have already seen the film, but the story (based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name), in a nutshell is about a young girl, Regan MacNeil, who gets possessed by a demonic entity. Her mom, Chris (hollywood actress playing a hollywood actress) has to find a way to cure her daughter of this. She goes from doctor to doctor with no luck, until she ultimately ends up relying on exorcism. The rest is history. To make it even better, this is one of the first movies to don the whole “based on a true story” tactic.

If you ask me, I prefer the original, theatrical cut of the film. Sure, the spider-walk is insanely awesome and unsettling, but this version of the film is a beloved masterpiece for a reason. And the ending on it was better than the one we got in the Director’s Cut, in terms of fitting in with the overall tone of the story. But there’s no need to pick sides and duke it out over which is truly the best, with this new edition of the film, you get both for your viewing pleasure, and each comes on its own dedicated Blu-ray disc. And each with their own special features and extras to boot.

The picture quality is great, as is the sound. The score in the film is excellent, with a memorable main theme that I just love to hear come on when browsing Halloween stores during this time of year. The picture isn’t crystal clear, due to its age, of course, but it does suffice. The brightness of the opening scenes (due to its setting) is vibrant while the muted colors and somber look of the rest of the film is exemplified even more. Technically speaking, the film is a great addition to any Blu-ray collector’s shelf with a solid quality throughout. The one big negative is the actual dialogue being a little low in volume, especially with the booming sound effects going up against it. That’s my one big gripe.

Moving on to the special features, each disc houses its own set of extras, with a third disc devoted to just bonus content. On the Director’s Cut disc you have a three-part documentary (clocking in at almost an hour) that details the various aspects behind the making of the film, with insight from the director, William Friedkin. We also get to see the differences between the different versions of the film. The disc also includes the expected promo material, with TV and radio spots.

The Theatrical Cut disc has its own big treat in the form of “The Fear of God.” This special documentary is a little over an hour long and gives viewers insight from members of the film’s cast and crew. Combined with the director’s cut documentary, fans will have a lot to devour here. What’s more, you also get a selection of interviews with the director and writer of the novel. We also gets more ads for the film here, as well as storyboards and concept sketches.

Lastly, as far as extra material goes, we have a third disc devoted to just exclusive bonus content. Said content comes in the form of “Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist” (which runs for almost half an hour) and “Talk of the Devil” (which goes for about 20 minutes). “Beyond Comprehension” was really nice to see, as the novel’s author reads passages from the book and revisits locations from the film. “Talk of the Devil” is a compilation of interviews focused on Father Eugene Gallagher covering the film, his connections to it and the actual real-life case that served as inspiration for the project. It’s another insightful piece that rounds out the package nicely. But wait! There’s one more thing…The film’s beautiful packaging also houses a hardback book which is essentially a short version of The Friedkin Connection, a memoir. It’s all about the director’s feelings towards the film and proves to be a very good read.

Put together as a whole, this 40th Anniversary edition is, in my opinion, the definitive version of the film. It has both cuts as well as a wealth of extra features. Those with the previously-released Blu-ray version of the film may see this as a tough sell, but I believe it’s truly worth it for any fan of the film and genre. The Exorcist has frightened viewers for 40 years. Now here’s to 40 more.

A toast to you, Captain Howdy.


This Blu-ray set was provided by Warner Bros. for review purposes. 

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  • drachehexe

    Man, i don’t see how The Shining can be your favorite…

    Anyway I haven’t seen the new version so I just might have to pick this one up.

    • Wojciech Olczyk

      new version?

      • drachehexe

        The director’s cut he refers to in the review. I have only seen the theatrical release.

        • Wojciech Olczyk

          I see… there were few diffrent releases according to wiki… dont remember which i have seen (a seen it around 2000 but it was on tv so probably it was censored) must see then this version…

          • drachehexe

            Ah, the parody was probably Repossessed with Leslie Nielson, not his best but I like all things he did. The directors cut of The Exorcist came out in, um, 2004 or 2005 I think.

          • Wojciech Olczyk

            I was talking about 1998 version

  • Xoanon

    I strongly dislike the Director’s Cut/Version You’ve Never Seen and the color timing, remixed sound and CGI effects on any current version are not authentic to the original theatrical version. The new Blu-ray is not definitive by a long shot, and the age of the film has nothing to do with the quality of the transfer – Criterion release films way older than this that look stunning (The Seventh Seal, anyone?). I wish Warner Bros. would have released a version with the original green tint and the lossless (Oscar-winning!) mono sound mix – there’d be no problems with dialogue levels in that, for sure.


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