It’s finally happening. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing though. “What is happening?” you might ask. Well, Deadline broke the news that Universal and Peacock struck a deal worth $400M on the rights to The Exorcist. They will be working in partnership with the well-known horror production company Blumhouse and Morgan Creek. And Ellen Burstyn is signed on to reprise her role as the mother of the demonically possessed child, Regan, who was played by Linda Blair. The new iteration of The Exorcist isn’t supposed to be a remake (thank the good Lord above for that), but it’s going to be a continuation of the story from the 1973 film. It’s also signed on to be a trilogy instead of a single feature.
David Gordon Green is set to direct, a director known for his Southern Gothic styling and who has experience in rebooting classic films with his 2018 continuation of Halloween, which followed Laurie Strode (Jaimie Lee Curtis) 40 years after the initial attack by Mike Meyers. The Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. is confirmed to be playing the father of a possessed child who needs help to get his kid free from demonic possession. The first installment in the series is set to receive a theatrical release on October 13, 2023, 50 years after the original film (which still holds up insanely well, might I add).
I said earlier that this is a continuation of the story, and, much like Green’s installment in the Halloween franchise, is going to essentially ignore all the other films in the franchise. I mean there is The Exorcist II (1977) then The Exorcist III (1990), the sequels. Then the prequels came: Exorcist: The Beginning (2004) and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005). All these films were not so great. Only the third one had some merit to it, but even it kind of wasn’t super good either.
What Is Going to Be the Story?
I felt like the first film wrapped everything up so nicely. If you haven’t seen the 1973 original, then you should. It’s an amazing film…also there are spoilers ahead. The ending to the original The Exorcist film was so nice. It was more than just a demon movie. It was a film about how glamor and money don’t mean you will be exempt from bad things happening. There is the storyline of a priest that thinks he has figured out how to solve all his issues by turning to science and his studies of psychiatry, which is a critique that plays on Nietzsche’s statement “God is dead.”
This was a philosophical claim that essentially stated that religion and God was a necessity for the advancement of humanity at one point in history, but Man has evolved past the need for religion and the need for God. It’s a major claim that has been disputed and argued, both for and against, for hundreds of years now, with many philosophers, critics, theologians, and artists making their thoughts on the belief known.
William Peter Blatty made his artistic opinion known with his written work The Exorcist, originally published in 1972, then again with his involvement in the film adaptation in 1973. His belief, it seems, is based on the priest Father Karras’s spiritual journey. He begins losing his faith and turning to science, only to be confronted with evil face to face and realizing he needs God. Then he plays out a sacrificial lamb role by taking the demon for himself and overcoming it momentarily to throw himself out the window to kill himself and the demon. This seems to be Blatty’s take on the argument, but it doesn’t help answer the question: What is the new film trilogy going to be about? For that, I would have to guess that it’s going to be following the same demon that haunts everything throughout all the films, Panzuzu. This demon didn’t die after Father Karras’s sacrifice. That would mean the new series is going to somehow bring Panzuzu back and have a major confrontation with another priest/minister after, once again, possessing a child.
In the original the confrontation was foreshadowed in the opening, giving some background on Father Merrin, the experienced priest that helped Father Karras, but died of a heart attack during the exorcism. It’s easy to speculate that Panzuzu will somehow be rediscovered and there will be a gateway for the demon to possess the new child. In the original, Panzuzu was invited, unwittingly, by young Regan via an Ouiji board. Those have gained infamy again in recent years with all the horror movies based around them, so it would be very easy to see that be the portal to bring back the demon again. Another option would be that they just bring in a totally new demon to possess the child, but I don’t think that would really give good closure to the original.
It would be extremely interesting if they could bring back Linda Blair in some capacity, but nothing has been stated about her involvement thus far. If I had all the power, I would bring her back as some sort of minister (she can’t be a priest because priests in the Catholic Church must be male) to come full circle and confront the demon that haunted her as a child. It would also be interesting to simply see if this affair has changed her life as she grew up. Potentially, she could have remembered everything, which was hinted at for the ending of The Exorcist when she noticed the collar on Father Dyer’s neck at the end and ran up to give him a kiss. The film used this reference almost as a little nod to Regan having suppressed memories of the exorcism, but ultimately remembering that priests had helped her overcome the demon.
I also think this route would be a bit more interesting than simply following the demon through another possession. If they do simply follow the demon, it could end up being a retelling similar to how Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was essentially a rehashing of Episode IV: A New Hope. Nobody wants to rewatch basically the same movie. People are wanting original stories, so to even take on this project is bold.