Being unreasonably easy to scare, I’m a soft touch when it comes to horror movies and basically refuse to have anything to do with them at this point, but “The Exorcist” is one movie that’s never bugged me. But it has scared the hell (heh) out of every Catholic I know; it’s the rare horror movie (theoretically) deriving its scares from the potential of blasphemy instead of either creepy atmosphere or sudden jolts. So it’s bemusing that William Peter Blatty and William Friedkin may go back to the well once more, rejiggering the original “Exorcist” as a miniseries.
This seems silly and pointless — the “Exorcist” franchise has been revisited a ridiculous amount of times already, and pretty much every installment beside the original was a flop. The franchise returned $459 million on a total investment of $450 million. It’s hard to see why a miniseries would make more sense.
There’s a surprising number of Catholic-themed horror movies out there, but “The Exorcism” is singular for taking — in its own trashy way — Catholic values at face value. Most horror movies with religious elements tend to mix-and-match principles indiscriminately — take the theologically incoherent “Stigmata” or this year’s wretched “The Unborn” (a lobotomized mixture of Jewish mythology and Judeo-Christian joint exorcism) — or use church ritual as just another genre trope, the same as the haunted house up the hill or the deserted lakeside cabin.
“The Exorcist” takes its religious elements seriously, which is why it scared its target audience so. It’s also what made it super-controversial and raised hackles in a way that seems impossible to replicate: who’d really build a secular-ish horror movie now around the jolt of blasphemy? Even the recent “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” found it necessary to detour into the courtroom and try to arbitrate the “truth” of possession, a necessary move for an ever-more-skeptical age.
Also noted: these days, the evangelical market is not above incompetently trying to make its own religious “horror movies.” Witness the majesty that is “C Me Dance”:
[Photo: “The Exorcist,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1973]