If you are a fan of horror movies, you have probably heard of The Exorcist, the 1973 classic that terrified audiences with its depiction of a young girl possessed by a demonic force. But did you know that The Exorcist is more than just one movie? In fact, it is a franchise that spans six films, two prequels, and a TV series. In this blog post, I will give you an overview of the history and plot of The Exorcist movies, and how to watch them in order.
Warning! This article contains spoilers. It was created for those who have already seen the movie in question. If you have not seen the movie and plan to do so, it is suggested you do so before reading this article.
The Exorcist was based on a novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the screenplay and produced the film. The novel was inspired by a real-life case of exorcism that Blatty heard about while he was a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The film was directed by William Friedkin, who had previously made The French Connection (1971), and starred Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, a famous actress whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) becomes possessed by an ancient evil entity. Chris seeks the help of two Catholic priests, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), an experienced exorcist who has encountered the same demon before, and Father Karras (Jason Miller), a young and troubled priest who struggles with his faith and his mother’s illness.
The Exorcist was a huge success at the box office, grossing over $441 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing R-rated horror film until It (2017). It also received critical acclaim and 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning two for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. The film is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential horror films of all time, and has been preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
However, The Exorcist also faced controversy and backlash from some religious groups, who condemned it as blasphemous and offensive. Some viewers also reported having adverse physical reactions to the film, such as fainting, vomiting, or having nightmares. Some cities tried to ban the film or restrict its access to minors. There were also rumors that the film was cursed, as several cast and crew members were injured or died during or after the production, and strange accidents occurred on set.
The Exorcist spawned several sequels and prequels over the years, with varying degrees of quality and success. The first sequel was Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), directed by John Boorman and starring Linda Blair as Regan, who is now a teenager and undergoes hypnosis to uncover her memories of the possession. The film also features Richard Burton as Father Lamont, a priest who investigates the death of Father Merrin and tries to stop the demon Pazuzu from spreading his influence. The film was a critical and commercial failure, and is widely considered one of the worst sequels ever made.
The second sequel was The Exorcist III (1990), written and directed by William Peter Blatty himself, based on his novel Legion (1983). The film stars George C. Scott as Lieutenant Kinderman, a police detective who investigates a series of murders that resemble those committed by the Gemini Killer, a serial killer who was executed 15 years ago. Kinderman discovers that the killer’s spirit has possessed the body of Father Karras, who survived his fall at the end of The Exorcist but is now in a mental hospital under the care of Father Dyer (Ed Flanders). The film also features Brad Dourif as the voice of the Gemini Killer/Pazuzu. The film received mixed reviews from critics but has since gained a cult following among fans.
The third sequel was Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), directed by Renny Harlin and starring Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin in his younger days. The film is a prequel that shows how Merrin first encountered Pazuzu in Kenya in 1949, while he was working as an archaeologist and uncovered an ancient church that contained a demonic statue. The film also features Izabella Scorupco as Sarah Novak, a doctor who works at a nearby hospital and helps Merrin with the exorcism of a young boy named Joseph (Remy Sweeney). The film was poorly received by critics and fans alike.
The fourth sequel was Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005), directed by Paul Schrader and also starring Stellan Skarsgård as Father Merrin. The film is another prequel that tells essentially the same story as Exorcist: The Beginning but with a different tone and style. Schrader was actually hired to direct the prequel before Harlin but his version was rejected by the studio for being too slow-paced and cerebral. Harlin was then brought in to reshoot the film with more action and gore. However, after the failure of Harlin’s version, Schrader’s version was released on DVD as an alternative cut. The film received better reviews than Harlin’s version but still failed to impress the audience.
The fifth sequel was The Exorcist: Believer (2016), a TV series that aired on Fox for two seasons. The series was created by Jeremy Slater and starred Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels as Father Tomas Ortega and Father Marcus Keane, two priests who team up to perform exorcisms and fight demonic forces. The series also featured Geena Davis as Angela Rance, a woman who believes that her daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is possessed by the same demon that tormented Regan MacNeil. The series was a sequel to the original film and ignored the other films in the franchise. The series received positive reviews from critics and fans but was canceled after two seasons due to low ratings.
So, how should you watch The Exorcist movies in order? Well, there is no definitive answer to that question, as different fans may have different preferences and opinions. However, one possible way to watch them is in chronological order, starting with the prequels and ending with the TV series. This way, you can see how the story of Pazuzu and his victims unfolds over time and across continents. Here is the suggested order:
- Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
- Exorcist: The Beginning
- The Exorcist
- Exorcist II: The Heretic
- The Exorcist III
- The Exorcist: Believer
Of course, you can also skip some of the films or watch them in a different order if you wish. Some fans may prefer to watch only the original film and its direct sequel, The Exorcist III, as they are the only ones written by Blatty and considered canon by him. Some fans may also prefer to watch Schrader’s version of the prequel over Harlin’s, or vice versa. Some fans may even enjoy watching all of them back to back for a marathon of horror.
Whatever order you choose, I hope you enjoy watching The Exorcist movies and appreciate their impact on the horror genre and pop culture. They are not for the faint of heart, but they are certainly worth watching for any horror fan. Just remember to keep a crucifix handy, just in case.
© Colin Lawson Books